Summer is around the corner, and as we are preparing for all of those abundant farm stands and orchards, we should also keep in mind how to best manage summer's plentiful bounty. One of the most time-tested and favorite ways to keep summertime overflow useable all year round is to preserve through canning.
When peach trees, berry bushes, and apple trees begin to bow with the weight of their delicious fruits, there is no better way to save the magic than by canning. Whether you have your own fruit trees or you take trips to pick several bushels, canning fruits is an excellent and easy way to help your harvest last all year. Learn How to Compost at Home
Though canning fruits can seem a little daunting, our beginner’s guide can help you navigate the art. From jams to jellies and whole fruits, there are no bounds to the creativity of fruit canning. Roll up your sleeves!
Step by Step Guide to Water Bath Canning
An easy method of canning fruits is called water bath canning. This is the easiest way to make shelf-stable jams, jellies, and fruits in the comfort of your own home. Water bath canning is the best way to learn home canning as it is simple and straightforward.
Do take note that water bath canning is appropriate for preserving high-acid foods such as most fruits and pickles. However, be sure to always check your specific canning recipe, just in case, to be sure it calls for water bath canning and not pressure canning.
It's easy to find canning kits at your local gardening center, hardware store, or online, but you likely have most of your basic canning needs already in your kitchen. The most important canning material is the correct jars.
A good place to start is the high-quality Mason or Ball Jar with two-piece lids, which are the gold standard in the pickle and preserve world. These sturdy and trusty glass jars are some of the best available to ensure successful canning. Be sure to only use previously unused lids, as the seal might otherwise be compromised and could lead to issues down the line.
Check the weight-to-jar ratio in your recipe before selecting the number of jars you will need. Common ratios include 1½ pounds of raw fruit per pint jar and 2½ pounds of raw fruit per quart jar.
You will also need the following materials for the canning process:
- A large pot that's tall enough for your jar(s) to sit inside with ease
- A canning rack to fit inside the pot, so your jar isn't directly on the heat from the pot
Other helpful items that will make your canning experience even easier include a ladle, a canning funnel, a timer, a jar lifter or tongs, clean towels, and a knife or chopstick. You will need these materials to first sterilize the jars and then to properly vacuum seal them after you fill them with fruits.
Types of Fruits
As mentioned above, you can easily preserve most fruits with this method. Every fruit requires a slightly different protocol, and there are a variety of recipes for fruits so you can preserve them to your liking. No need to be overwhelmed by all this information!
Once you find your rhythm and recipe, you will quickly see how easy and straightforward the process is.
Some favorite fruits to can are peaches, apples, apricots, berries, pears, and grapes. It is best to can the fruits soon after picking to preserve nutritional content. If possible, pick fruits early in the morning when they are top quality. Do no use overly ripe fruits or fruits. Instead, save these for immediate eating or baking, and only use near-perfect condition fruits for canning to ensure canning success.
The step by step to fruit canning is ultimately quite simple: prepare your fruits, boil to sanitize jars (do not boil the lids!), add prepared fruits, close jars with lids and rims, and boil to vacuum seal jars.
Step 1. Cold or Hot Packing
There are generally two ways to can fruits — cold pack and hot pack.
Cold packing uses uncooked fruits and requires less time and effort. Place prepared fruits in sanitized jars and cover with hot water, syrup, or juice.
Hot packing involves processing and cooking the fruits before canning. First, heat the fruits in syrup or cook in their own liquid before canning. We recommend testing out a few recipes to see which method feels best for you.
Step 2. Sanitize Jars
Begin by boiling the Mason or Ball Jars for 10 minutes in a pot of simmering water. Remove with your tongs or another gripping device to avoid touching the hot glass directly, and set them aside on a clean cloth or paper towel. Sanitize the lids separately.
Step 3. Fill With Fruit
Use the ladle and funnel to cleanly fill the jars with fruit prepared according to your canning recipe. Work swiftly to avoid trapping too much air inside the jar. Leave 1/4 inch to 1 inch between the top of the fruits and the top of the jar.
Run a clean knife or chopstick along the inside of the jar to release any trapped air or bubbles. Wipe the rim of the jar clean and apply the canning lid to the top of the jar, ensuring it is centered, and then screw on the lid bands. Do not seal too tightly or else air will not be able to escape the jars.
Step 4. Boil Jars
Next, it is time to boil the jars to vacuum seal them. Load up your canning rack or place the jars carefully in the pot of boiling water. Ensure there is at least 1 inch of water above the jars, and if you have more than one jar in at a time, set them far enough apart so they aren't touching one another.
Keep an eye on your jars to confirm that they're upright, so that your fruit doesn't touch the lids. Check your recipe to see how long the jars need to process. Canning recipes usually call for around 10 minutes of full boil.
Step 5. Remove Jars
Carefully transfer the jars to a cooling rack or a clean towel to sit undisturbed for 12 hours. Test your lids by pressing the center of the lid — if it pops or springs back up, the seal was not set properly, and the jar will need to go through another round of processing.
Step 6. Store and Enjoy
Canned fruits can be stored in a cool and dark place for up to one year. Be sure to add canning materials to your shopping list in preparation for summer and fall harvests. You will be able to enjoy your sweet and delicious fruit bounties all year long.