Thursday, September 29, 2011

Tutorial: How to Can Fruit

Recently I had a comment asking me to provide a step by step tutorial on canning fruit. Thank you for the request, Sam! I am happy to be providing this tutorial to you today. Every year for the past 3 years I have canned peaches and pears, and last year I also did apricots. This year I have done just the peaches and pears, as they are our favourites. Please keep in mind that I am by no means an expert or professional canner, I just do what I was taught by D's mom, and I have never had a jar not seal on me. Please follow every necessary precaution when canning food at home, as there is a small but dangerous risk of botulism if you do not sterilize and process correctly.

Ok, are you still with me? Canning is very simple once you understand the necessary steps. Yes, it is time consuming, so make sure you set aside at least a few hours per batch of 7 jars. Trust me, all of the work is completely worth it! Home canned fruit is delicious!

Today's tutorial will be pears, but peaches are very similar. Here we go!

Supplies Needed
1 canner with metal rack
Enough 1 litre jars with new lids to do the amount of fruit you have (Roughly about 10 jars for every 20 pounds of fruit)
Large pot to make syrup
A ladle
Small pot with lid to boil jar lids in
A large cookie sheet
A butter knife
A clean cloth
A magnetic stick to lift lids out of hot water (usually comes with other canning supplies)- or a fork/spoon
A vegetable peeler/knife
A cutting board
A sharp knife to slice fruit
Large bowl to put sliced fruit in

Pears- at least 7-8 pounds to make one batch (7 jars)
Water (tap is fine)
White Sugar (2 1/2 cups)
Lemons (optional)- 1 should do 7 jars

All of these supplies should be in your kitchen except for the canning supplies. I bought my canner for about $20 and the other stuff (magnetic stick, jar lifter) for less than $10. These are a worthwhile investment, as they will last many years and help make the process go by much faster.

To begin, fill your canner about halfway full of water and set it on a large element on medium high heat with the lid on. It always takes quite a while for that much water to come to a boil, so I do this first. Next, preheat your oven to 200 degrees F. Place all of the jars (cleaned in hot soapy water) and their rings on the cookie sheet and put in the oven. The heat will sterilize them, but they must be in there for a minimum of 20 minutes, so do this before starting to prepare the fruit.

Next make the sugar syrup that the pears will sit in. I make an "extra light" syrup, meaning it is not too sweet. I prefer this as it allows the flavour of the fruit to stand out but still provides enough sweetness. Put 11 cups of water into a large pot. Mix in 2 1/2 cups of sugar and place over medium heat to slowly come to a boil, stirring occasionally.

Now, begin to prepare the fruit. With peaches you can dunk them into boiling water to loosen the skins, but with pears they must be peeled by hand. Select fruit that is not overripe and has few blemishes. It does not matter how big they are. Peel and stem the pears and cut them into the size you desire. I quarter mine. Cut out the core and place slices into a cold water bath that has a bit of acid added to it (lemon juice, citric acid, or vinegar all work, only a couple teaspoons). This will prevent the slices from browning as you prepare the rest.

coring the pears

all sliced and ready to jar!

Now you must heat up the lids for the jars so that they are hot and ready to seal. All you have to to is put them in a pot and cover them with water. Bring them to a boil and let them boil for 2 minutes, then cover the pot and set it aside.

Once you have cut up all of your fruit, you are ready to start putting them in jars! Now I follow D's grandmother's recipe and add a slice of lemon into every jar. This is not necessary, it is purely optional. All it does is add a lovely lemon flavour to the pears. If you do not want to add the lemons, leave them out.

Remove one jar at a time from the oven (careful, they will be VERY hot!). Place one slice of lemon on the bottom (if using) and then begin layering the pear slices in the jar. If you place them all core side down they will stack much better and you will be able to fit many more slices in each jar. Fill the jar to the base of the lid, where the band will screw on to. 

Now it is time to add the hot syrup that has come to a boil. Carefully ladle in the syrup until it there is about a half inch of head space left in the jar.

Now you have to remove the air bubbles that may have formed between the slices of fruit when you were ladling in the syrup. Now every book that I have ever read has always warned against using a metal utensil to do this, as you risk cracking the jar. Well, I do it anyways, but if you want to be extra pre-cautious, use a plastic utensil. Simply run the knife down the four sides of the jar and wiggle it a little bit and you will see little air bubbles float to the surface. DO NOT force the knife down or wiggle it like crazy, or you probably will crack the jar!

Ok, now wipe the rim of the jar where the lid will sit to get any sticky syrup off it, which will cause sealing problems.

And now place the lid on it! Fish one out of the pot (careful, the water is hot!) and place it over the opening.

Now take one of the seals out of the oven (also very hot!!) and screw it on loosely to "fingertip tight". It is very important not to screw it on too tightly. Basically as soon as you feel it resist a little it is good. Make sure it is on, just not too tight.

Place the rack onto the canner edges (so it is not completely submerged in the water) and put the jars on one by one as you fill them up. Repeat this until you have 7 full jars.

Now, carefully lift the handles of the rack off the edge and submerge the jars into the hot water. Make sure that each jar is covered by about one inch or more of water. If they are not, simply add some more hot water to the canner until they are all submerged. Put the lit back on and bring the water to a rolling boil. Once it is boiling, set the timer for 25 minutes ( you may need to adjust the time if you live at a very high elevation, which you would have to research). When the timer goes off, remove the jars very carefully from the canner (don't tip them!) and place them on a tea towel. You can suck up any water that is sitting on the tops of them by placing a corner of a towel on the lid and allowing it to absorb the water, but don't rub them or press on the lids in any way. 

Cover them all with another tea towel and leave them to sit for 24 hours. They should all be sealed by then, which you will be able to tell that the lids have sealed downward and do not pop when you run your fingers along them. If a jar has not sealed, place it in the fridge and eat it within a couple weeks. To get them ready for long term storage, remove the rings from the jars and wipe down the entire jar and ring to get rid of any sticky residue which could mould over time and destroy the seal. You can either store the jars with or without the rings, whichever you prefer. Make sure to label each jar with the contents and year you did them, and enjoy!

My canning shelf last year

I hope this was helpful and informative. If any of you have questions please leave a comment and I will do my best to answer them. Please let me know and I will do my best to answer them. And let me know if you tried it or how you can your fruit, I would love to get some feedback on this!

Happy Preserving,



  1. That looks like an enormous effort but well worth it if your canning shelf is anything to go by. Well done, my MIL is the fruit preserving queen in our family. You should be very proud of your efforts.

  2. Thanks for the very informative post and photos. I have never tried canning, but I have some fruit trees and will try this soon.
    I came over from Down to Earth.

  3. Great tutorial, Brenna! I have one tip to add: when putting the halved fruit in the jars, I find it doesn't like to stack nicely on it's own. A fork works really well to get all the slices into position!

    Thanks again!

  4. Another 'on my list' to do thing. We've done it so we keep the fruit in the fridge but I've never been quite game enough to do them for shelf storage...

    maybe soon :)

    With thanks

  5. Thanks for all that great information Brenna. I just picked up a 2nd hand canner exactly the same as yours from a Op/charity shop, not something you usually find in Australia. Your tutorial will come in handy when I start doing some preserving. One question, is there different boiling times for other fruit, peaches etc?

  6. Thanks everyone for leaving me your thoughts! Lisa, no there is no time difference for different types of fruit, as far as I know. I have done cherries, apricots, peaches, and pears and they were all the same time for the 1 litre jars.


  7. This looks so amazing Brenna! I have always wanted to preserve and pickle to that extent. Need to get the tools to be able to do it all! Thanks so much for your kind comment today. I really felt the warmth and support. xx m.