Canning: How to preserve summer fruit

Sarah Brooks

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We love summer fruit, but how can we enjoy our favorites when fall begins to set in? Can and preserve it, of course! Here, we'll show you just how to do it so you can savor the taste of summer all year long.

Canning

Canning tips to get you started

Canning novice? Have no fear. Though the process takes some time and equipment, canning is quite easy once you master the technique. Take a deep breath and proceed.

Take stock of your kitchen equipment

You may have most of the tools and equipment necessary for successful canning. If you don't, a trip to the local hardware store or supermarket will get you what you need.

Here's a quick list of canning equipment:

  • Canning jars — Mason jars are the gold standard for canning because they can withstand high heat and can be reused. Choose the jars with threaded tops.
  • Canning jar lids and screw bands — Your Mason jars may or may not come with lids and screwbands. After you fill Mason jars with a hot fruit mixture, you place the lid over the jar top and secure it with a screw band.
  • Canning pots — A large stock pot or enamel covered canning pot is needed to provide a boiling water bath for the filled Mason jars while additional stock pots are needed to cook the fruit or to boil water for sterilizing the Mason jars and lids.
  • Canning rack — This is a wire-like tool with long handles that holds Mason jars, allowing you to easily lower and lift a half dozen Mason jars into the boiling water bath. If you don't have a canning basket, you can use a jar lifter, a tong-like utensil.
  • Canning funnel — A funnel is the best way to neatly fill each Mason jar.
  • Lid magnet — Canning kits typically include a plastic stick with a magnet at the end to use in retrieving lids from boiling water after being sterilized.
  • Labels — Mason jars often come with fitting labels, but you can buy labels separately or create them on the computer using specialty sticker sheets.

Pick your fruit

Since canning is a timely process, make it worth your while by picking or buying a substantial amount of your favorite ripe fruit. Just be sure to have enough Mason jars to accommodate it.

Set aside a morning or afternoon

Canning is a food-loving process that requires at least two to three hours, perhaps more if you are just beginning.

Organize and sanitize your equipment

When you are ready to can, arrange all of the necessary tools and gadgets you need for your recipe on the counter near the stovetop. All equipment needs to be immaculately clean. Inspect your Mason jars, lids and screw bands for cracks, chips or rusting, discarding all but the perfect ones. Place jars in a large pot or roasting pan with water and bring to a boil to clean. Place lids in a simmering pan of water for a few minutes, and then keep warm. Wash screw bands in warm soapy water.

Prepare your recipe

Whether it is plum chutney, blueberry jam or strawberry jelly, your actual fruit recipe is going to require the most prep and cook time. Read your recipe over before you begin, and then slice, dice, simmer and stir until your fruit is ready to be preserved.

Fill the jars

Lift jars or the canning rack of jars out of the boiling water and set on a dish towel. Place funnel over a jar and fill with fruit, leaving a 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch headspace (space between fruit mixture and lid) and repeat with additional jars until fruit is gone. Use a small spatula to release any air bubbles in the fruit mixture. Clean the jar rims with a clean towel.

Close and process jars

Place canning lids on jars, rubber rimmed side down, and secure with screw bands. Screw the bands until you feel firm resistance, but don't over-tighten since this may interfere with the canning process. Place individual jars or canning rack of jars in canning pot, submerging jars until covered with water. Place lid on pot and boil according to your recipe instructions (different food preparations require different boiling times).

Cool the jars

Transfer jars to a dish towel on the counter and allow to cool overnight. The lids will pop as the fruit mixture cools. This is music to a canner's ears because it means the lids have properly sealed. If you have jars whose lids don't pop or haven't suctioned to the jar top, reprocess them in the boiling water bath or place them in the refrigerator for immediate use.

Label jars

Write the contents and the date on labels and then stick them on your jars. As you can more fruit, make sure you follow FIFO (first in, first out) rule in your pantry. Canned fruit mixtures can be kept in a cool, dry place for months.

Once opened, store in the fridge

Whether you dig into your canned fruit treats the next day or months later, keep jars in the refrigerator once opened.

Canning recipe:

Spiced blackberry jam

Makes 6 half pints

Ingredients:

  • 8 pints fresh blackberries
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • Grated zest and juice of a large lemon
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • A few twists black pepper

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, cover, and set aside for 2 hours.
  2. Meanwhile, gather your equipment and start the boiling water bath. Following the steps above to properly sterilize the jars. Place a small dinner plate in the freezer (this will be used to test the gelling stage of the jam).
  3. Transfer blackberry mixture to a large saucepot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring often, for 25 minutes, or until mixture thickens. Skim off any foam that forms.
  4. Remove plate from freezer and place a teaspoon of blackberry mixture on it. Return plate to freezer for about 2 minutes. Remove plate from freezer and push with your finger. It should wrinkle. If it is still runny or doesn't wrinkle, boil for another 5 minutes and repeat the plate test.
  5. Fill jars and process in the boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Transfer to a towel and let cool.

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Sarah Brooks
Newlywed, new mom and first-time home buyer, Sarah is currently playing out her exciting life in Phoenix, Arizona. She recently gave up her job in finance to stay at home with her baby girl, who between bath time and feeding time, keeps her very busy. In addition to settling into her new neighborhood and parenthood, she is also a writer and contributor for SheKnows.com.