Canning fruits

For a printer-friendly version of the Guide for Canning Fruit chart, click on the icon to download.
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For a printer-friendly version of the Guide for Canning Other Fruit Products chart, click on the icon to download.
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Before canning fruits, you need to make decisions about three tings:

  1. If an anti-darkening agent is needed.
  2. Whether syrup, water, or fruit juice will be used as the packing liquid.
  3. If fruit will be hot- or raw-packed.

Fruits are usually high in acid. High acidity prevents the growth of bacteria, molds, and yeasts that are present in the air, water, and soil. Acid foods can be canned using a pressure canner but boiling-water canners do the job just as well and are faster.

1. Anti-darkening agent: An anti-darkening agent is needed for fruits such as apples, apricots, nectarines, peaches, and pears to keep them from turning brown when cut. Ascorbic acid is the best anti-darkening agent. There are several forms of ascorbic acid availble on the market:

2. Packing liquid: The liquid (juice, syrup, or water) that is added to the fruit in the jars helps remove air from food tissues, shirnk food, keep the food from floating in the jars, increase the vacuum in sealed jars, and improve shelf life.

Adding syrup to the fruit does not prevent spoilage. Sweeteners help fruit retain its flavor, color, and hsape. A very light syrup approximates the natural sugar content of many fruits. Instead of syrup, fruit can be canned in juice (unsweetened apple juice, pineapple juice, or white grape juice). The best choice is juice made frorm the fruit that is being canned. To prepare such a juice, crush soft fruit, then heat and strain it.

Packing fruit in water is another option; however, water-packed fruits do not retain the flavor, color, adn texture of the fruit. Artificial sweeteners can be added just before serving to adjust the flavor.

3. Hot-pack vs. raw-pack: Hot packing is the best way to remove air from the fruit and is the preferred pack style for foods processed in a boiling water canner. Even though at first there may not seem to be a difference between hot-packed and raw-packed food, after even a short storage time, both the coor and flavor of hot-packed foods will be superior. In addition, cooking preshrinks food so more can be filled into each jar.

Raw-packing is the practice of filling jars tightly with freshly prepared, but unheated, food. Some cooks prefer to raw-pack small or soft fruits, such as berries, cherries, spricots, and plums, since it minimizes crushing.

Syrups for canning
To prepare syrup, combine sugar and water in a heavy-bottomed pan. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. You need 1/2 to 3/4 cup syrup for each pint of fruit. In the following chart, the sugar content in each syrup is increased by approximately 10 percent.

Syrup Type
Approx. % Sugar
For 9-Pt. (or 4-Qt.) Load Cups Sugar* For 7-Qt. Load
Cups Sugar*
Fruits Commonly Packed in Syrup
Cups Water Cups Water
Very Light 10 6 1/2 3/4 10 1/2 1 1/4 Approximates natural sugar level found in most fruits and adds the fewest calories.
Light 20 5 3/4 1 1/2 9 2 1/4 Very sweet fruit. Try a small amount the frist time to see if it's acceptable.
Medium 30 5 1/4 2 1/4 8 1/4 3 3/4 Sweet apples, sweet cherries, berries, and grapes.
Heavy 40 5 3 1/4 7 3/4 5 1/4 Tart apples, gooseberries, sour cherries, and other very sour fruit.
* If desired, light corn syrups or milk-flavored honey may be used to replace half the table sugar. A higher proportion will mask the fruit flavor.

For a printer-friendly version of this chart, click on the icon to download.
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Step-by-Step Canning for Fruits

  1. Start with fruit that is fully ripened, yet still firm. Look at it carefully to see if there are bruises or soft spots; rinse it well with cool water to remove any dirt or residues. Check the “Guide for Canning Fruits” for specific instructions on the fruit you want to can. Prepare an anti-darkening solution, if needed.
  2. Gather boiling water canner, jars, new lids, ring bands, and other equipment. Make sure jars are free of nicks or cracks; such defects may prevent a good seal. Make sure ring bands are not rusty, dented or scratched. Clean all equipment.
  3. To sterilize jars, cover clean jars with water and boil for 10 minutes. Keep jars in hot water to prevent breaking when filling with hot food. Follow manufacturer’s directions for preparing lids; keep them in hot water.
  4. Place basket or rack in canner. Fill canner with hot water. Cover; bring water to a simmer. In a large tea kettle or another pan, heat additional water to add later.
  5. Prepare only enough fruit for one canner load at a time. Treat fruit to prevent darkening, if necessary. Prepare syrup of your choice as directed in the “Syrups for Canning” chart; or heat fruit juice or water. Keep hot until ready to use.
  6. Remove a jar from the hot water, and stand it upright on a cloth towel. Pack according to the following directions. Note: If packing fruit halves, pack halved cavity side down, in overlapping layers.
  7. Carefully run a narrow nonmetallic spatula up and down between the fruit and the sides of the jar, turning the jar at the same time to release air bubbles. If necessary, more liquid can be added.
  8. Wipe jar rim and threads with a clean, damp cloth or a paper towel to remove food particles that might prevent a seal. Lift a jar lid from hot water; place on the jar, sealing side down. Firmly and evenly screw on a ring band by hand; do not overtighten. As each jar is filled, use a jar lifter to place it on the canner rack. Space jars so they do not touch each other or the sides of the canner. If needed, add more hot water so that the water level is at least one inch above the jar tops.
  9. Cover canner; increase heat to high and bring water to a vigorous boil. Set timer for required processing time according to the “Guide for Canning Fruit.” Reduce heat to maintain a gentle boil throughout processing. Add more boiling water, if necessary, to keep water level above jars.
  10. After the jars have been processed for the recommended time, turn the heat off and remove canner lid. Immediately remove jars with a jar lifter and place jars at least 1-inch apart on a towel or rack, away from drafts. Do not retighten bands; during cooling the lids will be pulled against the jar to form a high vacuum. Air cool for 12 to 24 hours.

The Next Day

  1. Remove screw bands and check lid seals. (To loosen a band that sticks, cover it with a hot, damp cloth for 1 to 2 minutes.) A properly sealed lid is indented in the center, so that when you press the lid down with a finger, it does not move. If there is springiness in the lid, that means it is not properly sealed.
  2. Wipe and dry all jars before storing them. Label to show the contents and the date (month and year). Store in a clean, cool, dry, dark place. Temperatures of 50° to 70°F are best.

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