Preserving the Fruit Harvest
Because of the high acidity of most fruits, boiling water bath canning is the most common method used to home can fruit. Apples, apricots, berries, cherries, cranberries, grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, pineapples, plums, strawberries, and rhubarb can all be successfully canned in a variety of ways, either as jams, jellies, canned whole fruits, fruit pickles, juices and other fruit products.
Select only the best blemish-free, perfectly ripe fruits available at the peak of their freshness. If fruits are over ripe, the nutrients and naturally occurring acids, critical in successful home canning, have already begun to deteriorate, increasing the possibility for spoiled products. After all, one of THE reasons for preserving your own foods is the ability to have only the most nutritious ingredients available for your family year round.
It is best to always buy only the amount of fruit needed at one time. When I buy a bushel of apples, say, I am prepared to spend most of the day preserving them by either canning, drying, freezing, or cold storage to assure that no nutrition is lost. Many times, I will have apple slices drying in the oven, late varieties put into cold storage and apple sauce canning preparations all going at the same time. Organization is the key.
Gather all of your necessary equipment the night before and make sure that you have the proper sized jars, lids and rings that the recipe requires. Sugars, spices and other ingredients required in the recipe should be checked to make sure you have the amounts necessary for your chosen recipe and purchased, if needed, prior to picking or purchasing your fresh fruits.
Many fruits, such as apples, apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches, pears and plums will require pre-treatment before processing to prevent the flesh of the fruit from darkening when exposed to light and air, known as oxidation. My favorite anti-darkening agents are fresh squeezed lemon juice or apple cider vinegar to a ratio of 1 tablespoon to 1 quart of water, or, 4 tablespoons per gallon of water. The advantages of these products are that you probably already have them in your kitchen, and, if you purchase organic lemons and apple cider vinegar, you can be assured that your end product is completely organic. This is not to say that the commercial products on the market such as ascorbic acid (powdered natural Vitamin C) or Citric Acid (a natural powdered acid prepared from citrus fruits), and brand named products such as FruitFresh are not effective, they are. Just read the labels to be sure that the contents are natural and follow the directions carefully. I will provide more on this with each specific fruit.
Some fruits, such as peaches, nectarines, grapes are canned with only a sugar syrup to bring out the natural flavors of the individual fruits. Depending on the sweetening desired, the syrup can be adjusted accordingly. Honey can be substituted for part of the sugar, if desired. Each individual fruit type will have the recommended syrups in their chapter.