Normally, people use a lot of sugar when canning fruit and they do this is for two reasons.
First, sugar has the ability to help the fruit retain its color and texture. A jar of peaches or apricots in a heavy syrup will look beautiful and fresh picked 6 months down the line. But the second reason is that people just like the taste. Sweetened fruit tastes good!
But in this instance, sugar is NOT necessary for safety.
In fact, you really do not need to use sugar at all when you are putting up whole or sliced fruit. You can safely process fruits like apricots and peaches in just water if you wanted to because the fruit itself is in the safe pH range. However before you run off to do that, you should know that just using water does not give you very good results. The fruit turns dark quickly and loses texture. So although some people do put up fruit with just water, having a little sugar in there helps a lot.
Sometimes I can my fruit using a medium to heavy sugar syrup. But other times, I may have an apricot or peach that is so delicious on its own, I do not want to cover it up with all that sugar.
So here is the alternative.
Can Your Fruit in Unsweetened White Grape Juice
The natural sugars in the grape juice help retain the color and texture of the fruit but you can still taste the natural flavors of whatever you can. Yes, your resulting fruit will darker faster than fruit canned in a sugar syrup, but not as quickly as if you canned it just water. It is a pretty good compromise.
The benefits of Using Fruit Juice:
- The canned fruit is considered “low sugar”. Only the natural sugar in the fruit and juice are there.
- You can add whatever sweetener you want when you open the jar later.
The Cons of Using Fruit Juice:
- It is safe to eat up to 1 year, but the fruit will darken and should be used within 6 months for best color.
- The fruit will not taste as sweet. (Which is not necessarily a bad thing.)
Remember, the loss of color is only aesthetics. The fruit taste is still delicious and safe. It may not look as pretty but it still has great flavor. My solution to this darkening problem is to just use up those jars faster than I would the fruit canned in heavy sugar syrup. But when I do have a jar that has darkened a bit, I use it in something that gets cooked such as a pie or sauce.
Watch the video above to see how easy it is to can sliced apricots. (Yes, they were large apricots. All organic!) You can print out the recipe below to make them yourself.
What about using ascorbic acid or other product for color retention?
Yes, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), lemon juice and products like Fruit Fresh (which is an ascorbic acid mix) will help prevent darkening. Ascorbic acid works a little bit better than lemon juice and does not alter the flavor of the fruit. I will cover this topic in depth in another post, but if you buy an ascorbic acid product in the store, just follow the directions on the package.
Apricots Canned in Grape Juice – Recipe
I do not peel the apricots in this recipe to save time. You can peel your fruit if you wish.
Makes 4 pint-sized jars
- 2 lbs. apricots (washed, not peeled)
- 5 cups white grape juice (unsweetened)
- 2 whole cinnamon sticks (optional)
Into each jar:
- 10 whole allspice
- 10 whole cloves
- 1 star anise
1) Fill your water bath canner with water and heat it up. Add clean jars to the bath to warm them. (You do not need to sterilize the jars because they will be processed for 20 minutes.) Heat your lids in a small saucepan.
2) Meanwhile, heat grape juice and cinnamon sticks to a simmer and prepare fruit by cutting it in half and removing pits. You do not need to peel. If your wish, you can cut the apricots into quarters.
3) Remove warm jars from the water bath and the spices to each jar.
4) Add your apricots (face down) and gently pack them in up to 1/2 inch headspace.
5) Add your hot grape juice to each jar leaving 1/2 inch headspace.
6) Use a skewer or plastic knife to dislodge any air bubbles in the jars. Add more juice if necessary to maintain the proper headspace.
7) Wipe the rims with a clean cloth and add your lids and rings. Process in a water bath for 20 minutes.
8) Turn off heat and let the jars sit in the canner for an additional 5 minutes. Then remove the jars to cool. Refrigerate any unsealed jars and use within 1 week. Label sealed jars and use within 1 year, but the color retention is best within the first 6 months.