The Essential Part of Making Applesauce

The finished applesauce with the missing part

Our friends invited us to pick apples from their tree, and we came home with two 5-gallon buckets completely filled. My kids weighed them, and we think we harvested more than 60 lbs.

Contrary to the picture above, I’m not a canner. I make salsa every year and preserve it, but that doesn’t qualify me. Besides, when I made pickles last year, I forgot the key ingredient—salt.

My mom, on the other hand, preserved fruit nearly every summer. I grumbled when she would ask us to help make applesauce. I didn’t like the sticky mess running down my arms, and I especially didn’t like the primitive nature of what we were doing.  But, of course, like the animals in the story of the Little Red Hen, I loved the finished product.

Pride probably convinced me that I was a savvy consumer who could buy what I needed from the store for less money and less stress. Now, I know that maybe sometimes that’s true, but not when I grow the produce myself or receive it free.

So, I borrowed a food mill and attempted to make applesauce for the first time, with no real experience beyond my childhood memories. The kids weighed, sorted and washed much more willingly than I ever did. Paul assembled the food strainer with just a picture on the box. And that left me to cut and cook.

With the kids grouped around the food mill, reminiscent of my mother’s kitchen, I poured the boiling apple mush. They stood ready to mash and crank. Instead of applesauce, though, only hot apple liquid poured into the catch bowl; everything else—sauce, peeling, cores and seeds—poured out into the waste bowl together.

I knew enough to know this wasn’t right. The crank was loose, and I wondered out loud if we didn’t assemble it wrong. But I didn’t know how to fix it.

I called the friend we ‘d borrowed it from. She wasn’t answering her phone, and I left a message. I called Paul at work. He was in a client meeting. We were on our own, and I felt my non-canning self pushing to the forefront of my emotions.

My kids, on the other hand began to problem solve. My son looked on the box and together they discovered that we had missed an important piece, a red spiral which we thought was an attachment for grape juice. With apple goo streaming from the parts, NH used his intuitive engineering skills and suggestions from his sisters to reassemble it.

I gave encouragement, but I had no idea what to do. My children showed skills and resolve that I didn’t have but that we needed in that moment and in our family. With each piece in place and each person contributing, we made over four gallons of applesauce.

At the end of the day with the mess cleaned up and the bottles standing in a row, my teen daughter said, in words unlike any uttered in The Little Red Hen or my mother’s kitchen, “This was a helpful learning experience.”


  1. David
    Aug 21, 2009

    Great experience. My wife and I have canned peaches and strawberries with success. My tip from the strawberries is to follow the timing directions exactly. They are not guidelines.

    Thanks for great post.

  2. Donnetta
    Aug 22, 2009

    I remembering canning with my mom growing up too. Applesauce was one thing we did.

    Just as you have memories I’m sure your children will have memories of this experience. From the sounds of it they will be good memories of working and learning together!

  3. Tina
    Aug 22, 2009

    I’ve only canned salsa and Mitchell is begging for more since it didn’t last long. It’s funny how them wanting something so domestic makes it worth the time and effort.

  4. terena
    Aug 23, 2009

    Love it.

    I for one am scared of canning. I’m actually scared of anything having to do with food prep.

  5. Laila
    Aug 26, 2009

    I’m scared of it all too. I made some tomato sauce from our own tomatoes, but it wasn’t the greatest. I think all of you “canners” are brave and I admire you! 🙂

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