How to Can Apples to Enjoy the Seasonal Produce All Year

Preserve apples for pie filling, applesauce, apple butter, and all your favorite sweet and savory apple recipes by following this simple canning guide.

Going to the apple orchard to pick fresh apples is a must for the fall bucket list. Once you get home and enjoy those crisp apples raw or in the form of a delicious sweet or savory recipe, you might find there are a few too many apples left in the fruit basket. No need to let those apples go to waste. Whether canning apple slices, applesauce, or apple pie filling, you'll use a boiling-water canner and follow the usual canning procedures. Follow our easy steps below to learn exactly how to can apples to stock your pantry. That way you can enjoy a fresh apple dessert even in the middle of summer if you like.

How to Can Apples

When canning apples, choose a crisp, not mealy, apple variety. Some of the best apples for canning include Fuji, Braeburn, Jonagold, Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Pink Lady, Jazz, Honeycrisp, and Cortland. Now you're ready to start canning apples. Follow these 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.

Step 1: 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.

Test Kitchen Tip: Once peeled and cut, apples begin to discolor. Treat them with ascorbic acid produce keeper ($5, Target) according to the 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.

Step 2: Make the Apple Canning 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.

Step 3: 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, 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.

Test Kitchen 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.

Step 4: 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.

Step 5: Process Canned Apples

Process pint and quart jars of filled apples in a boiling-water canner for 20 minutes (start timing when water returns to a boil).

Step 6: Cool and Store Canned Apples

When the 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 is sealed properly can be stored in a cool, dry place for one year.

canned applesauce jars
Jason Donnelly

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 Apple Butter

Apple butter is similar to applesauce, only cooked for longer to develop a stronger apple flavor and deeper color. Use this guide to make apple butter with our apple butter canning tips.

Canned Apple Pie Filling with Maple and Cinnamon
Jacob Fox

How to Can Apples for Pies (aka Apple Pie Filling)

To can apples for pie you'll pre-cook the apples ever so briefly before making your hot pack of sugar, cinnamon, salt, Clear Jel starch ($15, Walmart), 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.

Test Kitchen Tip: When canning homemade pie filling, you need a thickener that won't break down under high heat and in high-acid conditions. We recommend regular (not instant) Clear Jel starch.

Use your canned apples all year to make your favorite recipes. Try our best apple pies and tarts to start or enjoy the warm spice flavors in these pie-inspired desserts.

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