Canned Fruits

grapes for canning, the mason jar, home canning
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Commercial canning (in tin cans) was fairly common in the U.S. by the mid-1800s.

But in 1858, John L. Mason invented a glass jar that had a screw thread around the outside rim. This allowed a reusable metal lid to be screwed on, rather than having to mess with sealing wax. People could now preserve pickles, relishes, sauces, and fruit. Later, people began to can vegetables and meats.


Berries and all ripe, mellow fruit require but little cooking, only long enough for the sugar to penetrate. Strew sugar over them, allow them to stand a few hours, then merely scald with the sugar; one-half to three-quarters of a pound is considered sufficient. Harder fruits like pears, quinces, etc., require longer boiling. The great secret of canning is to make the fruit or vegetable perfectly air-tight. It must be put up boiling hot and the vessel filled to the brim.

Have your jars conveniently placed near your boiling fruit, in a tin pan of hot water on the stove, roll them in the hot water, then fill immediately with the hot, scalding fruit, fill to the top, and seal quickly with the tops, which should also be heated. Occasionally screw down the tops tighter, as the fruit shrinks as it cools, and the glass contracts and allows the air to enter the cans. They must be perfectly air-tight. The jars to be kept in a dark, cool, dry place.

Use glass jars for fruit always, and the fruit should be cooked in a porcelain or granite-iron kettle. If you are obliged to use common large-mouthed bottles with corks, steam the corks and pare them to a close fit, driving them in with a mallet. Use the following wax for sealing: One pound of resin, three ounces of beeswax, and one and one-half ounces of tallow. Use a brush in covering the corks and as they cool, dip the mouth into the melted wax. Place in a basin of cold water. Pack in a cool, dark and dry cellar. After one week, examine for flaws, cracks or signs of ferment.

The rubber rings used to assist in keeping the air from the fruit jars sometimes become so dry and brittle as to be almost useless. They can usually be restored to normal condition by letting them lie in water in which you have put a little am
monia. Mix in this proportion: One part of ammonia and two parts water. Sometimes they do not need to lie in this more than five minutes, but frequently a half hour is needed to restore their elasticity.

Peaches should be thrown into cold water as they are peeled, to prevent a yellowish crust. To one pound of peaches allow half a pound of sugar. To six pounds of sugar add half a tumbler of water. Put in the kettle a layer of sugar and one of peaches until the whole of both are in. Wash about eight peach leaves, tie them up and put into the kettle, remembering to take them out when you begin to fill up the jars. Let the sugared fruit remain on the range, but away from the fire, until upon tipping the vessel to one side you can see some liquid. Then fill the jars, taking them out of hot water into which they were put when cold, remaining until it was made to boil around them. In this way you will find out if the glass has been properly annealed; for we consider glass jars with stoppers screwing down upon India-rubber rings as the best for canning fruit in families. They should be kept in a dark closet, and although somewhat more expensive than tin in the first instance, are much nicer and keep for years with careful usage.

CANNED GRAPES  [There were no seedless grapes at this time]
There is no fruit so difficult to can nicely as the grape. By observing the following instructions you will find the grapes rich and tender a year from putting up. Squeeze the pulp from the skin, as the seeds are objectionable. Boil the pulp until the seeds begin to loosen in one kettle, having the skins boiling hard in a little water, in another kettle, as they are tough. When the pulp seems tender, put it through the sieve. Then add the skins, if tender, with the water they boil in, if not too much. Use a large coffeecupful of sugar for a quart jar. Boil until thick and can in the usual way.

After the berries are picked over, let as many as can be put carefully in the preserve kettle at once be placed on a platter. To each pound of fruit add three-fourths of a pound of sugar. Let them stand two or three hours, till the juice is drawn from them. Pour it into the kettle and let it come to a boil. Remove the scum which rises, then put in the berries very carefully. As soon as they come thoroughly to a boil, put them in warm jars and seal while boiling hot.

Cut the quinces into thin slices like apples for pies. To one quart jarful of quince, take a coffeesaucer and a half of sugar and a coffeecupful of water. Put the sugar and water on the fire and when boiling, put in the quinces. Have ready the jars with their fastenings, stand the jars in a pan of boiling water on the stove, and when the quince is clear and tender, put rapidly into the jars, fruit and syrup together. The jars must be filled so that the syrup overflows, and fastened up tight as quickly as possible.

To every pound of plums, allow a quarter of a pound of sugar. Put the sugar and plums alternately into the preserving kettle, first pricking the plums to prevent their breaking. Let them stand on the back of the stove for an hour or two, then put them over a moderate fire and allow to come to a boil. Skim and pour at once into jars, running a silver spoon handle around the inside of the jar to break the air-bubbles. Cover and screw down the tops.

Mince meat for pies can be preserved for years if canned the same as fruit while hot, put into glass jars and sealed perfectly tight, and set in a cool, dark place. One glass quart jar will hold enough to make two ordinary-sized pies, and in this way “mince pies” can be had in the middle of summer as well as in winter, and if the cans are sealed properly, the meat will be just as fine when opened as when first canned.

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Author: Angela Johnson

I’ve been interested in cooking since I was a teenager. Growing up in a small town in Illinois, I ate many home-cooked meals and tried out recipes (mostly cookies). Wherever I live or travel, I check out grocery stores for unusual foods, eat at local restaurants, and buy regional cookbooks. I’m also fascinated with learning how people in the past lived, and how they obtained food and prepared it.

2 thoughts on “Canned Fruits”

  1. The cherries in the photo at the beginning of this post sure look good. I hadn’t thought of a time when there were no seedless grapes but now that I have, I remember Thanksgivings when I was younger when I had to dig the seeds out of grapes so for the Waldorf salad.

    1. Yes, when I was a kid, we always had to spit out grape seeds. I don’t remember when I ate my first seedless grape.

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