Now is the time to can ripe summer apricots, peaches, berries and other fruit.
August – when summer fruits are at their best. This week at the local Farmer’s Market I found lipstick-red strawberries, plump blueberries, sweet (not mouth-puckering) blackberries, luscious peaches of every shape and variety, Ginger Gold apples, green, pink, red, yellow, and orange melons, and even a few hardy apricots and early plums. Sadly, there is no way I can eat all the fruit I want while it is ripe. There aren’t enough hours in the day! The next best thing is to can it, capturing the peak of ripeness to enjoy this winter.
How to Can Fruit
Canning fruit is one of the easiest home canning projects. Basically you:
- Wash fruit.
- Peel, pit, and slice if necessary. Apricots, nectarines, and plums do not have to be peeled. Peach peels tend to become tough when canned, so you will want to peel them along with pears and apples. Fruit scars and other markings should be cut out. Blueberries, blackberries, and cherries can be canned whole. You may want to halve or slice strawberries, apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, and apricots.
- Choose and prepare a liquid for canning – syrup, water, or juice. See syrup recipes below.
- Heat the liquid to boiling, reduce heat to simmer.
- Place fruit in clean jars.
- Cover with syrup.
- Remove bubbles.
- Cover jars with two-piece lids and process in water bath canner. Be sure to check a resource like the Ball Blue Book to determine the correct processing time for your fruit.
Hot Pack or Raw Pack?
Choose one of two different processes; hot packed fruit or raw pack (also called cold pack) fruit.
- Hot pack method – add prepared fruit to the liquid in step 4 above, heat, and proceed with step 5.
- Cold pack, or raw packed method – add raw fruit to clean jars and ladle hot liquid over the fruit.
Raw packed fruit “floats” more in the jar, so the look isn’t as appealing as hot packed fruit. Sometimes delicate fruit, especially if it is quite ripe, will fall apart if heated and then also processed in the canner. I usually raw pack delicate fruits like apricots or raspberries. Hardier fruits like peaches or pears can stand up to hot pack’s extra heat and hold their shape.
Which Liquid Should You Use?
If you look at the grocery store shelves you can find fruit packed in all kinds of liquids; pears packed in juice, peaches in heavy syrup, mixed fruit in light syrup, even some packed in water. We can use the same variety at home, although the chosen liquid will affect product quality.
- Packing in water means no added sugar, thus no additional calories either. But sugar helps preserve the fruit, so fruit packed in water will have a shorter shelf life (quality-wise) than fruit packed in heavy syrup.
- Packing in juice seems to be a more natural choice. But unless you make your own juice, you would then be preserving fantastic fresh fruit in perhaps less-fantastic juice.
- Light and medium syrups provide enough sugar to keep the canned fruit tasting good for up to a year, while adding fewer calories than heavy syrup. I almost always use a light syrup when canning any fruit.
- No question, heavy syrup helps your home canned fruits stay at a high quality for a longer period of time. But it also adds extra sugar and calories. I also feel that heavy syrup tends to overpower the fresh fruit taste.
Make Your Own Syrup
- Extra-Light Syrup: 1 ½ cups of sugar dissolved in 5 ¾ cups water.
- Light Syrup: 2 ¼ cups sugar dissolved in 5 ¼ cups water.
- Medium Syrup: 3 ¼ cups sugar dissolved in 5 cups water.
- Heavy Syrup: 4 ¼ cups sugar dissolved in 4 ¼ cups water.
Leftover syrup can be used to sweeten iced tea or kept for another batch of canned fruit.