Inspired by a combination of worry of potential economic collapse, overall independent nature and a dose of Doomsday Preppers my boyfriend and I have taken an interest in prepping and homesteading. While we haven’t gone and ordered a year’s supply of MREs we have both been reading various material geared towards homesteading and want to take steps to become more self-sufficient. While the world may not see its end during our lifetimes, we see no harm in being prepared for even small scale disasters such as floods or power outages.
I took my first big step in learning a homesteading skill this past Saturday – canning. An older coworker of mine had sold me homemade jelly before, and a few weeks ago sold me a jar of homemade applesauce. I inquired if she’d be willing to teach me how to can applesauce, and she thought it was a great idea as she very much sees a lack of homesteading skills in the current generations. I bought a set of Ball canning jars and headed to her house to learn.
I was very fortunate in that she gets her apples free from a local orchard, but I can say to start that to buy apples to can with from a grocery store would be a very costly investment. We had a large pail’s worth that fortunately she was able to peel through rather quickly. I lack skills with a peeler (I buy refrigerated mashed potatoes because to make homemade would take me ages to peel the potatoes), but was able to slice the apples without too much trouble. I got better the more I did though I definitely could not match the speed that she was capable of. My hand cramped at various times and my thumb got a bit sore, but overall I was proud of my ability to improve my hand-eye coordination.
One thing I did not anticipate was the amount of time it takes to can things. While I expected it to take a few hours, I did not realize how long it took apples to soften on the stove. The smell once the lid was removed to stir them though was definitely a great “homemade” smell. Yet again my physical weakness came through in both smashing the apples and later in stirring them. It was a struggle to push through such a big heavy pot of apples. We used Gala apples which are a naturally sweet variety, but still added sugar and cinnamon in for added flavor.
I did not realize there was such a preciseness in how lids are placed on canning jars until we began filling them. We used a funnel to spoon the applesauce into the jars, and then I had to take a wet cloth along the rim to make sure nothing was sticking to it before placing the lid on top. Apparently any bit of dirt can cause the lid to not seal properly. We then placed 7 jars in a large pot of water and got it boiling. Then we had to let it boil for 45 minutes upon which we could remove the jars to cool and put in the next set to boil.
I’ve been told that pressure canners are a faster way to can, but the way I learned was through the water bath method. I ended up with 15 pints worth of homemade applesauce, some of which I plan to share with family. I had hoped to learn how to make apple butter as well but time was against us and after 6 hours of canning, we didn’t have the time. I’m grateful for having learned the new skill and that I had someone so experienced teaching and helping me. Even if I don’t ever get into regularly canning things, it was a good afternoon and I believe I’ll be set with applesauce until next fall.