This year, rather than canning fruit for specific purposes, I’m canning fruits for any use. E.g., I’m canning strawberries, instead of strawberry jam, etc.
It’s finally summer! And now that it’s warm, the blackberries, raspberries, and peaches are ready and full of flavor. In the past, I’ve canned specifically what I want, such as jam or pie filling. This year, I’m trying something different.
Canning Fruit For Any Use
This year I wanted to can my fruit so that I can use it for anything I want later in the season. I will be easier than having jars of specific things like jam or jelly. That way, I don’t have to search through everything to find what I want.
The Key is Simple Syrup
When you can fruit normally everything mixes together. The answer here is to use a simple syrup. Simple syrup is a solution of sugar and water that acts as a preservative. It will hold the fruit in a suspended state so that it can be enjoyed later in the season, like winter, when blackberries come from far off places and often have little to no flavor. Canned fruit tastes like fresh picked with a sweet syrup. And if you grow your own, you know exactly what’s in them. I grow all my produce chemical-free, so there are no pesticides or herbicides.
Sometimes when you use alternative sweeteners, you lose the color and appearance. Peaches are really bad for turning brown. A simple fix is to use an acid bath. This is using an acid, like lemon juice, to “wash” the fruit and keep the acid levels at a point where the fruit won’t turn colors on you. Is it necessary for all fruits? I’m not sure, but I do use it for most everything.
Making the Simple Syrup
Simple syrup is really easy to make. All you need to do is to measure one cup of water into a saucepan and add one cup of sugar. Stir over medium heat until dissolved and let cool. That’s it! In canning, you don’t want the syrup to cool, but it’s made the same way. This is considered a heavy syrup at 50% sugar. You can make a light syrup at 20% sugar or any percentage in between.
Here’s where you can get creative. If you always use cinnamon in your apples, you can make the simple syrup with added cinnamon powder. Or you can add other spices or mints. Just remember that you are canning your fruit to use for anything, so choose flavors you’ll be happy with.
With the thought in mind that you don’t need to be at 50% sugar for preservation, you can use different sweeteners in your mix. While these aren’t true simple syrups, they will work the same way. Some examples of natural sweeteners are honey, coconut sugar, molasses, and agave nectar. These sweeteners are usually traded at a ratio of one to one, meaning that if you have a cup of sugar, you can use a cup of honey. Experiment with the taste to see what works best for you. You can also use stevia or monk fruit, but the ratio would be much less.
Whatever sweetener you use, make sure that it is fully dissolved and that it is hot when you use it. This is very important for the canning process.
How to Can Fruit
Canning is a very old process that allows us to enjoy whatever is ripe in season any time of the year. Fruits and vegetables are most often canned, but can do other things like salsa or even fish!. I learned to can from my mother, grandmothers, and even neighbors.
The first step is an acid wash for the fruit. Use 1/2 cup lemon juice to 1 cup of water. Place your fruit in a bowl and pour the solution over it. Leave in the liquid for a few minutes, then drain and set aside.
Jars and Rings
To can fruit, you’ll need glass jars with seals and rings. I reuse my jars by washing them in very hot water. Very hot! Or, if you have a dishwasher, you can use that. You can reuse the rings, but the seals should always be new to be sure that they will seal properly. I would also sterilize the lids and rings, even if they are new. Just in case. And bacteria or mold spores that are present could spoil a jar of fruit. You want to be sure everything is very sterile and hot, so boil some water and let the jars and lids sit in that for a few minutes. Take them out and let them drain just a bit before using them.
How Much Simple Syrup?
To figure out how much simple syrup to make, weigh your fruit. For 15 pounds of fruit, use 11 cups of water and 5 cups of sugar, or whatever alternative you come up with. This will can 7-quart jars of fruit, give or take. The fruit you use will make a difference in the amount. For example, peaches are larger and take up more space than blueberries.
Adding The Fruit and Simple Syrup
Using a canning funnel helps with the next step. Carefully place the fruit into the jar and wipe any juice or bits of fruit off of the top and seal area. you’ll need a complete seal or the mix could go bad. Then pour the hot syrup over the fruit. Go almost to the top, but leave a bit of air space. I usually go to just beyond the shoulder of the jar.
Hot Water Bath
Put the top on and tighten the lid. If you can’t get it really tight, there is a device that you can get specifically for tightening lids. Then place the jar in a hot water bath, making sure that the top is covered. Boil the jars for 15-20 minutes. You may want to use a canning rack.
Pull the jars out of the water using a canning jar lifter. This looks like a weird kind of tongs and is made just for this. Place the jars on a towel on the counter until they cool. After a while, you’ll hear a “ping” as the jars seal. The top of the lid will indent and show you that it has properly sealed. If any of your jars didn’t seal, you can refrigerate them and use them within a few weeks.
That’s it! Canning fruits is easy and fun. Have you canned any fruit yet this year?
Canning Fruits For Use As Anything, Not Just Jam was written by Debra Maslowski.