Canning and Freezing Fruits

Canning and freezing fresh fruit is an easy way to save summer produce for the winter months when many fruits aren’t in season. Especially if you have a few fruit trees or grow your own berries, our tips will help you avoid the heartbreak of wasted fruit. We’ll show you a few different ways to can and freeze your fruit to keep it fresh for the months to come.

Fresh peaches, cherries, and berries are so delicious, they shouldn’t be limited to just the summer months. When you set aside an afternoon for canning and freezing your favorites, you can enjoy the fruits of your labors all year long! Rhubarb, berries, cherries, stone fruits, apples—we’ll teach you how to can and freeze them all. And for beginner canners, we’ll also share a few tips to make the process run a little more smoothly, including how to make a syrup and how to pack your fruits in jars (yes, there are a few different ways). Before you get started, be aware that not all fruits can be canned equally—some are better suited for freezing or a single canning method—but we’ll guide you toward the best method to make the most of your fresh produce.

Raw Pack vs. Hot Pack

Because fruits are highly acidic, you can use a boiling-water canner to can them (no pricey pressure-canner needed). Of course, then the question of raw pack vs. hot pack comes up. For some canned fruit, raw packing isn’t recommended (we’ll let you know when to stick with a hot pack). If you’re new to canning and these terms have your head spinning, don’t worry—the difference is pretty simple. In raw packing, uncooked food is packed into the canning jar, then covered with boiling water, juice, or syrup. In hot packing, the food is partially cooked first, then packed into jars and covered with cooking liquid. Depending on which method you use, the processing time can change, so be sure to follow the instructions for you chosen packing method.

Choosing and Making a Syrup

When you’re canning and freezing fruits, some people like to cook and pack their fruit with a syrup. If you choose to use a syrup, make sure you pick a syrup that is well-suited to the fruits you’re canning or freezing. In general, heavier syrups are used with sour fruits, and lighter syrups are recommended for mild fruits (heavier syrups have more sugar than light syrups). To make your own syrup, place the recommended amount of sugar and water (below) in a large saucepan. Heat until the sugar dissolves, and skim off foam, if necessary. Use the syrup hot for canning fruit, and chilled for freezing fruit. You’ll need between ½ to 2/3 cup syrup for each 2 cups of fruit.

  • For a very thin syrup, use 1 cup of sugar and 4 cups of water to yield about 4 cups of syrup.
  • For a thin syrup, use 1⅔ cups of sugar and 4 cups of water to yield about 4¼ cups of syrup.
  • For a medium syrup, use 2⅔ cups of sugar and 4 cups of water to yield about 4⅔ cups of syrup.
  • For a heavy syrup, use 4 cups of sugar and 4 cups of water to yield about 5¾ cups of syrup.

Choosing a Packing Method for Freezing Fruits

Fruits are usually frozen with added sugar or liquid so that they’ll have better texture and flavor when you use them. We recommend using different packing methods for different fruits (see below), but here’s what each one means:

Unsweetened or Dry Pack: For this method, don’t add sugar or liquid to the fruit—simply pack it into a container. This is best for small whole fruits, like berries.

Water Pack: Cover the fruit with water or unsweetened fruit juice. Don’t use glass jars for this method, and make sure to leave the correct headspace.

Sugar Pack: Place a small amount of fruit in the container and sprinkle lightly with sugar; repeat this layering. Cover and let stand for 15 minutes or until juicy before sealing and freezing.

Syrup Pack: Cover the fruit with a syrup of sugar and water (follow our instructions for making and choosing a syrup).

How to Can and Freeze Apples and Pears

Before getting started, wash your fruits with cool, clear tap water (but don’t soak them), and drain. Allow for 2 to 3 pounds of fruit per quart. For apples, choose varieties that are crisp, not mealy, in texture. Peel and core; halve, quarter, or slice the fruits. Dip into ascorbic acid color keeper solution, and drain.

Boiling-Water Canning, Raw Pack: Raw-packing isn’t recommended for apples and pears—use a hot pack instead!

Boiling-Water Canning, Hot Pack: Simmer in desired syrup for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Fill the jars with fruit and syrup, leaving a ½-inch headspace. For apples, process pints and quarts for 20 minutes. For pears, process pints for 20 minutes and quarts for 25 minutes.

Freezing: Use a syrup, sugar, or unsweetened pack. If you’re using an unsweetened (dry) pack, leave a ½-inch headspace, unless your recipe directs you otherwise. For a sugar or syrup pack in freezer containers with wide tops, leave a ½-inch headspace for pints and a 1-inch headspace for quarts. For narrow-top containers, don’t fill above the “shoulder.”

How to Can and Freeze Stone Fruits (Peaches, Nectarines, and Apricots)

Start by washing your fruits with cool, clear tap water (again, don’t soak them), and drain. Allow to 2 to 3 pounds of fruit per quart. Peel your peaches (there’s no need to peel nectarines and apricots) by immersing them in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds, or until the skins start to split. Then immediately remove them and plunge them into cold water. The peels should come off easily with a small paring knife, or even just using your hands. Halve and pit the fruits, and slice them if desired. Treat with ascorbic acid color keep solution, and drain.

Boiling-Water Canning, Raw Pack: Do not raw pack apricots. For peaches and nectarines, fill the jars, placing the fruit with the cut sides down. Add boiling syrup or water, leaving a ½-inch headspace. Process pints for 25 minutes and quarts for 30 minutes. (Tip: Though you can safely raw pack peaches and nectarines, hot packing generally results in a better product for these fruits).

Boiling-Water Canning, Hot Pack: Add fruit to hot syrup; bring to boiling. Fill the jars with your fruit (placing the cut sides down) and syrup, leaving a ½-inch headspace. Process pints for 20 minutes and quarts for 25 minutes.

Freezing: Use a syrup, sugar, or water pack. For a sugar, water, or syrup pack in freezer containers with wide tops, leave a ½-inch headspace for pints and a 1-inch headspace for quarts. For narrow-top containers, don’t fill above the “shoulder.”

How to Can and Freeze Berries

When you’re canning berries, stick with blackberries, blueberries, currants, elderberries, gooseberries, huckleberries, loganberries, and mulberries. All of these berry types can be canned or frozen. Stick to just freezing for boysenberries, raspberries, and strawberries though—they’re not good candidates for canning. Be sure to wash your berries before getting started with cool water. Allow for 1 to 3 pounds of berries per quart.

Boiling-Water Canning, Raw Pack: Fill your jars with blackberries, loganberries, or mulberries. Shake down gently. Add boiling syrup, leaving a ½-inch headspace. Process pints for 15 minutes and quarts for 20 minutes.

Boiling-Water Canning, Hot Pack: Simmer blueberries, currants, elderberries, gooseberries, and huckleberries in water for 30 seconds; drain. Fill jars with berries and hot syrup, leaving a ½-inch headspace. Process pints and quarts for 15 minutes.

Freezing: Slice strawberries, if desired. Use a syrup, sugar, or unsweetened pack. If you’re using an unsweetened (dry) pack, leave a ½-inch headspace, unless your recipe directs you otherwise. For a sugar or syrup pack in freezer containers with wide tops, leave a ½-inch headspace for pints and a 1-inch headspace for quarts. For narrow-top containers, don’t fill above the “shoulder.”

How to Can and Freeze Cherries

Start by washing your cherries with cool water. Allow for 2 to 3 pounds of cherries per quart. If desired, treat with ascorbic acid color keep solution, and drain. If you’re using unpitted cherries, prick the skin on opposite sides of each cherry to prevent them from splitting.

Boiling-Water Canning, Raw Pack: Fill the jars, shaking the cherries down gently. Add boiling syrup or water, leaving a ½-inch headspace. Process pints and quarts for 25 minutes.

Boiling-Water Canning, Hot Pack: Add cherries to hot syrup; bring to boiling. Fill the jars with fruit and syrup, leaving a ½-inch headspace. Process pints for 15 minutes and quarts for 20 minutes.

Freezing: Use a syrup, sugar, or unsweetened pack. If you’re using an unsweetened (dry) pack, leave a ½-inch headspace, unless your recipe directs you otherwise. For a sugar or syrup pack in freezer containers with wide tops, leave a ½-inch headspace for pints and a 1-inch headspace for quarts. For narrow-top containers, don’t fill above the “shoulder.”

How to Can and Freeze Rhubarb

Wash the rhubarb with cool water and drain. Allow 1-½ pounds per quart. Discard the leaves and woody ends. Cut into ½- to 1-inch pieces. You should freeze rhubarb for the best quality, but you can also can it using the hot pack method.

Boiling-Water Canning, Raw Pack: This method isn’t recommended for rhubarb—use the hot pack method instead, or freeze your rhubarb.

Boiling-Water Canning, Hot Pack: In a saucepan, sprinkle ½ cup sugar over each 4 cups of fruit, and mix well. Let stand until juice appears. Bring slowly to boiling, stirring gently. Fill jars with hot fruit and juice, leaving a ½-inch headspace. Process pints and quarts for 15 minutes.

Freezing: Blanch for 1 minute; cool quickly and drain. Use a syrup or unsweetened pack, or use a sugar pack of ½ cup sugar to each 3 cups of fruit. If you’re using an unsweetened (dry) pack, leave a ½-inch headspace, unless your recipe directs you otherwise. For a sugar or syrup pack in freezer containers with wide tops, leave a ½-inch headspace for pints and a 1-inch headspace for quarts. For narrow-top containers, don’t fill above the “shoulder.”

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