Are you new to preserving fruit? Bottling fruit in preserving jars for use throughout the year is simple and satisfying.
The two-part lids and seals can be a bit confusing, to begin with, but they give you a consistent result you can trust, and we recommend them for preserving fruit. A good set of preserving jars can be reused year after year and will last you a lifetime.
What equipment do you need to preserve fruit?
- glass preserving jars - we recommend wide mouth mason (86mm opening) jars because they're easy to fill and empty. Look for brands like Ball, Kilner, or old AGEE jars (don't buy new AGEE jars as they're not great quality).
- 500 ml (pint) preserving jars are a useful size but you can also preserve in 1 ltr (1 quart) glass jars if you're feeding a family
- single use preserving seals like Perfit Seals - they can be found at the Binn Inn and most supermarkets during the summer preserving season
- reusable preserving screw bands - these have to fit your jar thread - look for gold bands to fit mason jars, Ball, Kilner and AGEE SPECIAL jars, and green bands to fit AGEE Utility and AGEE Improved Utility jars - you can find these at Binn Inn or your supermarket during the summer.
- a heat proof jug for filling jars - we have a trusty Pyrex jug
- wide funnel for filling jars - handy so you don't spill hot fruit all over the rim and sides of the jar
For small batches of chutney, piccalilli, relish, jelly, or jam you can use recycled peanut butter jars and other small supermarket glass jars with metal lids. Often you give these as gifts and you don't mind if the jar doesn't come back.
But if you're serious about preserving fruit for your own home each year, invest in a set of glass jars for preserving that you don't give away and use every year.
Easiest Method for Preserving Fruit
- Estimate the number of preserving jars you will need - weigh your raw unprepared fruit and x it by 0.75 - that is after waste, stones, and peeling you're going to get 75% of the fruit you started with to bottle. Divide this weight by the size of your jars and you'll know how many jars to prepare.
- For example, 3kg of feijoa will yield about 2kg of peeled fruit which would fill two 1 litre jars or four 500ml jars.
- Put the clean jars in a dish in your oven and heat them to 100°C (212°F)
- Put the preserving seals and bands in a pan of simmering water
- Make a syrup of sugar and water to cook the fruit in - make enough syrup for 50% of the volume of jars you plan to fill - you will have some leftovers that can be used as fruit cordial. It's better to have too much syrup than not enough to fill your jars. You can preserve in just boiling water without any sugar if you want to. We like a light syrup with a ratio of 1 cup of sugar to 4 cups of water.
- Bring the syrup to a boil and add any optional flavours such as lemon juice, rind, ginger, whole spices or vanilla to give your preserves a lift
- Turn the syrup and the seals down to a simmer and prepare your fruit
- Wash the fruit, discard any rotten or overripe ones and peel and chop them into similar sized pieces. If it is a fruit that discolors when cut, put them in a bowl of cold water with lemon juice in it to stop them going brown while you prepare them all. Drain them well before you add them to the syrup.
- Bring the syrup back up to a boil and add the fruit. Work in small batches of up to 3 kilos so the fruit doesn't overcook before you get it in the jars.
- Don't stir the fruit too much, just cook it in the syrup until it is soft right through when poked with a skewer. The harder the fruit the longer it takes but usually no more than 5-8 minutes if you've got it on a boil. If you overcook it don't worry, it won't look as good but will be fine for fruit pies and crumbles. If you're trying for stewed fruit rather than pieces then cook the life out of it by all means.
- Put a chopping board next to the pot and one by one bring the hot jars from the oven, fill them using a wide mouth funnel. Use a heatproof jug to scoop the fruit and syrup into the jar.
- It is important that jar and fruit are both piping hot. Fill it right to the top. Wipe off anything from the rim so it is clean and put a hot seal on the jar then a screw band and screw it on until it is finger tight - don't over tighten it and don't go and retighten it later. Just get it on quickly while everything is hot and then leave it alone.
- Try and get a good mix of syrup and fruit in each jar. The wooden chopping board is so that you don't put a hot jar on a cold surface and crack it.
- Set the chopping board of jars aside to cool. As they cool you'll hear the seals making a pleasing clunk as the contents of the jar contracts. This pulls the seal down making an airtight vacuum that preserves the contents of the jar.
- When the jars are completely cooled the next day remove the screw bands, check the seals have all sealed. Sometimes you get a seal that hasn't gone down - put this jar in the fridge for immediate use. Wash the jars, label them and put them away in a cool cupboard or pantry. They'll last a couple of years but try and eat them within a year before the next season's crop is available.
Bottled fruit is great to have on hand for breakfasts, cakes, pies, fruit smoothies, fruit ice creams, and flavouring yogurt. If you buy frozen fruit then think about replacing some of it with your own home bottled fruit. The jars are an investment but you use them, again and again, every year.
The fruit that lends itself to bottling include peaches, pears, apricots, apples, quince, plums, feijoas, and berries.
Don't use this preserving method other food groups like vegetables and meats. These low acid foods need high pressure canning to preserve them safely, or acid to preserve them from vinegar or natural fermentation. If you preserve low acid foods like meats and vegetables without using pressure canning or acid, you create an environment where botulism can flourish. Google that and you'll see why you don't want it in your pantry.
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