Preserving Fruit

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The first step to successfully preserving fruit is to select fruit that is ripe, firm and free from visible blemishes and insect damage. Canning is one of the oldest methods of preserving fresh fruits and vegetables. It is an option that needs to be done carefully and correctly to ensure the quality of the preserves. The type of fruit selected is also important; for canning, choose fruit that is firm fleshed such as apples, pears or peaches.

Peeling the fruit is the second step to canning. Peeling the fruit with a sharp paring knife so only a thin rind of skin is removed is important. The quantity of the canned result can be diminished if the fruit is peeled too deeply. The quality of the end result will not be affected if there is a small amount of skin left prior to the canning process. Skin can be removed from softer fruits, such as tomatoes and peaches, by lowering the fruit into boiling water for 30-60 seconds. Once the fruit is then lowered into cool water, the skin should slip off the fruit. The fruit, once peeled, should then be cut directly in half to remove the core and the stem. The result after cutting should be two equal halves that are completely edible. This is the time to remove any damaged or over-ripe spots in the fruit so only the best part of the fruit goes through the remaining canning process.

Some fruit, such as peaches and pears, are best canned in larger slices. If the preserves are going to be used in pastries, pies or for spreading on bread it is best to cut the fruit into smaller pieces. The cut fruit is then placed in a pot that is large enough to boil the fruit without boiling over the edges onto the stovetop. Add a little over an inch of water, enough to completely cover the fruit, and turn the burner onto medium-high or high. The tartness or sweetness of the canned fruit is affected by the amount of sugar added to the boiling fruit. One cup of sugar per quart of fruit is usually a good measure, but more or less sugar can be added depending on personal preference. Once the fruit is boiling, the heat should be turned down to medium low to continue the boil without over-cooking the fruit. The jars for canning should be prepared during the 20 minutes or so it takes to boil the fruit to the correct consistency. Jars, seals and lids should be set out on a large, clean and dry work area close to the stovetop with a ladle or scoop at close hand to transfer the fruit into the jars.

The fruit is done when the skin appears glossy and the juice has been reduced to a syrup consistency. Fill the jars to within an inch of the top, adding syrup to within a half inch of the top of the jar. The next step of the canning process is to sterilize the jar lids and contents, to ensure any microorganisms that can cause illness are killed. Place the sealed jars in a large pot of boiling water with a wire rack in the bottom of the pan. The jars should be boiled depending on the fruit and size of the jar. Most household cookbooks and canning jars will advise the proper time in their instructional information. Once the jars are boiled, they should be removed and cooled on towels on the kitchen counter or another flat household surface. As the contents of the jars cool, the dome sealing lids should pressurize and pop downward. If there are any lids that do not “pop”, they are not airtight and the jar should be refrigerated until the contents are used. Fruit preserves are a wonderful way to savor home fruit harvests and also make great gifts for holidays and other special occasions. Following common sense and food safety procedures when canning will ensure the successful preservation of your harvest and the fruitful enjoyment of your labors.

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