Pick-your-own apple season is here! That means an overflow of apples. Not only do we need to think about what to do with all those apples, we need to figure out how to do it right.
Making applesauce is an ideal way to use up and preserve some of your pick-your-own bounty, but only if you get it right. Some common problems that occur when canning applesauce include discoloration, siphoning, mold and jars not sealing. Learn how to diagnose problems and prevent them from occurring.
Some of the most common problems with applesauce are caused by air. Think of what happens when you leave apple slices out — they turn brown. This is because the enzymes in apples cause oxidation or browning on the cut surfaces exposed to the air.
Similarly, you might encounter the top of the jar of your canned applesauce gradually turning brown. This is the same reaction you observed with the apple slices. It happens when the applesauce hasn’t been heated enough to stop enzymatic reactions and there is enough oxygen in the headspace to react with the enzymes. It can also occur if air bubbles are not removed after the applesauce is poured into the jar.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to solve this common problem.
- Add ascorbic acid to reduce the enzyme reaction. You can mix in a tablespoon of lemon juice for each quart of applesauce to preserve color and increase acidity.
- Add cinnamon or nutmeg to mask some of the oxidation with natural color.
You may also run into overflow during the canning process, this is called siphoning. Incidentally, this problem is also caused by air. During cooking air will expand inside the apple and eventually be driven out, causing the contents in the jar to overflow.
You can reduce the chance of overflow by using these preparation methods:
- Use a plastic knife or bubble freer to remove air bubbles from the jar before applying the lid.
- Leave a 1/2 inch of headspace to accommodate expansion during processing.
Reduce the chance of overflow during canning by:
- Maintaining a constant rolling boil while processing.
- Avoiding large temperature fluctuations during processing.
- Equalizing the temperature in the jars by setting the canner off the heat, removing the canner lid and waiting five minutes before removing the jars.
Preventing spoilage and mold
There are many ways mold and spoilage organisms canned up in applesauce. Follow these tips to prevent both throughout the preservation process:
- Wash and peel fruit before cooking.
- Focus on keeping clean in the kitchen — hands, utensils and counters.
- Always process applesauce in a boiling water bath canner or atmospheric steam canner to destroy microorganisms that may have entered the headspace during canning. Process pints for 15 minutes and quarts for 20 minutes. Adjust for altitude as needed.
- Never open kettle can applesauce — putting hot applesauce in the jar, applying the lid and letting it sit until the lid seals. ALWAYS use a boiling water bath canner or steam canner to process and ensure a stronger vacuum seal to prevent spoilage.
- If you notice signs of mold or spoilage, discard the applesauce.
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