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Fruit by fruit, here's how to can and freeze.

Loos alone are no clue to how the stone fruits on pages 68 through 77 will behave and taste if you can or freeze them. Although apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches, and plums are among the easiest foods to preserve, varieties change over the years; unless you know what you're dealing with, results can be unpredictable.

In Sunseths test kitchen last summer, we canned and froze today's most important market varieties ofstone fruits. Our results are summarized in the charts beginning on page 74. They describe each fruit's unique properties and can help you choose the best ones to preserve.

Five steps to

Successful canning

1. Assemble your equipment. You'll need pint-or quart-size canning jars with metal lids and ring bands to fit. Use new lids; ring bands can be reused. Make sure jars and closures are free of nicks, cracks, and dents. You'll also need a canning kettle; one with a rack for holding the jars is easiest to use. Or improvise, using a large kettle (deep enough sowater covers tops of jars) with lid; set jars on a cake rack or folded cloth placed in the bottom. A jar lifter or rubber-tipped tongs and a wide-mouth funnel are also useful.

Wash jars in hot soapy water, then rinse well; leave jars andlids in hot water until ready to use.

Put rack in the canning kettle, fill kettle about half-full with hot water, cover with lid, and start heating to 180[deg.] to 190[deg.] Fill a large pan or teakettle with water and start heating to boiling.

2. Prepare the syrup. We used a light syrup. In a pan, combine 1 to 20 cups sugar with 4 cups water; heat to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Makes about 5 cups; allow 1/2 cup syrup for each pint jar, 3/4 to 1 cup syrup for each quart. Use syrup hot (reheat as needed). You need liquid to cover fruit in jars, and some sweetening helps preserve the fruit's flavor and appearance. If you don't want to use sugar, alternative liquids to use include apple, pear, or white grape juice.

3. Prepare the fruit. (Prepare no more than one canning-kettle load at a time.) Choose fruit that is fresh, firm, ripe--but not overripe or soft. Tasters' comments on pages 74, 75, and 76 indicate which varieties are best peeled and how well each will hold its shape. Peel or wash fruit as directed on page 77 (peel all peaches).

Cut surfaces of apricots, peaches, and nectarines may begin to discolor if exposed to air for more than about 30 minutes. To prevent oxidation when preparing a large quantity, cut fruit directly into a solution of 2 tablespoons each salt and vinegar to 1 gallon water. Drain at once; you don't need to rinse off the solution.

Apricots. Varieties that hold their shape we are good canned whole; fill jars using the hot-pack method (directions follow). Any variety can be halved, pitted, and raw-packed (directions follow) into jars; soft varieties will fall apart and become sauce when canned.

Cherries. Remove stems. Pit if you wish; pits add a little extra flavor. Prick each unpitted cherry once with a pin to help prevent spilitting. Fill jars using raw-pack method for pitted cherries, raw- or hot-pack procedure for unpitted cherries.

Peaches and nectarine. Cut fruit in half following the natural seam line; cut pits out of clingstone varieties with a paring knife. Fill jars using hot- or raw-pack methods.

Plums. Varieties that hold their shape well are good canned whole; prick the skins with a pin to help prevent bursting and fill jars using hot-pack method. Any variety can be cut away from pits in quarters and raw-packed into jars; soft fruits fall apart and turn into sauce.

4. Fill jars using hot-pack or raw-pack method. The hot-pack method--fruits are first lightly cooked in the syrup--is usually best for whole fruits like apricots or large pieces like peach halves, because the jars can be filled more compactly and the fruit is less likely to float to the top after processing.

How to hot-pack. In a pan large enough to hold fruit and syrup, bring syrup (preceding) to boiling on high heat. Add fruit.

Cook cherries just until boiling resumes. Cook whole apricots about 2 minute after boiling resumes. Cook whole plums, or nectarine or peach halves, about 3 minutes after boiling resumes.

With a slotted spoon, transfer fruit to hot jars; place cut sides down with edges overlapping. Pour in hot syrup to fill jars to 1/2 inch below rims.

How to raw-pack. Tightly fillhot jars with raw fruit, cut sides down and overlapping. Pour in enough boiling syrup to fill jars to 1/4 inch below rims.

5. Seal and process jars. Run a spatula gently between fruit and jar sides to release any air bubbles; add more hot syrup, if necessary, to fill. Wipe rim of jar with a clean, damp cloth to remove any food particles. Place a hot jar lid on top of each jar. Screw ring band down firmly, but don't overtighten. As each jar is filled, set on rack in water (slightly below boiling) in canning kettle; jars should not touch each other or sides of kettle.

Add boiling water to the kettle to cover tops of jars. Put lid on kettle. Bring to 180[deg.] to 190[deg.] (gentle boil) on high heat, but don't begin to count processing time (see chart, page 158) until the water returns to a gentle boil. Then adjust heat to maintain 180[deg.] to 19[deg.].

When finished processing, immediately remove jars and set on a folded cloth or a board (not on a cold surface), wtih room for air to circulate between them. When jares are cool, remove ring bands. Test seal by pressing lid with your finger; if it stays down when pressed, jar is sealed. If not sealed, reprocess fruit within 24 hours, for the full length of time. Use a new metal lid and check jar for flaws.

If you plan to freeze

You'll need to store the prepared fruits at 0[deg.] or colder. It isn't necessary to sweeten fruits when freezing, but they'll have much better color, shape, and flavor if frozen in syrup. We used light syrup for all the fruits; it adds enough sweetness for many of them, and you can always add more sugar to taste when serving. Rigid plastic or waxed cardboard containers with tight lids, or glass canning jars, are best for syrup-packed fruits.

For another way to freeze apricots and plums that is especially succulent, cook as a sauce (directions on page 154); cool, then freeze in rigid containers.

1. Make light uncoked syrup ahead. Combine 1 to 2 cups sugar with 4 cups water. To control darkening, add 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon ascorbic acid (or a commercial antidarkening agent, following manufacturer's direction). Stir until sugar is dissolved. Refrigerate syrup until cold. Makes about 5 cups, enough for 8 pints (about 8 lb.) fruit.

2. Prepare and pack fruit. (Make no more than your freezer can freeze solid within 24 hours; check manufacturer's booklet.) Allow about 1 pound fruit for each pint. Depending on the variety (see tasters' comments, pages 74, 75, and 76), peel fruit or wash it as directed on page 77; peel all peaches. Put 1/2 cup cold uncooked syrup into each container and cut fruit into syrup. Cut apricots in halves or quarters; discard pits. Cut peaches and nectarines in halves, quarters, or slices; discard pits. Cut plums in halves; discard pits or cut away from pits in quarters. Pull off cherry stems; remove pits if you wish (pitted cherries have slightly purer flavor).

Add enough more uncooked syrup to each container to cover fruit, allowing at least 1/2 inch space at top for pints, 1 inch for quarts (for narrow-mouth jars, allow 3/4 inch for pints, 1-1/2 inches for quarts). Place crumpled waxed paper or plastic wrap on top of fruit to keep it submerged in syrup. Cover with lid and freeze.
COPYRIGHT 1985 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Jul 1, 1985
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