Canning apples is a great way to use up a bunch of apples after a trip to the orchard or farmers market. Preserve apples by canning them for pie filling, applesauce, or apple wedges as toppers for meat or breads. When you know how to can apples, you’ll find there are virtually endless ways to enjoy them year-round. Try it, you'll see!
Whether canning apple slices, applesauce, or apple pie filling, you'll use a boiling-water canner and follow the usual canning procedures. Here's the process for canning apples from start to finish.
Choose Your Apple
When canning apples, choose a crisp, not mealy, apple variety. Tart or cooking apples such as Fuji, Braeburn, Jonagold, Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Pink Lady, Jazz, Honeycrisp, and Cortland are good choices. Now you’re ready to start canning! Follow our basic instructions to can apple wedges, then keep reading to learn how to can applesauce and apple pie filling. You may never need the canned aisles of the grocery store again.
Prep the Apples
As with canning any fruit, start with ripe, unblemished fruit that is washed well. Then peel (if desired or specified in the recipe), core, and cut apples as directed in your canning recipe.
Canning Tip: Once peeled and/or cut, apples begin to discolor. Treat them with ascorbic acid color keeper per package directions or with lemon-water to keep from discoloring. To make lemon-water, combine 1 gallon water with ¾ cup lemon juice, place apples in solution, and drain before continuing.
Make the Syrup
Most canning recipes will include a syrup already, but if you want to make a basic syrup or don’t have a recipe, here’s how to make a syrup. Choose the sugar level you want and place the following ingredients in a large saucepan. Heat until sugar is dissolved. Skim off foam, if necessary, for a clearer syrup.
- Very Thin or Very Light Syrup: Dissolve 1 cup sugar with 4 cups water to yield 4 cups syrup. Use this for already sweet fruits or if you want to cut down on sugar.
- Thin or Light Syrup: Dissolve 1⅔ cups sugar with 4 cups water to yield 4¼ cups syrup.
- Medium Syrup: Use 2⅔ cups sugar and 4 cups water to yield 4⅔ cups syrup.
- Heavy Syrup: Use 4 cups sugar and 4 cups water to yield 5¾ cups syrup.
Make the Hot Pack
Hot pack is the preferred canning method for foods like apples canned in a boiling-water canner. Once you’ve made your syrup (or the one in your recipe), add your prepared apple pieces to the syrup in the saucepan. Simmer apple pieces in the syrup for about 5 minutes (or as directed by the recipe), stirring occasionally.
Canning Tip: Why hot pack? Precooking apples breaks them down to eliminate air so they're less likely to spoil and won’t float in the can. Also, more apples can fit in fewer jars and processing time is lessened because the food is already hot.
Add Apples to Jars
Pack hot apples and syrup into sterilized jars leaving a ½-inch headspace. Wipe jar rims and threads with a clean, damp cloth to remove any residue. Set lids on the jars and screw on the bands.
Process Apples in the Canner
Process pint and quart jars of filled apples in a boiling-water canner for 20 minutes (start timing when water returns to a boil).
Cool and Store Canned Apples
When processing time is up, turn off heat. Use pot holders to lift the canning rack and rest the handles on the side of the canner. Allow jars to cool in place a few minutes. Remove jars from canner and set on a wire rack or towel on the counter. Do not tighten bands. Let cool 12 to 24 hours, then test lids for seal. If a seal failed, store that jar in the fridge and eat it within a few days. Everything that sealed properly can be stored in a cool, dry place for one year.
How to Can Applesauce
Canning applesauce is similar to canning apples. Follow the above directions for prepping and processing apples, but you’ll first boil apple quarters until very tender, then press boiled apples through a food mill or sieve to make a pulp. The apple pulp is what you’ll make your hot pack with to ladle into jars (leaving the same ½-inch headspace) to process. There you have it, homemade applesauce!
How to Can Apples for Pies (aka Apple Pie Filling)
To can apples for pie you’ll precook the apples ever so briefly before making your hot pack of sugar, cinnamon, salt, Clear Jel®, apple juice, and desired flavorings. Fill jars as usual, leaving 1¼-inch headspace, and wipe jars. Canning apple pie filling requires a slightly longer processing time (more like 25 minutes). Then remove and cool as directed above.