Got a lot of fruit that you want to store for the winter? Then this guide is just for you!
Canning a fruit cocktail may seem like a difficult task that requires industrial-grade machines, chemicals, and specialized techniques—but it’s quite straightforward and very rewarding!
How to can fruit cocktail? The best way to preserve multiple fruits is to can them in a sugar syrup along with a vacuum seal. There are also several other ways you can store fruit cocktails but the method that will give you the best results is if you heat and seal the bottle using the heat-sealing method.
Read on below to learn more about canning, how it works, which fruits are the best, and how you can get the most out of their flavor even when they are cut and canned!
Canning works by eliminating two things: bacteria and oxygen!
These two factors are the enemy of fresh fruit as both of them work together to oxidize and spoil the fruit from the inside.
Bacteria are all around us. Even if you properly wash the fruits, there is a good chance that some spores will remain on the fruit.
There is no way to prevent or halt spoilage completely, so humans have historically tried to always control these two factors to slow down the process of rot.
On paper, the process is fairly simple: create an environment where bacteria can’t survive and take the oxygen out by submerging food under a liquid solution.
In the case of meat, you can do this by either pickling or curing it to extend its shelf-life, but in the case of fruits, the process is a bit different.
Every fruit is grown differently, some have a hard exterior layer others have soft and plump flesh.
Previously, fresh fruit was canned in jars and sold in supermarkets with a shorter (compared to now) but longer than usual (compared to fresh fruit) shelf life.
Back then, the biggest problem was that canning fruit caused them to lose a bit of their color and flavor. They also became considerably softer after the end of the storage period.
This issue wasn’t just caused by oxidization but was also a result of enzymes breaking down the fruit from the inside.
A solution for this came in the form of a simple sugar syrup solution. It turns out that if you heat fruit and suspend them in a sugar solution, they will maintain their form, color, and flavor for much, much longer.
This is why you see canned fruits with sugar juice!
Best Fruit For Canning
When it comes to fruit, you can preserve just about anything, but depending on your storage requirement, you would have to choose wisely.
For example, short-term storage works well for fruits like bananas or guavas. However, when it comes to the long-term, you would want to pick an assortment of fruit that aren’t that soft and have a somewhat thick exterior.
This helps keep the fruit intact and also prevents it from becoming too soft.
While the sugar mixture and vacuum will work well for every type of fruit, it is important to know that this method is meant to slow down the process of spoilage—not prevent it or halt it altogether.
You still have to put an expiry date on canned fruits (more on this below) but canning will allow them a very long shelf-life.
Also, fruits like raspberries, blackberries, or fruits with a delicate texture and exterior will not be suitable for the canning process.
But don’t worry, there is another easy way to preserve them: make jam!
If you are looking to can a fruit cocktail then we suggest that you pick, cherries, strawberries, grapes, apples, pears, plums, and more. They have just the right texture and exterior and are very compatible with long-term storage.
How To Can Fruit Cocktail
While there are various ways to preserve fruit, we will focus on the one method that is most popular for many home users.
This particular process involves heating the fruit in a sugar mixture and then canning them in a vacuum-sealed jar. Don’t worry, we’ll go over all the steps one by one!
For this method you will need:
- 3 lbs peaches
- 3 lbs pears
- 1-1/2 lbs slightly underripe green grapes
- 10-oz maraschino cherries
- 3 cups sugar
- 4 cups water
For the best results, we recommend that you start with a cocktail of peaches, pears, maraschino cherries, and slightly underripe grapes.
Once you have mastered this combination of fruit, you can expand your horizons and try others as well!
- To begin, clean all the fruit separately and set it aside. Take a large bowl, fill it with a solution of ascorbic acid and keep the grapes and cherries submerged in it. This will immediately slow down oxidization and will prepare the fruit for canning. Use 1 teaspoon for 1 gallon of water to prepare the solution.
- Bring a large pot of water to boil and place the peaches and pears in. Boil for about 2-3 minutes or until the exterior skin of the fruit has loosened and is easily peelable.
- Sift out the fruits and peel them. Remove the pit and slice the peaches and pears into cubes or slices. Remember, you will want to can fruit as per the available space in your canning jars. We recommend that you get large jars for the best results.
- Once peeled, add the pears and peaches to the cherry and grape mixture. This will keep the prepared fruit from spoiling and losing its color over time.
- Prepare the canning jars by boiling them along with the lids in boiling water. This step is important as it will kill any bacteria in or around the jars and lids.
- In a saucepan, add sugar and water, bring to a boil, and cook until the sugar has dissolved.
- Turn off the heat and allow the liquid to cool for about 2-3 minutes. Now dry the canning jars with a paper towel, drain the fruits and gently add them to the jars.
- Top the jars with the hot sugar mixture and leave a ½ inch headspace.
- With a skewer or small spatula, find small air bubbles between the fruit and lightly tap or poke them to remove them. You must remove all the air bubbles from the jar before proceeding ahead.
- Screw on the lids and gently lift and set the closed and filled canning jars in a large pot of water. Bring the water to boil and leave the bottles in for 20 minutes.
- Very carefully and gently, remove the bottles from the pot and place them on the counter over some paper towels.
- Inspect the jars to see if they have indeed been vacuum-sealed. A great indication for this is to check the top of the lid for any sign of indentation. Do not twist the cap!
Just like that, you have successfully canned a fruit cocktail!
Store the jars in a cool and dry place. Remember, canned fruit still has an expiration date!
With optimum storage conditions, the fruit will remain “fresh” and edible for about a year but try to consume them within 9 months for the best flavor and texture.
Canning can be a bit tricky for beginners and it is common for some jars to not be fully vacuum-sealed on the first try.
Here are some common troubleshooting topics for canning fruit cocktails:
There is no indent on the top of the lid!
This happens when the jars have not been properly sealed. Always tightly screw the lids for the best result. Air can get in through small gaps so you need to make sure that you seal in the fruit before boiling them.
If the fruit has been processed and the jar is not sealed properly then avoid redoing all the steps and just refrigerate and eat the fruit within the week because there is no point in boiling the fruit or further exposing them to heat.
There is a hissing sound coming from the jars!
If you hear a hissing sound from the jars, this would probably indicate that the jars have not been properly sealed and that air is getting in.
In other words, the canning process has failed and it is best to just refrigerate the jars and consume the contents within the week.
There is a crack in the jar!
Some cheap-quality jars may crack while boiling. If this happens, carefully remove the jar from the pot and check for any further sign of damage or glass.
We would recommend that you discard the entire jar since there might be glass inside the container and there is no point in further using the jar for canning.
Checking For Signs Of Spoilage For Fruit Cocktail
One of the biggest mistakes people make is to not check the fruits over time.
When you successfully can fruit, make sure that you periodically (once a month) check the jars for any leaks. You can do this by simply glancing at the top of the jar to see if the lids still have an indentation.
Don’t pick up the jars or move them about unnecessarily. Remember, a simple glance will do just as well!
Before opening the jars, here are a few key signs to look out for:
This is a definite sign of spoilage and you should just discard the contents of the jar and sterilize it. Mold can grow on, under, or inside the jar.
Always check for any discoloration, mold, fuzzy growths, or black growths on the fruit or inside the jar before opening it.
If there is an off-putting smell before and after opening the jar, then this would indicate that the fruit has gone bad.
This can happen for several reasons but occurs more commonly with improper storage environments (temperature, humidity) or unnecessary movements like shaking the jars, setting them down hard, twisting or checking the lid, and so on.
Slime Or Mushiness
There should be no slime on or around the fruit when they are suspended in the sugar mixture. If the fruit is extra mushy and has a distinct slime on them, then it is time to discard everything and start over.
Remember, improper canning is rare if the process is followed properly. However, in some cases, you may face wastage in the form of spoilage.
For example, if you can 5 jars, you could safely use all of them at the end of the storage period, but in some rare cases, at least one jar could go bad.
Don’t worry though, this is a learning process and you will eventually get better at canning multiple combinations of fruit cocktails!
Now that you know the basics of canning fruit cocktails here are some related questions to help you with your canning journey!
How long do opened canned jars last?
Once opened, the jar will last about 1 week in the fridge. Place the jar at the back of the fridge and away from strong-smelling food like garlic. Store the jars at 40°F and always check for spoilage before consuming canned fruit!
Can I freeze canned fruit?
Yes, you can freeze canned fruit at 0°F for several weeks but it is important to know that the fruit will eventually lose its texture and flavor if they are frozen.
Freezing releases moisture within fruit which can damage their texture and you might not get the same results as properly canned fruit!
It is best to just shift the contents of an opened jar of canned fruits to an airtight jar and to store it in the fridge.
Is vacuum sealing important for frozen fruit?
No, vacuum sealing comes in handy when you want to preserve fruit for the long term without refrigeration.
Frozen fruit does not require a vacuum seal but you should still submerge them in a sugar mixture and freeze them within an airtight container at 0°F.
Canned fruit and frozen fruit will have a vastly different texture and flavor, with the canned fruits being a bit more flavorful and fresher than the frozen ones.
But since freezing fruit is much more convenient, you might just benefit from freezing them if you plan to store it for the short term.
Up Next: What Is Trail Bologna?