Fruit bottling

Fruit bottling

Encyclopedia of Food and Cookery

Successful fruit bottling depends on efficient sterilisation – this means anything that will cause the fruit to ferment or turn mouldy must be killed by heat. This can be done in an oven, in a preserving kit (for example Fowler's), in a deep saucepan or, if you still have one, in a copper. Make sure you have good preserving jars of heat-treated glass, with a strong lid and clamp to effectively seal the contents. If you buy a preserving kit with its deep steriliser and jars, etc., it comes complete with instructions. If you want to experiment with the French-type jars, with clamp-on lids, you can do them in the oven – it is simple and effective, and it is the method often used for only a few bottles. It is most important to have good preserving jars.

Basic rules:

Preserve only choice and sound fruit.

Prepare small quantities at a time.

Ensure that jars and rubbers are sterile: wash in hot soapy water, rinse in boiling water.

Check all jars to be used, to make sure these are free from flaws (no chipped rims).

Use only new rubber rings, not old ones.

Preparation of fruit: Most fruits are suitable for bottling, but because of their short season, stone and berry fruits are particular favourites.

Fruits should be washed first then prepared as for stewing. Apricots, plums and peaches are halved and stones removed and peeled if liked. Pears are peeled and halved; pineapples are trimmed and sliced. Berry fruits are washed lightly and drained. Tomatoes are left whole in salted water or tomato juice made from softened tomatoes.

Blanching fruit: Tomatoes, peaches and plums usually have the skins removed as these varieties have skins which split on heating. Hold the fruit in a square of muslin (cheesecloth) and immerse in boiling water for a brief period, depending on ripeness – usually 30 seconds is sufficient. A metal strainer may be used to hold more fruit. Then plunge into cold water. Gentle rubbing will now remove the skin or, if this is not successful, the skin may be peeled off with a sharp knife.

After peeling, drop the fruit in cold water to prevent discolouration. Pears, apples and peaches should be dropped in a light brine (1 teaspoon salt to 1.25 litres water), then rinsed.

Blanching as described above sets the colour of the fruit and, by reducing the size of some fruits, makes possible a more economical pack.

Preparing of syrup: Make the syrup while the fruit is heating in the oven – 125–190 ml will be needed for each 500 ml jar. Its strength is largely a matter of personal taste. Light syrup – 220 g sugar to 750 ml water. Medium syrup – 440 g sugar to 750 ml water. Heavy syrup – 660 g sugar to 750 ml water.

Figs require a heavy syrup, while apples are best done in a light syrup. For most fruits a medium strength syrup is fine.

Bottling in water for diabetics and dieters: Home-bottled fruit is excellent for diabetic people. Simply use boiling water instead of syrup. The best size of jar to use is 500 ml. If desired, the fruit may be sweetened to taste with a proprietary sweetener before serving.

Bottling in water for diabetics and dieters: Home-bottled fruit is excellent for diabetic people. Simply use boiling water instead of syrup. The best size of jar to use is 500 ml. If desired, the fruit may be sweetened to taste with a proprietary sweetener before serving.

Testing of seal: 24 hours after bottling, the lids should be tested to make sure the vacuum has formed and the lid is firmly sealed. To test clip-type jars: remove the clip and lift the jar gently by the lid. If the jar is a screw-band type, remove the band and tilt until the weight of the liquid is against the lid. Make the same test for jars sealed with rubber solution. If seals have not formed, the jars should be reprocessed, or the contents eaten the same day.

Storing: If lids are secure, label the jars, mark the date of preserving on each and store in a cool, dark place. If preserves are subjected to bright light, the colour of the fruit in the jars will fade. Once opened, store in refrigerator. Most bottled fruit can be kept for at least 1 year. However, it is wise to use them before the next season’s replacement for optimum flavour.

Oven method

The procedure of sterilising bottled fruit in the oven is one of the simplest. The oven method is convenient when only a small quantity of fruit is to be preserved. For this and other reasons, the berry fruits or just a few jars of cherries, or special stone fruits may be processed for use later in the year.

The method for oven bottling is as follows:

Slow cooking of the fruit is required. If the fruit cooks too quickly it will burst, go pulpy, and lose its shape.

Pack fruit into the jars prepared as described in Preparation of Fruit. The fruit will shrink during cooking, so jars must be well filled.

Stand the jars on a heatproof mat or baking tray on a shelf in the bottom half of a preheated cool oven. Jars must not touch each other. Put on lids of jars, but not rubber rings and do not clip on.

Leave the fruit in the oven until it looks cooked, has shrunk and changed colour slightly. This normally takes 45–60 minutes. Pears and tomatoes need 1½ hours.

Prepare the syrup; when required, bring back to the boiling point. Remove one jar from the oven and stand on a double thickness of paper towels or dish towel.

Have rubber rings soaking in hot water; place rubber ring on the lid of the jar. Add boiling syrup to fill the jar, until it just overflows. Clip lid on jar tightly.

Repeat step 6 with remaining jars. The procedure is the same for tomatoes, except that salted water or tomato juice replaces the sugar syrup.

Boiling water bath method

Use suitable preserving jars and a lidded cooker or boiler deep enough for the jars to be covered completely by at least 5 cm boiling water. The jars must also stand in the cooker on a rack so that the water flows freely under them; an ordinary cake rack will do.

Except when preserving grapefruit, it is not necessary to use a thermometer, because the temperature required for preserving by this boiling water bath method is reached when the water boils.

The boiling water bath has many advantages – it is safe, economical (no special equipment is necessary) and time-saving compared with the ‘slow sterilising’ method recommended for commercial outfits. For example, slipstone peaches, pineapples or pears sterilised slowly will take approximately 3½ hours and require careful watching; bottled in the boiling water bath they will take 25 minutes.

Thoroughly clean the jars, rubbers and lids in hot water and make the syrup. The fruit to be preserved should be sorted and simultaneously blanched and peeled by scalding; see Blanching Fruit.

Packing and processing: Pack fruit into jars. Before adding the syrup, run water gently in and out of the jars to remove any particles of fruit and keep the syrup clear. The syrup, which should be boiling, will be clearer if strained through a cloth. Fill only to within 1 cm of the top of 500 ml or 1 litre jars and wipe the rim of the jar with a moist cloth before sealing. A skewer worked gently between the fruit and the jar will release the air bubbles. If the screw-band type of jar is used, do not seal tightly.

Lower jars into the boiling water in the cooker or boiler with tongs, or by holding the top of the jar with a cloth. Count the processing time from the time the water returns to the boil. As soon as the water is seen to be boiling, put the lid on the cooker and process according to the times given in the table opposite.

Remove jars from cooker after processing and place on a wooden surface or a folded cloth, away from draughts. Hot jars may break if placed on marble or other cold materials. Tightly seal screw-bound jars immediately on removal from cooker. Test seal after 24 hours.


Quantity Ingredient
see method for ingredients



  • It is very important to perform steps 5 and 6 as quickly as possible, and with only one jar at a time.
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