We recently made applesauce from apples my parents brought down from Michigan. This is our annual fall tradition, but last year we missed out because we were in the middle of moving here to our new off-grid homestead (can you believe it’s been nearly a year!?!). That means this is the first time we’ve made applesauce or done canning off-grid. Not that it was much different than before, but since we don’t have a big freezer like we used to, we decided to can most of it this time.
In our opinion there is nothing better than applesauce we make ourselves! If we could we would have some with every evening meal, but we were not able to make enough for that this time, and will be happy to enjoy it once every two weeks or so after almost a whole year without any.
Our process is simple: wash the apples, cut them in half, and cook them in large waterless stainless steel pots till they are soft. Waterless cookware is better because it takes only about 4-6 oz of water in the bottom of an eight quart kettle to do the job. This means it doesn’t take as long to heat them as it would if the kettle would be full of water, and the nutrients are not leached from the apples as when they are cooked in all that water.
When the apples are soft enough to easily poke them with a fork we start running them through the Victorio strainer, which separates the pulp from the sauce. I love this because we never have to core or peel our apples! I found my Victorio strainer at a thrift shop last year for a great bargain, but it was missing the wooden plunger, so I found another wooden gismo at Goodwill to take its place. Now I don’t have to borrow my grandma’s old Victorio stainer from my mom every time we make applesauce.
With the freshly squeezed sauce we add in some raw honey and a little cinnamon. Meanwhile someone must be on guard to make sure it doesn’t all get eaten before it’s packed away. :) We love it half frozen, but with limited freezer space we put some in the freezer and canned the rest. We processed about two and three-quarter bushels of apples and ended up with 37 quarts of applesauce.
Last year I also found another canner at a thrift store, so now I have the ability to can more at one time, which is a blessing when canning for eight. A cooking range inside and outside also came in quite handy. The inside one is for use in cooler months, and the one on the deck is to keep the heat out of our tiny house when it’s hot. We had both ranges going at once, one for cooking apples and one for canning the jars of applesauce. With our big table on the deck and our “dogtrot” breeze flowing through it was quite a pleasant place for the operation with plenty of space for all of us to work.
I had six eager helpers. We don’t make applesauce every day, so it’s a novelty. Everyone had to take turns cranking the Victorio strainer because too many wanted to do it at once. What a blessing!
In the middle of making applesauce the generator began having fits. Our big generator is getting its internal governor fixed (whatever that is!) so we are using our little back-up generator which we purchased 13 years ago. It has seen better days and we jokingly refer to it as the one that uses as much oil as gas. Sure enough, after running about four hours it needed more oil. I sent Evenstar out to do the job so I could keep the applesauce process running smoothly.
Evenstar was battling the generator when I suddenly heard her hollering for help! Water was gushing from somewhere off the back of our house. Oh no!! Did the plumbing from the tanks on the roof burst? Or had a tank sprung a bad leak? I raced back there to discover that the plug on the water filter going to the house had broken loose. I stuck my thumb in to stop it temporarily while Evenstar climbed up to close the valves from the tanks to stop the flow (I’m a “chicken” when it comes to climbing up there, but Evenstar doesn’t mind a bit, fortunately). For about 45 minutes we had no water while I took the filter apart, cleaned it, whittled down a cork to plug the hole and reinstalled it, all the while trying to keep the applesauce rolling. Fortunately we had some clean rain water collected and some water already in a tub that we were using for canning so we had water to work with.
In spite of the trials the last of the mess and dishes were washed up by 4pm. I suppose the biggest differences doing applesauce off-grid were issues during the process, like fixing the generator and water leak. But hopefully next year’s applesauce episode will run smoother as things get set up more efficiently.
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