Unsweetened applesauce

If you live in the UK, you probably can gain access to a lot of brands of applesauce in jars… except pretty much all of them have added sugar. So if you are in the market for some unsweetened applesauce (healthier, and also a common ingredient in a lot of low-cal baking recipes), why not make your own?

I’m a strong supporter of knowing how to make things just for the sake of knowing, even if you can get them readily from a shop. And it’s pretty easy to make applesauce. Basically, peel, core, chop, boil, blend. That’s it!

Unsweetened applesauce
Unsweetened applesauce… and that’s a Bramley apple for those who wants to know!

Oh, you want to know the recipe? It’s all to your own liking, really, but here’s a rough guide:

Unsweetened Applesauce
Makes: variable, depending on size of apples and amount of liquid added
6 apples, various varieties if possible*
1 cup water (decrease this if you want a thicker sauce)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
  1. Peel, core, and chop the apples. Discard peel and core. If step 2 is going to take a while, mix the lemon juice with your chopped apples to keep them from browning.
  2. Get the water in a saucepan deep enough to contain the water and the chopped apples, and get the water simmering.
  3. Put all the chopped apple flesh into the simmering water. Simmer for 20 minutes, or until the apples are soft.
  4. Mash or blend everything until you achieve the pureed applesauce consistency you can use for pretty much any recipe. Feel free to add more water if you want a runnier sauce.
* There’s no one apple that makes a fabulous applesauce, some apples are too grainy, some are too watery, some are too tart… so a mix gives the sauce more depth of flavour. Usually a mix of cooking and eating apples are the way to go, but beware – apples that taste terrible when you eat them will probably taste terrible as a sauce!

After cooling, you can keep the applesauce in a fridge for up to a week in a tightly-sealed container. I occasionally use applesauce as a topping on plain yogurt, or as a healthier alternative to sugar-laden jam on toast. You can also turn applesauce into apple butter (also not available in the UK, but it’s basically applesauce mixed with spices and sugar, reduced in a slow cooker until a thick, buttery-but-still-spreadable consistency), which is a favourite of mine to use on toast.

If you have made too much to use up in a week, feel free to freeze applesauce in a sealed container or leak-proof freezer bags – applesauce defrost nicely.

If you want to know how I seal the sauces in jars that are clearly recycled from previously used jars of sauces and jams, I have to tell you the general advisory is to not reuse the jars and buy special jars you can use for homemade preserves. The reasoning behind this is due to possible faulty seals in used jars. Used jars/lids/seals also can carry old smells that you don’t want in your homemade produce.

Me, I always take chances where there is money to be saved, especially when the chances are slim.

If you still really want to know, this is how I have done it in the past:

Hot Water Bath Method
  1. Clean and sterilise all jars and lids. You can sterilise with either boiling them in water for 10 minutes or soaking them in Milton fluid prepared as per instructions. It is a better practice to boil, just because Milton fluid and metal jar lids don’t always play nice together.
  2. Arrange the empty, sterilised jars sitting up in a saucepan, making sure the fit is as tight as possible, otherwise the empty jars will float on water and you will never manage to fill it properly.
  3. Pour some water into the saucepan, making sure not to get any into the jars. Bring to a simmer.
  4. Pour the hot applesauce (or jam, or whatever you want to jar) into the prepared jars, making sure you give a slight amount of space at the top.
  5. Screw on the matching lids tightly, take off heat and dry off the jars. Be careful because the jars are very hot! I have suffered burns from this before.
  6. Leave to cool to room temperature on the counter. If the jar lids have a central indentation, if the seal is tight, it will depress as it cools. If it is not depressed after cooling, then chances are the seal is not tight and you will have to keep the jar in a fridge and eat the contents within a week.

Preserving with the hot water bath method has kept my apple butter for over 2 years with no mould growth. I’ve used it for my cherry plum jam as well with good results.

Now, this hot water method can be quite dangerous. Like I said, you can easily burn yourself. There is another method though!

Oven Method
  1. Preheat the oven to 100 degrees Celcius.
  2. Clean and boil all jars and lids as before.
  3. Pour hot applesauce (or whatever) into the empty, sterilised, hot jars, making sure to leave a slight amount of space at the top.
  4. Screw on the matching lids tightly.
  5. Put all your tightly-lidded filled jars onto a baking tray lid-side up, and put into the oven for 20 minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature on the countertop. When cool, check seal as before.

This second method is also pretty dangerous but in another way, because you are trusting the jars not to break on you when you pour hot filling into it, which is why I recommend you boil the jars first and fill when they are still hot. The main reason why glass shatters is when two vastly different temperature meet, like cold glass and hot filling.

There is some concern about the jars shattering in the oven as the glass are not made to withstand the temperatures, but I’ve accidentally left the jars in there at 200 degrees Celcius for 30 minutes (I was preheating the oven for something and have forgotten I left the jars of applesauce in there) and still no breakages.

There is also a concern about the heat of the oven not penetrating into the contents of the jar. On the other hand, if the filling was already hot through when it first went into the sterilised jar, I don’t think it would matter much.

So far, I’ve not been poisoned yet using either method, but if in doubt, chuck it out!

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