Small Batch Fruit Preserving

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Small Batch Fruit Preserving - The Survival Mom

As we work on maximizing garden produce, we need to stretch our preservation skills to include small batches. Fruit sauces, butters, and syrups are all easy and tasty ways to put up small bits of produce before any spoilage occurs. It might seem intimidating at first, but with a little confidence and some practice, small batch fruit preserving can quickly add up to a stocked pantry.

Making Fruit Sauces

Applesauce is probably the most common of all fruit sauces. However, almost any fruit can be made into a sauce or combined with other fruits into sauce. Pear sauce is especially yummy, as is apple-pear sauce. Apple combines well with most berries and even rhubarb.

To make a fruit sauce, simply core and chop fruit (peeling is optional) and place in a pot with an inch or two of water at the bottom. Bring to a simmer over low heat and cook until the fruit is soft. Remove from heat and either mash with a potato masher for a chunky sauce, or run through a food mill or blender for a smooth sauce. Bring this sauce to a boil one more time (adding sugar and spices if desired) before putting into jars and processing in a water bath.

When canning mixtures, can to the fruit that takes the longest amount of time to process. If you make apple-cherry sauce for instance in quart jars; apples need 20 minutes but cherries need 25 minutes. Process for the longer time, 25 minutes to keep everything safe.

Making Fruit Butters

Fruit butters are basically fruit sauces that have been cooked down even more into a thick, butter-like substance. These are a bit easier and less fussy than jams and jellies. They tend to be sweetened and spiced often, but this is a personal preference. When making a fruit butter, start just like making a fruit sauce by cooking the fruit until soft. Remove from heat and puree into a think sauce. To this sauce add spices and sugar as desired: peach-honey-vanilla is quite nice as is pear anise.

Fruit butters need to cook for a while in order to remove the water content and get thick. This can be done on the stove over very low heat but requires much stirring in order to prevent scorching. An easier way to do it is to put it in the slow cooker on low, keeping the lid off. The fruit will cook down with minimum stirring and make the house smell nice too. Process in a water bath canner according to the fruit that takes the longest time for safe processing.

Making Fruit Syrups

Fruit syrups are essentially sweetened fruit juices. Berries, cherries, and grapes make especially nice syrups. A basic fruit syrup method:

  1. Crush fruit in a saucepan and heat to boiling, simmering until soft – probably 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Strain through a colander and drain until cool enough to handle.
  3. Strain the collected juice through a double layer of cheesecloth or jelly bag.
  4. Discard the dry pulp.
  5. To the pressed juice, add sugar or honey and bring to a boil, simmering for 1 minute.
  6. Remove from heat, skim off foam, and pour into jars leaving 1/2-inch headspace.
  7. Process in a boiling water bath 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude.

Ways to Use The Preserves

Obviously fruit sauces make great snacks, fruit butters are great on toast just like jam, and fruit syrups are great on pancakes or waffles.  However, their versatility goes much further:

  • Unsweetened, plain applesauce makes a great fat replacer in baked goods. Other sauces would work as well, but might change flavor slightly, so experiment.
  • Fruit butters can often be used in baked goods just like jam or jelly – tarts, cookies, bars, etc.
  • Fruit Syrups mixed with club soda or even water kefir make for an occasional fun treat that’s great for kids birthday parties!
  • For a more adult version, mix fruit syrups with vodka or brandy for a cold night toddy.
  • The sauces, butters, and syrups make great mix-ins for yogurt, oatmeal, rice, even smoothies.

Take advantage of all those small bits of fruit and watch the pantry shelves fill quickly with homemade goodness for your family to enjoy all year long.

13 thoughts on “Small Batch Fruit Preserving”

  1. You gave me a great idea. Normally, I picture canning fruit as an “all out” venture, where I will buy a gazillion pounds of fruit and then sweat and slave over it all day. For example, the time I canned a TON of organic pears that were on sale. I now have a lot of pears put away.

    But I love the idea of canning maybe some apples and another fruit at the same time. Not necessarily just making it an “apple” session. I like the apple cherry sauce idea too!

  2. Perfect timing. I was just trying to figure out what to do with my grapes this year. It’s the first year they have had fruit and they are ripening a little at the time and the skin is bitter, may have to try putting up the juice! Thanks!

  3. RW – I am sure you probably have your grape juice done or in the works. When I was a kid, my mother brought home a couple of bushels of grapes (someone had a bumper crop that year) and we canned the grapes for juice. It was very easy – we packed the washed grapes in quart jars, added water to the jar (according to normal canning procedures) and canned the grapes whole. Nothing else was added. When we wanted juice, we simply emptied a jar into a sieve, mashed them a bit and let the juice come through. If we needed more sweetening, we added it to taste each time. The juice was fantastic and a lot less work than “making” juice to can.

    This is also how we did cherries for pies (sour cherries): we pitted the cherries, packed the jars full, added water (according to normal canning procedures) and canned them. When making a pie, empty the jar of fruit and juice to a sauce pan, add sweetener to taste and bring to a boil. At this point, you need to thicken the cherries for the pie and that is done with cornstarch dissolved in water. Very easy to can this way and the results are wonderful.

  4. Great ideas!! I did get a 5 gallon bucket of grapes washed, stemmed and mashed before the chickens ate the rest of the grapes! I got 6 quarts of grape juice concentrate and plan to water it down some, sweeten with honey and let the kids drink it this summer, may can a little if it doesn’t get consume quickly.

  5. We have been doing this for a while now. Started as a fluke. Early one weekend morning my daughter and I hit the grocery. Huge mark down buggy with fruit that was still good, and veggies too. We came home and made strawberry applesauce, peaches, and dehydrated a bunch of squash. Pretty good for under $10. And yes I made sure the fruit was all in good shape. Now we make a habit of this.

  6. I love doing small batches. I just made 2 qts of applesauce today.
    Last night I made a qt and a half pt of creamsicle syrup.
    I would rather have a bunch of small batches of differen
    Fruit items than one big one. Plus it only takes a few hours
    Here and there rather than a whole day.

  7. Another solution for small batches is to combine several fruits in a Steam Juicer…no extra water bath required, and an easy way to mix fruits. Last year, I steam-juiced my ten gallons of grapes along with some wild plums and the last of the raspberries to make juice. Then I used the canned juice later on to make wine.
    I have a neighbor who cans one or two quarts (of acid foods) at a time in the microwave…just wait til it boils, cap it and done. I’m gonna have to try that sometime!

  8. I’ve never seen that microwave canning as considered safe and while I don’t always follow every recommendation – I still suggest processing high-acid things in a water bath.

    1. Lesley, I’ll add your email to my newsletter system. You can expect one every Sunday morning that summarizes all the blog posts from that week. You’ll also get occasional extra articles from me.

  9. Seen you on a friends fb I love canning I just canned up some taters I got really cheep at the store this weekend and 20 pounds of pork I can anything and everything lol

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