Canned Strawberry Applesauce
Batch Ingredients: (Each batch makes 6-7- pints, and fits well in a 4-qt slow-cooker.)
-1.5 lbs. fresh, overripe strawberries
-2 (50-ounce-each) jars sweetened applesauce (or your own homemade if desired)
-1 cup granulated sugar
-about 3 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate
NOTE: You’ll need a slow-cooker and a blender for this project, –multiple slow cookers if you want to do a whole bunch at once. The increments in the recipe listed below fit perfectly in a 4-quart (average-sized) Crock Pot, and yield somewhere around 6-7 pints per recipe. Also good to remember — warm sauce seems thinner (and more sour!) than cooled sauce. Good wisdom. Don’t go overboard with the sugar because it will always come out thicker and sweeter than it seems in the slow cooker.
Remove the green tops from 1.5 lbs. fresh, very ripe strawberries. Halve or quarter berries into a large bowl. If you’re making multiple batches at once, be sure to have a large pitcher on hand as well. Fill blender with cut berries and puree; if more berries remain, dump the pureed ones from the blender into the large pitcher and blend remaining ones. You should get about 3 cups of strawberry puree from every pound-and-a-half of strawberries. (I made 4 batches, which used a total of 6 [1-lb.] packs of strawberries and 8 [50-ounce] jars of premade applesauce, if you follow.)
Into each slow cooker, dump 2 [50-ounce] jars of sweetened applesauce and 3 cups strawberry puree. Mix well with a long spoon (wooden ones work well). The puree will have a tendency to float on the surface of the applesauce so you have to really work it in as best you can, spooning from the bottom to the top in a circular motion rather than a regular round stirring pattern.
To the mixture, add 1 cup granulated sugar and mix again. Into the center of the mixture, drop about a 3-tablespoon chunk of frozen orange juice concentrate. (You don’t really have to measure it precisely.) If the frozen OJ is tough, don’t worry about blending it well with the other ingredients at this point because it’s going to melt and break down later anyway.
Cover mixture with slow cooker lid and turn Crock Pot to HIGH. If desired, you can prop the lid of the slowcooker up on one side by angling it against the base or by laying breadknives width-wise across the top of the cooker before covering (see photo). Doing this helps some of the excess liquid escape to give you a thicker consistency, but every slow cooker is different. Some may prefer to wait until mixture has gotten very hot before propping the top, some may prefer to just leave the lid all the way on the whole time. Your choice.
Let the mixture cook for about 5-6 hours, reducing to LOW if scorching is occuring or problems with heat arise — otherwise keep at HIGH as long as possible.
Meanwhile, sanitize your jars (again, 1 batch size makes about 6 or 7 pints), lids and rings. For more advice on home canning apple products, see my tutorial on homemade apple butter here: https://theredkitchen.wordpress.com/2009/08/25/homemade-canned-apple-butter/
When mixture is ready to be canned, keep Crock Pot on WARM or LOW if possible while transferring it to the clean, hot jars. You want everything (the applesauce, the glass, the pot of water) to be uniformly hot as much as possible to avoid jar breakage.
Process jars in hot water bath for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove, allow to cool, and wait for those satisfying “PLINK!” noises to occur. Once cool, remove rings, rinse any residue from outside of jar and lid, and replace rings if desired for storage. Use within 12-16 months.