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How To Preserve Summer Fruit The Old-Fashioned Way

peach preserves in jars

It’s not as hard to do as you may think. Here's what you'll need:

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Pick The Right Jars

Canning jars and lids are designed to withstand temperature and pressure changes, and to make an airtight seal as they cool. Don’t try reusing jars supermarket food came in for canning, no matter what your Aunt Irene tells you. Single-use jars may break (wasting food or possibly hurting someone) or fail to seal. Stick with jars that use modern two-piece canning lids (a flat lid and a separate screw-on band); older jars with glass lids are nifty to look at, but save them for storing dry goods.

Quilted Crystal Jelly Jars are readily available at hardware and grocery stores in a variety of sizes. A box of 12 (including lids and bands) costs $8 to $10. Canning jars are a good investment, as they can be reused for decades; but to save money, watch for sales, ask older friends if they have jars they no longer use, or look for jars at yard sales. Look for jars that say Ball, Kerr, Atlas, or Mason in raised glass letters on the side or the bottom.

To make a good seal, the top rim must be intact and smooth; there should be no visible scratches in the glass (which can lead to breakage). If you are not sure a jar is a real canning jar, don’t use it for canning.

Invest In Some Canning Equipment

You will also need a large stockpot or canning pot at least two inches deeper than your tallest jar (or two jars, if you want to stack one on top of another), a rack that fits in the bottom to keep the jars up off the pot bottom (they may break if they sit directly on the pot), and a jar lifter (basically a pair of large-jawed tongs). A jar funnel, which helps get the contents into the jar, is nice but not required.

Here are two of my favorite recipes, along with some variations, to get you started making your own fruit preserves. Once you have the hang of it, you can explore the many canning recipe books out there. You’ll have a fully stocked pantry before you know it! These foods will keep for about a year if kept sealed.

peach preserves on toast

Old-Fashioned Peach Preserves

Makes about 7 half-pints

2 quarts coarsely chopped peaches (or apricots or plums or a combination), with or without the skins
6 cups white sugar or 4 cups honey
¼ teaspoon mace
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup citrus juice

1) Combine fruit, sugar or honey, and spices if using in a glass bowl or a saucepan and allow to stand for 12 to 18 hours in the refrigerator. Slowly bring mixture to a boil in a thick-bottomed, stainless steel pot at least twice as deep as the raw preserves; they’ll foam and expand while cooking. Once boiling, reduce the heat, and simmer mixture gently, stirring frequently, until the fruit is clear and the syrup thickens, about 40 minutes. Skim off any foam...

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