Preservation 101

Preserving is a safe and natural way to enjoy summer fruits – such as apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches and plums – all year round. As with any cooking method, follow recommended guidelines and procedures to ensure the best results and adhere to food safety. Two popular ways to preserve fruit are canning and freezing – below are general step-by-step instructions for each. Browse our recipe section for specific canning instructions and ideas for each fruit.

Canning Overview & Instructions

For stone fruits, because of their acidity, it is recommended to use a water bath canning system and “hot packing” method (briefly cooking fruit before canning) for best results. To get started, you will need the following supplies, available at most large grocery and kitchen stores:

  • Water bath canner
  • Jars, lids and rings in desired size
  • Jar grabber
  • Jar funnel (to pack the fruit)

Importantly, it is recommended you sterilize all equipment and follow food safety precautions throughout the process. A detailed list of safety considerations and steps is found at: http://www.weckcanning.com/docs/canning_safely.htm

Using Boiling Water Canners

The following instructions are reprinted by permission from the University of Georgia

Most boiling water canners are made of aluminum or porcelain-covered steel. They have fitted lids and removable racks that are either perforated or shaped wire racks. The canner must be deep enough so that at least one inch of briskly boiling water will be over the tops of jars during processing. Some boiling water canners do not have completely flat bottoms. A flat bottom must be used on an electric range. Either a flat or ridged bottom may be used on a gas burner. To ensure uniform processing of all jars with an electric range, the canner should be no more than 4 inches wider in diameter than the element on which it is heated. (When centered on the burner or element, the canner should not be more than 2 inches wider on any side.)

Follow these steps for successful boiling water canning:
(Read through all the instructions before beginning.) 

  1. Before you start preparing your food, fill the canner half full with clean warm water for a canner load of pint jars. For other sizes and numbers of jars, you will need to adjust the amount of water so it will be 1 to 2 inches over the top of the filled jars.
  2. Center the canner over the burner and preheat the water to 180°F for hot-packed foods (or heat to temperature specified on recipe). You can begin preparing food for your jars while this water is preheating.
  3. Prepare food for jars according to the recipe. 
  4. Load filled jars, fitted with lids, into the canner one at a time, using a jar lifter. When moving jars with a jar lifter, make sure the jar lifter is securely positioned below the neck of the jar (below the screw band of the lid). Keep the jar upright at all times. Tilting the jar could cause food to spill into the sealing area of the lid. 
    If you have a shaped wire rack that has handles to hold it on the canner sides, above the water in the canner, you can load jars onto the rack in the raised position and then use the handles to lower the rack with jars into the water.
  5. Add more boiling water, if needed, so the water level is at least one inch above the jar tops. For process times over 30 minutes, the water level should be 2 inches above the jars.
  6. Turn the heat setting to its highest position, cover the canner with its lid and heat until the water boils vigorously.
  7. Set a timer (after the water is boiling) for the total minutes required for processing the food.
  8. Keep the canner covered for the process time. The heat setting may be lowered as long as a gentle but complete boil is maintained for the entire process time.
  9. Add more boiling water during the process, if needed, to keep the water level above the jar tops.
  10. If the water stops boiling at any time during the process, turn the heat on its highest setting, bring the water back to a vigorous boil, and begin the timing of the process over, from the beginning (using the total original process time).
  11. When the jars have been processed in boiling water for the recommended time, turn off the heat and remove the canner lid. Wait 5 minutes before removing jars.
  12. Using a jar lifter, remove the jars one at a time, being careful not to tilt the jars. Carefully place them directly onto a towel or cake cooling rack, leaving at least one inch of space between the jars during cooling. Avoid placing the jars on a cold surface or in a cold draft.
  13. Let the jars sit undisturbed while they cool, from 12 to 24 hours. Do not tighten ring bands on the lids or push down on the center of the flat metal lid until the jar is completely cooled.
  14. Remove ring bands from sealed jars. Put any unsealed jars in the refrigerator and use first.
  15. Wash jars and lids to remove all residues.
  16. Label jars and store in a cool, dry place out of direct light.

 

Freezing Cherries

Freezing cherries is sweet and simple – a great way to enjoy a cool summer treat, and extend the short peak season.

  • Rinse: rinse firm, ripe cherries – stems and all – in cold water and drain thoroughly.
  • Pack: pack cherries in plaster freezer bags or freezer-proof containers. Remove excess air and seal package.
  • Freeze: place cherries carefully in the freezer with nothing stacked on top of them. Once cherries are frozen solid, they can be stacked.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Freezing Peaches

Reprinted by permission from the University of Georgia

Preparation – Select well-ripened fruit and handle carefully to avoid bruising. Sort, wash and peel.

Syrup Pack – Use 40 percent syrup. For a better quality product, add 1/2 teaspoon (1500 mg) ascorbic acid per quart of syrup. Put peaches directly into cold syrup in container – starting with 1/2 cup syrup to a pint container. Press fruit down and add syrup to cover, leaving headspace. Place a small piece of crumpled water-resistant paper on top to hold fruit down. Seal and freeze.

Sugar Pack – To each quart (1 1/3 pounds) of prepared fruit add 2/3 cup sugar and mix well. Stir gently until sugar is dissolved or let stand for 15 minutes. To retard darkening, sprinkle ascorbic acid dissolved in water over the peaches before adding sugar. Use 1/4 teaspoon (750 mg) ascorbic acid in 3 tablespoons cold water to each quart of fruit. Pack into containers, leaving headspace. Seal and freeze.

Crushed or Purée – Coarsely crush peeled and pitted peaches. For purée, press through a sieve or purée in a blender or food processor. (Heating pitted peaches for 4 minutes in just enough water to prevent scorching makes them easier to purée. For better quality, add 1/8 teaspoon (375 mg) ascorbic acid to each quart of fruit. Pack into containers. Leave headspace. Seal and freeze.

 

Freezing Apricots

Reprinted by permission from the University of Georgia

Preparation – Select firm, ripe, uniformly yellow apricots. Sort, wash, halve and pit. Peel and slice if desired. If apricots are not peeled, heat them in boiling water 1/2 minute to keep skins from toughening during freezing. Cool in cold water and drain.

Syrup Pack – Use cold 40 percent syrup. For a better quality frozen product, add 3/4 teaspoon (2250 mg) ascorbic acid to each quart of syrup. Pack apricots directly into containers. Cover with syrup, leaving headspace. Place a small piece of crumpled water-resistant paper on top to hold fruit down. Seal and freeze.

Sugar Pack – Before combining apricots with sugar, give the fruit the following treatment to prevent darkening:

Dissolve 1/4 teaspoon (750 mg) ascorbic acid in 3 tablespoons cold water and sprinkle over 1 quart (7/8 pound) of fruit. Mix 1/2 cup sugar with each quart of fruit. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Pack apricots into containers and press down until fruit is covered with juice, leaving headspace. Place a small piece of crumpled water-resistant paper on top to hold fruit down. Seal and freeze.

 

Freezing Plums

Reprinted by permission from the University of Georgia

Preparation – Select firm, ripe fruit soft enough to yield to slight pressure. Sort and wash. Leave whole or cut in halves or quarters and pit.

Syrup Pack – Use cold 40 to 50 percent syrup, depending on tartness of fruit. For a better quality product, add 1/2 teaspoon (1500 mg) ascorbic acid per quart of syrup. Put plums directly into cold syrup in container, starting with 1/2 cup syrup to a pint container. Press fruit down and add syrup to cover, leaving headspace. Place a small piece of crumpled water-resistant paper on top to hold fruit down. Seal and freeze.

Plum Sauce – Boil well-ripened clingstone plums without water until soft; then remove pits and skins. Continue cooking the pulp and juice until it thickens. Add 1 part sugar (with spices, if desired) to 4 parts plums.
Cool and package, leaving headspace. Seal and freeze.

In addition to a dry pack, unsweetened fruit can be packed in water, unsweetened juice or pectin syrup. Unsweetened packs generally yield a product that does not have the plump texture and good color of those packed with sugar. The fruits freeze harder and take longer to thaw. The pectin syrup is often used for fruits such as peaches that retain their texture better than if frozen in water or juice.