Canning your own pears is a bit time consuming, but the difference in taste from commercially canned pears is well worth the trouble. Your carefully chosen fruit will taste sweeter without all the added sugar, sweeteners or calories. You may be overwhelmed at first, but you will soon develop a routine and find it is not at all hard.
You Will Need:
Fresh pears – 2 to 2 pounds will yield a quart of canned pears
Sugar or fruit juice, white grape or apple work well
Lemon juice or Fruit Fresh
Canning jars, lids and screw-on rings – available at most grocery stores
Water Bath Canner
Large cooking pot
Select Your Fruit
The most crucial step to successful canning is choosing and preparing your fruit. Pears are actually better when picked slightly under-ripe, as they bruise so easily. They sweeten up beautifully at home. Look for the same quality in the store or farmer’s market that you do if picking your own. Look for fruit that is firm, neither hard nor mushy, and free of bruises and blemishes. D’anjou pears have a softer feel, sugar pears are very firm, and Bosc pears are somewhere in between. Keep them on a counter for a couple of days to allow them time to finish ripening.
Get Your Equipment Ready
A water bath canner is worth its weight in gold when canning. It is very deep with a close fitting lid, and has a wire rack with handles fitted inside that makes removing hot jars much easier. They are available at home kitchen stores. You can also use any large, very deep pot with a good lid, or a pressure cooker. These instructions are for the water bath canner or pot. If using a pressure cooker, consult your cooker’s instruction manual.
Other canning equipment is also sold, such as jar gripper tongs for lifting the filled jars, large mouth funnels for filling them, and lid lifters, equipped with a magnet for getting the lids out of boiling water. They will make your life easier, but are not essential.
You will also need a large pan, like a stew pot, to prepare your syrup, and ladles or spoons. Wash and rinse all equipment thoroughly before use.
Sterilize Your Jars
If your dishwasher has a ‘sterilize’ cycle, simply pack it with all your jars, lids, and screw rings and run the cycle. If not, place jars in boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove from water and set aside to cool. Add screw rings and lids to the boiling water, turn off the flame, and allow them to sit in the water for about 10 minutes. Remove and set aside.
Make the Syrup
Pears only need a light sugar syrup. Use 2 cups of sugar for every 6 cups of water, which should process 8 to 9 quarts of pears. Sugar stabilizes the color of the fruit and helps it retain its shape, as well as heightening the flavor. You can use as much as 4 cups of sugar if your taste buds prefer, but the less you use the healthier and more cost conscious your finished product will be.
Pour the water and sugar into the stew pot. Bring to a slow boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cover and keep hot, but not boiling, until you are ready for it.
Unsweetened apple or white grape juice can be used instead of water, but use only half the sugar. This is much more expensive and the taste is slightly different, but some folks prefer it as a healthier alternative.
Prepare Your Fruit
Wash and peel pears, and slice in half. Remove cores and any brown spots or blemishes. Leave as halves or slice as desired. If you are not ready to process them immediately, pour a little lemon juice or Fruit Fresh – a commercial preparation of citric acid – over them to prevent darkening. Stir gently to make sure all sides of the cut fruit is coated.
Hot Pack Canning
This is preferred for fruit in general. Hot packing allows the fruit to settle better and helps remove trapped air from its fibers.
Have your canning jars ready next to the stove. Bring syrup back to a gentle boil. Add prepared fruit and boil for 5 minutes. Ladle fruit into jars, swishing each jar around as you fill to help pack the fruit tighter, to within inch of the screw threads.
Ladle hot syrup over the fruit. Using a narrow rubber spatula or butter knife, run the knife between the fruit and the jar. Tip the jar slightly as you do this, pressing gently on the fruit with the knife and going all the way around the inside of the jar, so as to remove air bubbles. Syrup should completely cover the fruit, and leave inch of air space at the top of the jar. Fruit should be tightly packed but not crushed, and none should be floating.
Wipe the threads with a clean damp paper towel. Apply lids, then the screw rings. Tighten snugly but do not over-tighten.
Process the Jars
Place sealed jars on the wire rack in the canner. Cover with hot tap water, at least 1 inch over the tops of the jars. Heat to boiling. Cover and boil for at least 20 minutes, but no more than 30 minutes.
Carefully remove jars from canner and place on racks or cutting boards. Place so they will not touch each other or get bumped, and out of drafts. Allow to cool thoroughly, usually overnight.
Remove the screw rings if you wish. Test the seal of each jar by pressing on the center of the lid. If it pops up and down, it is not sealed. Store in refrigerator and use immediately. If you wish to try re-processing, empty the contents into a pan, wash the jar, and start from scratch with a new lid.
It’s a good idea to write the date on the lid so you can keep track of your stored food. Then store your finished produce in a cool, dark, dry place. Check your canned food periodically for signs of rust or bad seals. Throw these away, as they are not safe to eat. Normal shelf life is 12 to 18 months.
Your pears may take on a slightly pink or brownish tinge. This is a normal chemical reaction to being heated. They are perfectly safe and the flavor will not be changed. If they turn dark brown or bubbly, they are no good.
Avoid storing jars near any heat source, as this will cause them to spoil faster. They must be kept cool and dark.