A Guide to Canning Apples

To me, nothing can beat a perfectly spiced, not too sweet, applesauce. Don’t get me started on pie filling or apple butter! The nostalgia hits home!

Although fresh apples are kind of available all year round at the supermarkets, we all know that unless it’s apple season and you’re buying it from the local guys, it’s not fresh. So unless you’re going to chance cooking some (old) apples to make a baked apple dessert or apple crumble, the idea of using canned apples actually sounds better than the alternative.

Canning apples isn’t as complex as it sounds. With the right tools, the freshest ingredients and a little time, you can (basically experiment and) be on your way to having great tasting apple treats all year round.

If you’ve got an apple tree…even better! If you’ve got one or two trees, you’d know that when it rains apples, it definitely pours! So unless you’re going to be the neighbourhood apple charity, preserving them would probably be the best idea. You can even can them then go around sharing your sweet creation with your friends and family. Who doesn’t love some quality applesauce?!

Although you can basically almost broad brush where canning food is concerned, this guide I’ve written is only for apples and perhaps you can take the same process to other fruits. I do have a guide to canning pears which is also a specific (but similar) process you can follow.

Don’t use it for more easily contaminated food stuff like meats or fish.

If you’ve never canned before, no worries, if you’ve spent time learning about gardening then it definitely won’t hurt to take a couple hours to practice how to preserve your fruit and veg.

Best Apples for Canning

To be honest, you don’t need to be extra picky with the variety of apple you choose to can. What I would say is to make sure that the apples are as fresh as possible and not overripe. It’s always best to grab some local produce over supermarket-sourced apples.

Trying to can apples when they’re not mature or when they have started to overripe will leave you with a mushy mix. I mean, this isn’t always problematic. If you want to can something smoother than apple chunks…like applesauce or apple butter, go right ahead.

Think about the taste you want at the end of the process and that would help you decide which type of apple would be best.

I love all things Pink Lady Apple, but that’s just my preference. I know many persons stick to the idea of cooking with Granny Smiths. In my opinion, nothing can beat a nice sweet but crisp Pink Lady  apple!

There are so many kinds of apples out there though. So once you’ve gotten hold of some fresh, juicy ones, don’t think twice about canning them.

When is the Best Time for Canning Apples

If I could, I would can my apples literally as soon as I pluck them from the tree! Haha. But alas, we don’t all have that luxury.

If you cannot jump straight into the canning process for what reason, make sure that you keep the apples in the fridge until you’re ready. But not for too long though!

I’d say that Autumn is the best time of year to can your apples. You can pick them, source them locally from friends, markets, even forage them from parks! Freshest is best.

Preparing Apples for Canning

Wash, peel (sigh, yes, peel them all), core and slice your apples to get the process going. An Apple peeler and corer would speed things along, but if all you’ve got at hand is a good ole trusty sharp knife, don’t be daunted. It may take you a bit longer, but it will be worth it in the end.

While you’re prepping the apples, keep an eye out for scrapes and bruises or spots that have gone bad. Trust me, you do not want to can rotten apples. Ugh!

You can have a lemon water bath prepared and once the skin has been taken off the apple, toss them in there to stop them from changing colour.

Depending on the method you choose for canning them, at this stage you can just put all the slices into boiling syrup or water to get them prepped for hot packing.

Hot Packing or Raw Packing Apples

Hot packing your apples just means the everything is, you guessed it, hot…from the apples to the syrup and the jars…throughout the process.

Apples tend to shrink while you’re canning them and since they naturally contain quite a bit of air, heating them up helps to allow all their size changes to happen beforehand.
The last thing you need is air bubbles in your apple cans.
Choosing this type of canning also gets rid of the bad stuff that comes with bruised or rotting parts of any of your apples. 

Right, so how do you do it?

  • Pour your prepped apple pieces into a bath of syrup and bring it to a boil.
    This can be lightly sweetened or unsweetened juice or water. I would not recommend using unsweetened water for canning apples since the taste and flavour of the apples tends to go into the water and not remain sealed in the fruit.
    You’d end up with sweet apple water and tasteless canned fruit. No thanks!
  • Boil them for about 5 minutes, then pour them into your heated jars together with the liquid you boiled them in.
  • Use a thin, long tool (they’re actually sold) to get rid of any air bubbles trapped in the jars. A long spatula handle or something thin that can reach the bottom of the can will also do the trick.
  • Leave a small 1/2” gap at the top of the can.
  • Use a wet paper towel to clean the rim and set the jar with the lid on in the rack above your hot water canner.
  • Repeat this process with all your jars then lower them into your canner.Boil them anywhere between 20 and 35 minutes depending on your altitude.
  • When you’ve done that, open up your canner and leave them for a few minutes before taking them out.
  • Leave the cans for about 12 hours or so before storing them in a cool, dark and dry place until you are ready to enjoy them.


Raw packing is the other way you could can your apples. This means that you are not heating up the apples before you put them into the jars.

Although this method is often used, I do not prefer it since any defects in your apples or sloppiness in your process will show up.

It is easy for air to remain in the apples and their shape to change leading to floating apples in your cans.

While you’re canning raw apples, look out for floaters and tap the cans on a towel to let them sink back down.

How to Raw Pack Your Apples

  • Prep all your apples and let them stay in a lemon bath until you’re ready to can them.
  • Fill your jars with the sliced apple while your syrup is coming to a boil.
  • Pour the syrup over the apple slices into the jar leaving around 1/2” at the top.
  • Clean the rim and set the lids on top.
  • Place them into the canner and process them the same way as when you hot pack.

When Raw Packing, always prep your jars and lids thoroughly since the process involves less heat.

Storing Canned Apples

If canned properly, your apples should keep for up to 12 months.

Do not store your cans in a basement or unheated areas. They need a properly ventilated, but dry space.

Always double check the seals of all the cans and toss any that become compromised.

The shelf life of these works of art also are dependent on the freshness of the apples you choose.

Enjoy your crumbles, pies, sauces, butters and everything else in between once you’ve gotten the hang of canning. If you want more details on the process, have a look at other guides like these until you are comfortable in your own canning shoes.

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