How to Preserve Fruit

Whether you have an orchard, or the neighbors gave you a bushel of fresh fruit, the bountiful harvest will only last a short while if you do not take steps to preserve it. There are three basic ways of preserving fruit for an extended time, freezing, canning, or drying. This article will focus on canning, giving brief mention to freezing and drying.


  • Fruit
  • sugar
  • water
  • lemon juice or ascorbic acid (vitamin C, sold as a powder in the canning section)

Steps to Preserve Fruits

  1. Select the fruit you will preserve. It should be firm and ripe, with little or no visible bruising, insect damage, or signs of spoilage.
  2. Choose the method of preserving you will use. Fruits tend to lose quality fairly quickly when you freeze them, but for use in cooking pies or cobblers, this may not be a critical issue. Drying is a good choice for firm fruits like peaches, apricots, grapes, and the like, and will even give good results with apples and bananas when done properly. This article focuses on canning.
  3. Choose a firm fleshed fruit like pears, apples, or peaches to begin with. These are easier to prepare and more forgiving than soft fruits like figs, plums, or similar fruits.
  4. Peel the fruit. This can be done with a sharp paring knife or a peeling tool, but use care to cut the skin as thinly as possible. A little skin left here and there doesn't affect the quality of the finished product, but cutting too deep will definitely decrease the amount you have left to can.
  5. Soft fruits, like tomatoes and peaches, can often be "slipped". Use a sieve or slotted spoon to lower the fruit into boiling water for 30-60 seconds. The skin may appear to crack or split. Then use the strainer or slotted spoon to lift the fruit into cool water so that you can handle it safely. The skin should slip right off when you touch it. You may have to finish up with a knife.
  6. Cut the fruit in half, usually top to bottom, and remove the core and stem. If done correctly, this will leave you two solid, edible halves of your fruit. Also remove any damaged or spoiled parts. Tomatoes may be canned whole.
  7. Slice the fruit to the size you prefer. You may want halves, particularly for pears, or you may want smaller slices such as you would use in pies or other pastries.
  8. Place the fruit in a pot large enough to cook it without boiling over, add an inch or so of water, and place on a stove burner on high or medium high.
  9. Add sugar to suit your taste, but at least enough to create a syrup for the canning medium you will need later on. One cup of sugar per quart of fruit is a good place to start, but this can be adjusted widely depending on the tartness of your fruit and personal taste.
  10. Add additional seasonings if you like. For apples and pears, cinnamon will give it a little extra flavor, but use it sparingly, as it will turn the syrup and fruit brown if used in excess.
  11. Bring the combined ingredients to a boil, and reduce heat to medium or medium low, just enough to keep it boiling.
  12. Prepare your jars, rings, and lids while the fruit is cooking. You should have your jars prewashed before you start cooking the fruit, and using a dishwasher is a quick, sanitary, and easy way to do this. Now you need to set the jars out on a counter space with adequate working room, set the bands and dome lids withing reach on a clean, dry towel, and have a ladle or dipper for scooping the fruit and syrup into the jars.
  13. Cook the fruit at a low boil until tender, usually only about 20 minutes or so. The flesh of the fruit should appear translucent and the juice should cook out to form a good bit of syrup in your pot.
  14. Turn off the burner under the pot, then move the pot to a location near your jars.
  15. Scoop the fruit out of the pot into the jars, filling them to about half an inch of the top. A large slotted spoon will do this, or some other utensil which can be used as a dipper. Food Preservation Methods
  16. Fill the jars to within a quarter inch or so of the top with the syrup, and as they are filled, place the lids on each one and screw on a band, tightening it snugly. Some people invert the jars so the hot contents will sterilize the lids, but for the best results and maximum safety, processing the jars after filling is required.
  17. Process your jars of fruit. Make sure the rings are snug, and bring a large pot of water to boil on the stove. There are special pots, called "canning pots" for this step, but any large pot will do in a pinch, although having a wire rack in the bottom to reduce the chance of the jars breaking is certainly beneficial. Another option is to process outdoors using a fish cooker or stock pot with a basket, heated on a propane gas stove.
  18. Boil the jars with the water level half an inch or so above the tops for the recommended amount of time for the jar size and fruit you are using. This insures the contents are returned to a hot enough temperature to kill any microorganisms which have survived up to this point.
  19. Place the jars on a dish towel on the counter or table to cool down. The dome lids should recess downward as the contents cool, making a "pop" noise when they do so. If any jar lids fail to snap down within a few hours, they are probably not sealed properly, and should be refrigerated until used. Wipe the jars, lids, and rings dry to keep them from rusting, and store in a cool, dry place.

Tips to Preserve Fruits

  • Use real canning jars, such as Mason or Ball brands.
  • Use new lids every time, to insure the sealing ring is soft and uniform.
  • Discard rusted or bent bands.
  • Keep all the materials and equipment handy so the process can be done as quickly and efficiently as possible.
  • Tongs for moving hot jars are very helpful.
  • A canning funnel makes filling the jars much easier and less messy.
  • Use a teaspoon or two of lemon juice or ascorbic acid to keep the fresh color of your fruit.
  • Keep your hands, work area, and equipment as clean as possible.
  • For recommendations and recipes, visit the USDA link below.
  • Canning pears and apples make cooking a pie quick and easy.
  • You could also soak them in lemon juice.


  • Improper or unsanitary canning methods are very dangerous.
  • Dispose of any jars which have mold, unusual appearance, or odors when you open them.
  • Consult the latest USDA guidelines (see external links) or a recent canning book by one of the jar manufacturers for the correct cooking times for your fruits and jar sizes. If you have an old recipe from grandma, go ahead and use the ingredients, but use the new processing times.
  • Canning guidelines are updated as more is learned about food safety and, in some cases, as foods have been bred differently. Tomatoes, for instance, tend to have less acid in them than they used to.
  • Water-bath methods are appropriate for most acid fruits. For low-acid foods like beans or vegetables, it is generally necessary to use a pressure canner. Consult the USDA guide or a recent canning cookbook for details.

Things You'll Need to Preserve Fruits

  • Large pot for cooking your fruit.
  • Fresh, ripe fruit.
  • Ladle, slotted spoon, or dipper.
  • Jars, lids, and rings.
  • Very large pot for processing, preferably a canning pot. Stove.

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