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Should applesauce be pressure canned or water bath?

When it comes to canning applesauce at home, there are two main methods that can be used: pressure canning and water bath canning. Both methods allow you to preserve freshly made applesauce in jars for long term storage. However, there are some key differences between pressure canning and water bath canning that impact food safety. In this article, we’ll compare and contrast these two canning methods to help you determine which is better for canning your homemade applesauce.

Pressure Canning Applesauce

Pressure canning allows you to can low-acid foods like meat, seafood, poultry, vegetables, and even fresh applesauce by using high heat and pressure to kill any bacteria that could cause spoilage or food poisoning. Here’s a quick overview of how to pressure can applesauce:

  • Make homemade applesauce using your preferred recipe.
  • Fill sterilized canning jars with applesauce, leaving 1 inch of headspace.
  • Wipe jar rims clean and secure lids.
  • Process the sealed jars in a pressure canner at 11 PSI for 25 minutes for pints or 30 minutes for quarts.

The high pressure and temperature achieved in a pressure canner (around 240°F) allows the applesauce to reach temperatures above 212°F. This kills any bacteria, such as Clostridium botulinum, that can thrive in low-acid foods preserved at boiling point temperatures.

Advantages of Pressure Canning Applesauce

  • Achieves higher temperatures to kill C. botulinum and other bacteria.
  • Makes applesauce shelf stable for 1+ years at room temperature.
  • Minimizes texture and flavor changes from high heat.

Disadvantages of Pressure Canning Applesauce

  • More complex equipment is required.
  • The process itself takes longer.
  • If done improperly, deadly C. botulinum bacteria could survive.

Water Bath Canning Applesauce

Water bath canning involves submerging sealed jars in boiling water for a set period of time. Here are the basic steps for canning applesauce using this method:

  • Make homemade applesauce using an acidic recipe with added lemon juice or citric acid.
  • Ladle applesauce into sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.
  • Wipe rims, apply lids and rings.
  • Submerge sealed jars in boiling water bath for 20 minutes.

The 212°F temperature reached in a water bath is sufficient for high-acid foods like acidic applesauce recipes. The low pH prevents C. botulinum bacteria from growing.

Advantages of Water Bath Canning Applesauce

  • Simple equipment and process.
  • Preserves texture and fresh flavor.
  • Faster than pressure canning.

Disadvantages of Water Bath Canning

  • Only safe for naturally high-acid foods.
  • Potential for spoilage if pH isn’t low enough.
  • Must be refrigerated after opening.
  • Shelf life is shorter than pressure canned foods.

Acidity Levels for Safe Water Bath Canning

For applesauce to be safely processed in a water bath canner, it must have a pH of 4.6 or lower. Some key tips for ensuring your applesauce recipe meets this acidity requirement:

  • Use naturally tart apple varieties, like Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, or Braeburn.
  • Add lemon juice or citric acid to the applesauce.
  • Start with around 2 tablespoons of lemon juice per quart of applesauce.
  • Use an acidic applesauce recipe from a trusted canning source.
  • Test finished applesauce with pH test strips to confirm pH of 4.6 or below.

Amount of Lemon Juice to Add

As a general rule of thumb, here are some guidelines for how much lemon juice to add when water bath canning applesauce:

Applesauce Amount Lemon Juice to Add
1 pint 2 tablespoons
1 quart 1/4 cup
7 quarts 1 1/2 cups

Keep in mind that apple variety, ripeness, and other ingredients can impact acidity levels. Always use pH strips to test your finished applesauce before canning to guarantee it is below 4.6 pH.


For canning basic applesauce recipes without added acidifiers, pressure canning is the only safe method. It allows you to achieve the high temperatures needed to destroy bacteria that cause botulism in low-acid foods. Water bath canning does not reach high enough temperatures for unacidified applesauce. This can allow dangerous spore-forming bacteria to survive.

However, water bath canning is a safe option for acidic applesauce recipes containing added lemon juice, citric acid, or using extra tart apples. The key is confirming the finished applesauce has a pH of 4.6 or lower before canning. When in doubt, only use pressure canning for plain applesauce to guarantee safety.

In summary:

  • Pressure can plain applesauce recipes for guaranteed safety.
  • Only water bath can applesauce with added acidifiers that is tested to have a pH of 4.6 or lower.
  • Use lemon juice, citric acid, and tart apples to lower pH for water bath canning.
  • Always use a tested recipe and pH strips when water bath canning applesauce.

Following these guidelines helps ensure your homemade canned applesauce is preserved safely and deliciously using either pressure or water bath canning methods.