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How to Prepare Apples for Pies and Desserts: Canning Your Apples

Updated on June 9, 2017
ButterflyWings profile image

Butterfly has been gardening and preserving food of all kinds for many years, and thrives on the creativity involved in these processes.

Apples and Family Togetherness

I look forward to gathering apples each September, when most of our local apples are ripe. We go as a family to a friend who has a beautifully kept yard, including three varieties of apple trees. The kids help us by picking up fallen ones, and keeping good plastic bags handy. When they have done all they can do, they get to play on our friends' trampoline, or the mini golf course, or pet the horses. Meanwhile, my friend and I ride up into the tree tops in a loader bucket, operated by her very handy husband, to reach all the apples we can. This needs dexterity and flexibility, and being on good terms with heights, but we usually spend as much time laughing at our failed efforts to reach apples as actually picking.This makes for a memorable afternoon.

We keep as many of the best apples as we can for fresh eating (this variety lasts for a couple months or more in cold storage), and eventually dry, can, or pickle the rest. Our sheep and poultry get any that are too wormy or bruised to bother serving or processing. They adore them, and never complain about caterpillars!

Below, I show you how we usually process apples for canning. These generally keep in the cellar for several years, if necessary - a good thing, as it isn't every year we get a great apple harvest!

Apples Used in This Canning Demonstration

Unknown variety of sweet-tart apples, growing on a friend's property in northeastern Colorado.
Unknown variety of sweet-tart apples, growing on a friend's property in northeastern Colorado.

If you happen to be fortunate enough to have access to loads of apples, then do yourself a favor and put some up for winter pies. If you like to bake at all, you will be happy to know that you have a good supply of ready-to-use apples suitable for pies, cobblers, and nearly all other apple desserts.

Here is what you will need:

  • Fresh, tart baking-style apples
  • A light syrup (made with sugar and water)
  • Colander
  • Paring knife
  • Apple peeler (optional)
  • Cutting board
  • Large cooking pot
  • Canning jars, lids and rings, jar lifter, tongs
  • Boiling waterbath or steam canner

Step One - Wash and Drain Good Baking Apples

Was firm, fresh, tart apples to rid them of dust and leaves.
Was firm, fresh, tart apples to rid them of dust and leaves.
Drain them well before peeling and slicing, so they are not spattery and slippery.
Drain them well before peeling and slicing, so they are not spattery and slippery.

Step Two - Peel, Cut, and Core Apples

Peel (if desired) and quarter apples for easy slicing. Core them. You may also use a knife or coring gadget to core them beforehand...as long as they are not too wormy, which will mean frequent rinsing of your blades, and spreading of insect goo.
Peel (if desired) and quarter apples for easy slicing. Core them. You may also use a knife or coring gadget to core them beforehand...as long as they are not too wormy, which will mean frequent rinsing of your blades, and spreading of insect goo.
Slice apples into cooking pot. Cut any shape or style you desire, keeping in mind that smaller pieces will fall apart easier during the heat processing to come.
Slice apples into cooking pot. Cut any shape or style you desire, keeping in mind that smaller pieces will fall apart easier during the heat processing to come.
If making apple cider vinegar (more about that another time), save peels. Bag and refrigerate or freeze if you will not be using them right away.
If making apple cider vinegar (more about that another time), save peels. Bag and refrigerate or freeze if you will not be using them right away.

Step Three - Cook Apples in Light Syrup; Prepare Jars and Equipment

Meanwhile, check jars for nicks, cracks, and other problems. Do not use jars that are damaged.  Wash in hot, soapy water. Scald if necessary (may use dish washer to clean and sterilize). Wash lids and rings.
Meanwhile, check jars for nicks, cracks, and other problems. Do not use jars that are damaged. Wash in hot, soapy water. Scald if necessary (may use dish washer to clean and sterilize). Wash lids and rings.
Set lids in a small pan and pour scalding water over them, or simmer them slowly in a saucepan of water. DO NOT BOIL! Leave them in the water until you use them, so they remain warm with softened rubber rings.
Set lids in a small pan and pour scalding water over them, or simmer them slowly in a saucepan of water. DO NOT BOIL! Leave them in the water until you use them, so they remain warm with softened rubber rings.
Ladle or spoon hot apples and syrup into hot, steriled jars, to within 1/2" of rim, with syrup to cover. (Apples may float - this is OK.)
Ladle or spoon hot apples and syrup into hot, steriled jars, to within 1/2" of rim, with syrup to cover. (Apples may float - this is OK.)
Adjust two-piece lids - snug, but not tight, and place jars in boiling waterbath canner rack.
Adjust two-piece lids - snug, but not tight, and place jars in boiling waterbath canner rack.
Prepare a sugar-water syrup of 1:3 (one part sugar to 3 parts water), enough to just cover apples. Cook 5 minutes, to shrink apples slightly.
Prepare a sugar-water syrup of 1:3 (one part sugar to 3 parts water), enough to just cover apples. Cook 5 minutes, to shrink apples slightly.

Step Four - Process in Boiling Waterbath Canner

Place jars in boiling waterbath canner, with 1" of water to cover. Bring to a rolling boil, and process pints and quarts both for 20 minutes, so they get hot to their centers.
Place jars in boiling waterbath canner, with 1" of water to cover. Bring to a rolling boil, and process pints and quarts both for 20 minutes, so they get hot to their centers.
Remove jars to a draft-free area on a board or towel to cool for 12 hours, or until thoroughly cool. Lids will "ping" and seal during this time. Refrigerate any that do not seal properly, and use within a couple weeks.
Remove jars to a draft-free area on a board or towel to cool for 12 hours, or until thoroughly cool. Lids will "ping" and seal during this time. Refrigerate any that do not seal properly, and use within a couple weeks.
Test lids for good seal (push on centers to see if they are sucked down properly), then wash jars to remove any stickiness from processing, and store in a cool, dark, preferably dry place.
Test lids for good seal (push on centers to see if they are sucked down properly), then wash jars to remove any stickiness from processing, and store in a cool, dark, preferably dry place.

Nice Idea...But Skip Microwave Method (Could Steam or Fry Apples)

© 2010 ButterflyWings

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    • ButterflyWings profile image
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      ButterflyWings 5 years ago

      Mljdgulley, I am so glad everyone enjoyed the results of your excellent planning and superior baking!

    • mljdgulley354 profile image

      mljdgulley354 5 years ago

      It is great food. I made an apple pie from my canned apples for Thanksgiving. It was gone in minutes

    • ButterflyWings profile image
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      ButterflyWings 5 years ago

      Mljdgulley, great memories, huh? And great food!

    • mljdgulley354 profile image

      mljdgulley354 5 years ago

      Thank you for sharing this hub. I am so glad I came across it. I enjoy home canning and this was an excellent tutorial for canning apples for apple pie. I did a lot of that kind of canning with my grandmother and children.

    • ButterflyWings profile image
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      ButterflyWings 6 years ago

      Darla, I have made apple rings. They're fun for a change. We also enjoy the canned apples cold out of the fridge, as well as in baked goods.

      Good memories!

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      Darla 6 years ago

      My Grandma used to can apples. She called them stewed apples. They were in a light syrup and sliced. She would put a jar in the frig and we would eat them cold. I also grew up with apple rings. You used to be able to get these at the store but I have not seen them for a long time.

    • ButterflyWings profile image
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      ButterflyWings 6 years ago

      Fucsia, thank you!

    • fucsia profile image

      fucsia 6 years ago

      Great Hub! the photos are beautiful and explanatory. Thanks!

    • ButterflyWings profile image
      Author

      ButterflyWings 6 years ago

      LiftedUp, how right you are about those pie fillings! I, too, am grateful for home-canned fillings that actually taste like food, not over-sugared, bland mush. :)

    • ButterflyWings profile image
      Author

      ButterflyWings 6 years ago

      Tlpoague, those sound like precious memories of working with your great-grandmother.

      That's a great idea about the cinnamon and sugar on dried apples. I usually leave my dried apple slices plain, as my kids are both sugar-sensitive, but that sounds fun for a change.

    • ButterflyWings profile image
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      ButterflyWings 6 years ago

      Ivorwen, canning little apples whole is a great idea...as long as you're sure there aren't any creatures who have taken up residence inside the apples. One year, I had an infestation of earwigs and other insects, and had to spend time cutting all my tiny green apples, to check them. But it was worth it.

      You're right about the baked apples. Cold canned apples can be delicious.

    • LiftedUp profile image

      LiftedUp 6 years ago from Plains of Colorado

      Home canned fruit--What a difference between this and the commercial products, especially, I think, when it comes to what are called pie fillings! I will stick with what is on my shelves, and be grateful for the chance to prepare our own food.

    • tlpoague profile image

      Tammy 6 years ago from USA

      Terrific hub and very useful. I love the idea of using pictures to explain the process. I miss canning and use to do quite a bit with my great-grandmother. I have to agree that sometimes drying the food is a better option. My kids love the apples I sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar and dry. Thanks for the post.

    • Ivorwen profile image

      Ivorwen 6 years ago from Hither and Yonder

      This is a good idea. I like to can little apples whole, for eating with deserts in the winter. They come out tasting very much like cold baked apples.

    • ButterflyWings profile image
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      ButterflyWings 6 years ago

      Aya, thank you! The apples in these pictures came from a friend, and were the best apples I have ever tasted. Alas, no one's fruit trees are doing particularly well this year, so there has been very little to share.

      Besides canning them different ways, we put up a great quantity of apples in boxes last year, stored in a cool place, for fresh eating, and those lasted a few months.

      I agree that eating processed foods can be a bad thing, so I try to keep it to a minimum, but our winters are sometimes eight months long, with snow on the ground from October through June. This doesn't leave much time for growing fresh food, without a hoop house or something similar, which I don't yet have. Our freezers are usually filled with meat, as we butcher for ourselves, and our dog is raw fed, so this is not much of an option for vegetables and fruits, either. I dry many foods, besides canning, and am convinced this is a great option for some things.

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks

      Great hub. I loved all the pictures. Some of our apples look like that first photo on the tree. They are not all perfectly round, and have all sorts of imperfections. Bow, my chimpanzee, sometimes has to be reassured that they are fine for eating, though they are not like store bought apples in appearance.

      I don't can our apples, though, because we like them fresh better. My daughter is not a big fan of apple pie or applesauce, and I myself worry about eating anything processed, even if processed at home.

      But you did make it look like lots of fun and very appetizing!