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Making Applesauce and Chokecherry Jelly With an Old-Fashioned Food Grinder Mill

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Old cone shaped food mill with stand and pestle given to me from my grandmother.

Old cone shaped food mill with stand and pestle given to me from my grandmother.

Fond Memories

My grandmother gave me an old-fashioned cone-shaped food mill/grinding mill strainer with a stand and a wooden pestle. That was when my husband and I moved to Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, from Houston, Texas, in the 1970s. It was definitely put to good use! I made many a pint jar of home-canned chokecherry jelly.

Chokecherry trees are so pretty when they are in bloom as can be viewed in this photo.

Chokecherry trees are so pretty when they are in bloom as can be viewed in this photo.

Using a Food Grinder Mill Just Like My Grandmother

Numerous quart jars were also filled after making applesauce. Preservation was done by using water-bath canning methods. My grandmother had given us her old canning equipment and plenty of old-but-still-useful mason jars that were in her basement.

Another type of vintage food mill was also in my possession, given to me by my family. The stand on this Wearever old-fashioned aluminum food mill nicely placed the cone strainer over bowls which could easily capture the pressed juice and ground pulp of the fruit. This became my favorite choice to use.

Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin

I practiced backyard organic gardening when my husband and I lived in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, many years ago. That garden was terrific and produced so much nutritious and tasty food, not only for the two of us, but we shared it with many other people as well.

One of our good neighbors who had several acres of land and their own large garden invited me to split the purchase of several bushels of different types of apples one year. She regularly made applesauce for her family of five, and it made me remember the days of my childhood when I grew up eating homemade applesauce.

Those wonderful days of opening the mason jars filled with pink-hued and delicious applesauce made from the efforts of my mother came to mind.

Why I Decided to Start Making My Own Applesauce

Since I had already learned the water-bath canning method of preserving homegrown tomatoes after planting 43 tomato plants that the first year in our garden, I decided to start making my own applesauce as well.

Why Homemade Applesauce Is Best

Homemade applesauce is so much better than the canned or jarred varieties that one typically purchases in grocery stores. One can adjust the sweetness and flavorings to one's taste.

Thus my making of homemade applesauce was launched thanks to my neighbor Char, and also with gratitude to my grandma, who had given us her canning and food mill equipment that she no longer intended to use.

Homemade Applesauce Recipe

Making homemade applesauce is so very easy! My neighbor and I used a combination of apples. The same types that are good for pie recipes also make great use when making applesauce. Good examples of apples to use include some of the following:

  • McIntosh ... always one of my favorites!
  • Fugi
  • Pippin
  • Granny Smith
  • Jonathan
  • Honey crisp or any other combination of your choice. If you have your own apple trees, then use whatever type you have.

The first video above shows making applesauce in a slow cooker with no water added.

Usual Ingredients for Making Applesauce

  • Apples, peeled, cored and cut into small pieces
  • Small amount of water or apple cider or apple juice (I used water)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Sugar, white, brown or a combination of both. For diabetics, sugar substitutes could be utilized.
  • Optional spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice.
  • Optional—a dash of salt.

Instructions for Making Applesauce

  1. Put the peeled, cored and chopped apples into a saucepan.
  2. Add the rest of the chosen ingredients and combine them with the apples in the saucepan. Add any sugar gradually because it all depends upon the sweetness of the apples one is using as to how much sugar is needed to make it palatable. Do this "to taste." You can always add more sugar later if needed.
  3. Stir the apple combination over medium to medium-high heat until bubbling. Cover and continue to cook for 15 to 25 minutes until the apples are soft. Stir occasionally during this process to make sure there is enough liquid in the pan. The apples will release their juices as they cook.
  4. Take off the heat and process the apple combination with a food mill, a food processor, a blender or even mash with a potato masher or fork if you wish the applesauce to be chunky.
  5. Adjust for flavor and put into jars for storage. If too thick the applesauce can be thinned with more water. If too sweet add more lemon juice. If not sweet enough add more sugar while it is still hot.
  6. 6. The homemade applesauce can be stored in the refrigerator, freezer or be canned at this point.

Exact amounts can be varied depending upon the size of apples and desired sweetness or flavor desired. For 6 pounds of apples, you might try using the juice of 1 lemon, 1/2 cup of sugar and 3/4 cup of water as one example.

Homemade Applesauce and Canning Tutorial

For those who wish to see another person make and preserve applesauce from start to finish, the video below is for you.


On our half-acre lot in Wisconsin Rapids were a couple of chokecherry trees in our front yard and one in the backyard. Those ripened chokecherries that turned from red to black as they matured attracted many birds who happily fed on them. They also made some great-tasting jelly! Once I learned that the chokecherries were edible and also high in antioxidants, I put my grandmother's grinding mill to further use.

 I am picking chokecherries from our tree in the front yard.

I am picking chokecherries from our tree in the front yard.

What Is a Chokecherry?

For those who may not be familiar with chokecherry, it is related to regular cherries that grow much larger. The taste is somewhere between a concord grape and black cherry flavor if I were to describe the flavor once made into jelly. The large seed in the center takes up most of the room, with the flesh of the chokecherry being minimal in comparison. The pea-sized chokecherries grow in clusters.

After picking the berries, washing them and cooking them in a kettle of water, they were put through my grandmother's old-fashioned cone-shaped food mill. A huge amount of seeds and skins were collected as that rich dark juice was gathered in the bowl under the mill grinder.

Old-fashioned grinding food mill

Old-fashioned grinding food mill

A Sweet and Tart Jelly

Chokecherries are less tart when fully ripened, but they do take quite a bit of sugar to make a good jelly out of them. You can easily look up specific recipes of how to make this type of jelly if you have access to picking this fruit. I no longer have a note of the exact amounts that I used. The basic ingredients are the following:

  • the cooked chokecherry juice after it was strained,
  • lemon juice,
  • sugar,
  • and pectin.

We moved several jars of my homemade chokecherry jelly back to Houston when my husband took on a new job assignment. We were able to share them with our family members in Texas. I don't exactly remember the recipe I used, and unfortunately, I no longer have access to my notes. Instead, I've included a video that is similar to what I used to make.

How to Can Jelly and Jam

Revisiting Memories of Canning in Wisconsin

We enjoyed our four years living in central Wisconsin. I particularly enjoyed my backyard gardening adventures. Learning how to make my own homemade applesauce and chokecherry jelly was fun. I also canned numerous quart jars of tomatoes, reaping the goodness coming from our garden and Mother Earth. Looking back, I cherish the memories of those days!

Wooden pestle ready for use in the food mill

Wooden pestle ready for use in the food mill

© 2011 Peggy Woods