skins-on applesauce to freeze, can, and share

Homemade skins-on applesauce to freezeMY FAMILY CALLS IT ‘PO SAUCE, with the “po” representing the last syllable of the word “apple,” the way my beloved niece pronounced it when she was small. One fall weekend, as I hurtled by to give a lecture out their way, I met my brother-in-law at Exit 9 off I-90 to deliver the first load of Pink ‘Po Sauce that started life on my century-old trees. Sigh of relief: 11 quarts and 5 pints moved from my freezer to theirs.

Another day that year, my friend Katrina filled the back of her car with my apples, heading home to cook them up, and many neighbors have been the recipients of boxes of apples, apples and more apples, too. It’s applesauce time, and here’s how that goes:

winter view with apple 2Bountiful rains put regional 2013 apple crops—including fruit on my handful of ancient trees that I do not spray (that’s a 40-foot-wide one out back, above)—at bumper levels. The 2015 season didn’t feature much rain, but the apples were crazy-plentiful, after a 2014 when I had almost none. In 2016, almost a total bust, after a non-winter and a very dry whole year. Neighbors with old trees had none, either; I bought several bushels in for the first time ever. And so it went: bumper 2017; smallish 2018 crop, so-so in 2019…

My 125-plus-year -old standard-sized trees are too tall to pick from, so I simply cull the windfalls, dumping any runts or chewed-on ones into the woods for deer and other animals, and taking wheelbarrow loads of good ones over to the kitchen door.

Katrina adds raspberries to her sauce for a beautiful, vivid color and flavor, like this (her recipe for “Time in a Bottle,” as she calls it). Those lucky apples of mine who got to go home with her, huh?

apples waiting for cookingpink ‘po pauce, the easy way


  • apples
  • water


  • Wash apples (a vegetable brush will help).
  • Cut apples into large chunks; discard cores. Cut out any major blemishes or bruises if needed.
  • Fill a spaghetti pot three-quarters full of big apple chunks. Why don’t I fill the pot to the brim with fruit? I find that making slightly smaller batches reduces the inclination for sticking or burning, but if you promise to stir every 5 or 7 minutes, go ahead and fill to the top.
  • Add 1 or 1-1/2 cups of water to start, to just barely cover the bottom of the pot. The amount of water you’ll need eventually depends on the apples’ own juiciness, and also whether you plan to puree later with peels still in the mix as I do, which thickens the sauce. You can add more water after cooking if desired for a thinner sauce.
  • Cover and get the water bubbling fast with high heat, then lower heat to medium-low and allow the fruit to sort of steam in the water and their own juices.
  • Remove lid only to stir every 5 or 7 minutes. As things soften, both stir periodically and also mash gently with a slotted metal spoon or a potato masher. Lower the heat to low as things soften to a mush.
  • Cook, continuing regular stirring, until thoroughly soft, which may take a total of 25-45 minutes start to finish. Each variety and ripeness level of apple will vary in cooking time (and again: in water required).
  • Want smooth sauce, instead of chunky? Once off the heat and cooled down, use an immersion blender (a stick-shaped hand type) to puree in the metal cooking pot if desired. Why have to clean your blender jar–the immersion blender is the best tool ever for pureed one-pot soups and sauces.
  • Ladle sauce into recycled quart yogurt containers, or into wide-mouth, straight-sided glass canning jars, leaving ample headroom for expansion. Straight-sided jars are less likely than jars with “shoulders” to break in the freezer as their contents expand.

Yes, I know: You can quarter the apples, then use a paring knife to core each quarter.  But I have enough apples for four armies, so I use one knife only, the chef’s size, and simply make four cuts, leaving the core intact to discard (as below).

Cutting up apples for sauceYou could peel them, too, but then you won’t get pink sauce (and besides, fiber is a good thing, no?).

You could get rid of the peels after cooking, with a food mill or sieve. But again, why?

You can add sugar, brown sugar, honey, spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg, or even those raspberries the way Katrina does, remember?  Me? I keep it simple. Depending what I use the sauce with later on, I might dress it up accordingly, but usually just apples and a little water works for me.

  • Prefer the Crockpot or Instant Pot? Go for it, overnight, according to your appliance’s directions.

running out of freezer space?

RUNNING OUT of freezer space?  Canning applesauce in a boiling-water bath is fine (presuming you have the right gear and follow the rules!).

The classic “Stocking Up” canning guide from Rodale recommends 4 pounds of apples; a cup of water; a half-cup of honey; optional cloves, nutmeg or cinnamon. Also optional (to “brighten” the flavor of too-sweet apples if desired) is a quarter-cup of fresh lemon juice. Ladle cooked hot sauce into scalded pint jars and process for 20 minutes, they say. Another option in that recipe: to leave the skins in or food-mill them out.

The National Center for Home Food Preservation peels their fruit (for a more standard product like store-bought, my expert friend Theresa Loe says, not because of food-safety worries) and processes 15 minutes for pints and 20 minutes for quarts, like this.

Or just meet your brother-in-law at the side of the highway with 11 quarts or so (that delivery, below, in recycled goat yogurt containers). That will free up some room, admittedly while overstocking his.

Applesauce ready to deliver to my family.


  1. Darlene C. says:

    Our apples always have a dark greenish brown “scum” on them that I really have to scrub to remove. What is this and is it harmful ? We use NO sprays or treatment of any kind on our apple trees. Maybe this is why we have this problem ?

  2. Jean says:

    So nice to read your sauce recipe. It’s exactly the way I have been making it for years. Lovely pink sauce w/o anything added. My record for canning in one year was 28 quarts of sauce. The kids are grown and gone now so I don’t need nearly that much. By the way, I have also made apple pies with unpeeled thinly sliced apples. Men have told me that pie tastes exactly like the pies their grandmothers made! Thanks for the great info and the memories.

    1. Catharine Kuehne says:

      When we were kids my Mother would make ‘pink applesauce’ (with us helping) by having us throw in a handful of Red Hots. Not for the purists, but it engaged us and ensured we would eat it!

  3. Nicole Goetz says:

    I’ve started working at an orchard this year. I was sent home with a bushel of apples last week, and there is no way my husband and I can go through that many in a week! I’m using your recipe today to make applesauce for the very first time today! But first, time to clean the kitchen!
    Thank you for sharing!

  4. bett says:

    i just made applesauce, mmm. after cooling it I put the sauce in a silicon muffin ‘tins’ & froze it. when frozen put 2 or 3 of the frozen applesauce sized ‘muffins’ into a freezer bags & return those bags to the freezer for later use. works a treat.

  5. Dorene Inglis says:

    not an applesauce comment, but I wanted to tell you that I had the bright idea of freezing beans in tomatoe sauce, because I don’t really like the consistency of frozen beans- then I opened your email-about freezing beans in tom sauce! We were in sync that week! Since them I have moved on to the book,Canning for a New Generation-do you know it? Great bean recipes!
    Enjoy your posts,thank you

  6. marla says:

    Just finished processing some apples…applesauce on the stove, applebutter in the crock pot, and apple leather in the dehydrator. Will try the apple leather in the oven next time on silpats.
    Our all time favorite is apple rings in the dehydrator. So easy with the peeler/ corer/ slicer.

  7. Linda says:

    Feeling suddenly inspired to get after the large bag of apples a girlfriend dropped ifff. Great blog and even greater comments etc. Thank you. I feel as if I know you fellow gardener. If you come to Vancouver Canada look me and my garden up. L

    1. margaret says:

      Thanks, Linda. Just finished 80 pounds of apples into sauce…about to do another 40 pounds then I am out of freezer space for a bit. : )

  8. Judi says:

    I love to make my pink applesauce by adding red hots to a pot of apples that have been peeled, cored and quartered. Also you can peel, core and slice apples and quick freeze them on a cookie sheet, then transfer them to a zip lock freezer bag. This winter take them out to make apple pie or crisp.

  9. Melissa says:

    Going in for sauce making this morning- clicked on your article just to see if you had any pizzazz I was potentially missing out on, but happy to find and confirm simple is the best! I save all my cores and bruised pieces to make my annual apple cider vinegar too.

    1. margaret says:

      I figure we can spice it up before eating, and this basic non-nonsense version (and with the skins for all the fiber, and without added sugar!) is the best for us and the most versatile. Nice to hear from you, Melissa.

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Rose. The apples are not perfect, but they’re great for cooking with and there are enough perfect ones to feed me and a small army (very large old trees). Even “organic” apple tree sprays are heavy on fungicidal elements like copper that I don’t want to use, so I am happy to just skip it and have imperfect but delicious fruit in the name of the environment. If you are going to spray, hire a company that uses a least-toxic approach and ask them about all the ingredients they are using and what the lasting effects are in the soil, or the impact on desirable other insect species.

  10. Laurie says:

    What beautiful pink applesauce you make! Like you, I make “peel on” applesauce, but for the past 10+ years, I’ve baked the apples, in a large, deep roasting pan covered with a lid or aluminum foil instead of boiling the apples. I find it takes about the same length of time, less water and is easier than stirring the pot. I also think it results in a more complex flavor. BTW, I really do enjoy receiving your emails, they are right up there with the very best of those I subscribe to!

    1. Jo says:

      Do you cut up the applies, or roast them whole? How much water do you include, if any? What temperature and for how long? Thanks!

    2. Kari says:

      Your post triggered a memory for me. My mother used to bake apples with brown sugar and cinnamon, then freeze. She would take them out 2 at a time, microwave them and top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. She and my father thought they were the best bed time snack.

  11. Janet says:

    So, a beginner question — To freeze the applesauce, I put it in freezer bags, plastic or glass containers, and that’s it? It stores for approximately how long?

    1. margaret says:

      Yes, but if using jars leave a little “headroom” (empty space at the top) for the liquid sauce to expand when it freezer to solid. It keeps for up to a year (different sources say 8 months to 12 months). I always have mine all year long til the next harvest begins, and have done this for decades.

  12. Cathy says:

    My immersion blender doesn’t completely smooth out the skins! I get little shards of skin that everyone spits out! I let it go until I really had apple water not applesauce. What did I do wrong. Has happened on 2 batches. It is a Kitchen Aid appliance.

  13. Jen says:

    I have made this applesauce and love it. Don’t throw away those cores or any peels! It’s so much fun to make your own apple cider vinegar from them. Many recipes online.

  14. Dianne says:

    Thanks for the great recipe Margaret. I’m getting a box of Cameos this week and will try your recipe on some of them. I usually can my applesauce because of lack of freezer space. The apples I get every year are managed with the IPM (Integrated Pest Management) method, so I think the skins should be okay. Recently I saw a recipe with optional add-ins for applesauce such as grated ginger, star anise, and a few others I can’t recall at the moment. So many recipes to try, and this year I’ll have pink applesauce too!

  15. Alex Miller says:

    I do mine just as you do yours, and find that a mix of apples is always best; typically I will also throw in a couple cinnamon sticks, which I fish out before packing. BUT – I add cranberries! I cook them separately, so as not to “magentify” the whole batch, then stir them in at the end, for a truly pink sauce, with a bit of tang! I have also been known to add currants or raisins at the end, while it’s still hot, allowing them to plump in the moisture.

  16. I would be glued to Page Dickey’s book as I am creating a new garden at my home SummerHill in Westchester County.
    I will credit you and her all I can! I have 30,000 linkedin contacts because of my fashion business. Happy to spread the word.

  17. Robin Drake says:

    We cooked our apples with skins and cores, just removing blossom end black bits and any obvious bugs, and then put them through a food mill attachment on the KitchenAid (this was back in the 50s). My best guess for the apple variety is Lowland Raspberry, and it made spectacular applesauce, pink with no sugar needed.

  18. Karen B says:

    When I make applesauce (not often enough, no trees so have to have leftover apples) I throw a handful of leftover cinnamon hearts into the water with the apples… likely about 1/4-1/2 cup to a full pot. It makes a lovely touch of cinnamon flavour and also adds pink colour.
    Thanks for the recipes. Looking forward to the soup making! I also put leftover apples in my squash or pumpkin soup along with apple juice or cider.

  19. Carol K. says:

    I do not have an orchard full of apples (I often forage wild ones; many are surprisingly blemish-free!), so I try not to waste more of the apple flesh than necessary. After washing the apples and removing any questionable areas, I halve them with my chef’s knife, then use my melon baller tool to quickly and neatly excise the core. The melon baller has a different-sized scoop at each end, so no matter the variety of apples I use, one or the other scoop is the perfect size. Once the cores are out, then I chop the halves again. I, too, as a previous commenter wrote, toss in some red hot candies as the apples cook down. Aside from those, I add no other sweetener. And even cores do not go to waste — I have 3 Rubbermaid bins of hungry redworms that compost a lot of my kitchen waste. They do love canning season and thank me by producing lots of vermicompost for my plants in spring!

  20. Lisa says:

    I always add fresh (or fresh frozen) cranberries to my sauce. They intensify the color even more and add a bit of tanginess. I never thought of freezing the sauce. What a brilliant idea! Thank you for that.

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