I think everyone will agree with me that there is nothing better than some delicious home-canned fruit for dessert! Top it up with some fresh custard or ice cream and you have a winner! Canned fruits can also last for up to two years depending on the fruit you choose, so it is a great staple to have in the pantry, especially during these trying times.
As an added bonus, canned fruits do not have to be sugar-laden and unhealthy, and although the B and C vitamins generally decrease during the canning process, minerals, fiber and Vitamins A and E tend to remain stable. Now that I have convinced you that canning is a fantastic way to preserve and enjoy fruits all year long – let us have a look at what fruits are best for canning.
The best fruits for long term canning are large fruits with soft peels such as apples, apricots, peaches, plums, nectarines and pears. Most berries have a high acidity level, which also renders them good for canning as it deters bacterial growth. The texture and sturdiness of the fruit has a huge impact on the efficacy of canning, as you don’t want to can mush, so opt for more sturdy strawberries and blueberries.
There are two ways to can fruit, hot pack and raw pack, with the difference being that the hot pack method boils the fruit in the syrup before canning, while raw pack does not. The section below gives more detail on the canning of each of these fruits, with links to some great recipes.
When canning apples it is a good idea to pick a crisp and tart apple variety. Mealy apples do not can that well and break apart easily. The best varieties according to Better Homes and Gardens include Fuji, Braeburn, Jonagold, Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Pink Lady, Jazz, Honeycrisp, and Cortland.
Once you have chosen you apples, prepare them by washing, peeling if desired, coring and cutting. To prevent the apples from discoloring after being peeled, soak them in some lemon water until you are ready to use them. The acid in the lemon juice inactivates the enzymes that cause to discoloration.
Since apples need to be hot packed, you can prepare the syrup to you specifications and add the apple pieces to simmer for about 5 minutes. Thereafter you can add the apples and sauce to the sterilized jars, and process the jars in the boiling water canner. Boiling times between 20 and 25 minutes tend to be enough. Jars can then be removed from the boiling water, dried and stored in a cool dark place until needed.
Find some great apple canning recipes at Creative Home Making.
Canning Stone Fruit
Stone fruit includes peaches, plums, nectarines and apricots. Some home canners believe in hot packing peaches and apricots and there are some that believe in the cold packing method. The choice is yours, as there are benefits to both.
The basic process for canning these fruits is the same as for apples, as you should wash the fruit, cut them in half and remove the stone. You can peel them, but many choose not to. You can find an easy cold packing recipe from Melissa Norris, Delish and Simple Bites.
Cold packing stone fruit involve packing the halved fruit in the jars and then covering them with the pre-prepared syrup of your choice. You can then place the jars in the hot water canner and boil for 25 to 30 minutes. If you chose the hot pack method and the fruit were boiled in the syrup before packing, you can boil the cans for 20-25 minutes in the canner.
Softer berries such as blackberries and raspberries retain a better shape with raw packing, while more sturdy blackberries and strawberries can be either hot or raw packed. All fruits should be washed properly before beginning, and should not be cut. Peeling is not necessary, as berries tend to have soft skins.
Once they are cleaned, the berries can be jarred and covered in syrup, ready to be sealed and boiled. More ideas and recipes can be found at the National Center for Home Food Preservation and Canning Food Recipes.
Other ways to preserve fruit
I get it, not everyone is into home canning. So if this is not you passion, how can you preserve fruit for future use? Luckily, there are two more preservation methods for you to choose from. Freezing and drying fruit at home has the added benefit of no added preservatives compared to store bought, and is definitely the healthier choice for your family.
- Freezing. This is probably the easiest and fastest way to preserve any extra fruit you have lying around the house. It may be the most expensive method of preserving fruit, but in my opinion, it is still the healthiest as it preserves most of the nutrients of the fruit. Additionally, fruits that cannot be canned, such as bananas, actually freeze very well.
- It is important to wash fruit properly before freezing. Choose packaging material that is designed for freezing, as it will protect your fruit from moisture and air that can cause it to spoil.
- Small fruits like berries can be packed as is, while larger fruits should be cut into smaller pieces, stones, and pips removed.
- Cover the fruit in your syrup of choice and make sure to remove most of the air from the container. You can also consider trying sugar packing, dry packing or packing in pectin syrup.
- Remember that although freezing stops the rotting process, once you defrost you fruits the process will continue, so it is important to use unfrozen fruits quickly. Fruits that are very soft should be frozen as purees, rather than whole.
- Frozen fruits will keep well in the freezer for up to 9 months.
- A great fruit freezing resource is Ohioline, from Ohio State University.
- Drying. Drying fruits and vegetables has become very popular over the last couple of years, and various types of dehydrators have become available. Although dehydrating takes some time, dried fruit is lighter and less bulky to store, and can keep at room temperature for up to 1 year.
The drying process removes water from the fruit thereby inactivating the enzymes that cause decay.
- Fruits should be washed and tapped dry before cutting, coring, and removing of stones. The thinner the fruit is sliced, the faster it will dehydrate completely. Electrical dehydrators can dry out thicker pieces of fruit faster than a natural air dehydrator.
- Fruits that can discolor should be treated with lemon water for a few minutes before dehydrating.
- If you feel creative, you can add more flavor to your dried fruit by sprinkling with spices at this stage.
- Place in your dehydrator and wait….It could take anywhere from 10 hours to 3 days to properly dehydrate your fruits, depending on the fruit and the dehydrator you use. When the fruit is ready, you should be able to squeeze it without any moisture surfacing.
I hope this post has inspired to you to preserve all that extra seasonal fruit for a later date. They are healthy and tasty and with three different methods of preservation, you can definitely have your fruitcake….and eat it too!