How to Can Pears in a Water Bath Canner

Canning pears, from Oak Hill Homestead

A couple of weeks ago I was given several buckets of Bartlett pears. Hubby's favorite canned fruit is pears, so I planned to can most of them.

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How to tell that pears are ripe

The thing is, pears are harvested when they are slightly immature and hard to the touch, and they need to ripen completely after picking.

By allowing the pears to ripen slowly, they will mellow and soften, growing sweeter as they become ripe.

So I had to wait a bit before I canned them. I laid out the pears in a single layer in the mudroom so they could ripen and soften.

Pears give off ethylene gas which helps them ripen. Check the neck of the pears (the stem end) daily, pressing gently with your thumb to judge the softness.

Want to ripen just one or two pears quickly? Put them in a brown paper bag with an apple or banana. Apples and bananas give off higher amounts of ethylene gas. The bag will hold in the gas, causing the pears to ripen faster.

For canning, pears should have some "give" but should be firm, not hard. Overripe pears are good for eating fresh and for making jam.

How to can pears, from Oak Hill Homestead

How to can pears

Wash, peel and slice, then soak the pears in a solution of water and lemon juice to prevent browning.

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It's easy to water-bath can fruit using the raw-pack method, but I really dislike that the fruit floats in the finished jars.

Raw fruit also seem to absorb the liquid in the jars during the canning process, leaving the top pieces of fruit high and dry in storage. Opening the jar later can be a bit of a disappointment; those pear slices on top can be dry and hard.

How to can pears, from Oak Hill Homestead

So instead of raw-packing the fruit, I use the hot-pack method now.

The hot-pack method is exactly what it says: you simmer the fruit in water or sugar syrup before canning, and pack it in the jars while it's still hot. When using this method, the fruit is softer after canning and it doesn't float as badly at the top of the jars. It's more attractive to the eyes as well as pleasing to the tongue.

Simmer the pears in water or syrup made with sugar and water in a stainless steel pot for about five minutes.

Get the canner ready

While the pears are simmering, get your water-bath canner ready to go: fill the canner about one-third full with warm water, and set it on the stove burner on low heat.

Check the rims of your canning jars for nicks, wash the jars and put them in a sinkful of warm water.

Fill the jars

Pears can be canned in water, in light or heavy syrup using either sugar or honey, or in apple juice or white grape juice.

After simmering, use a slotted spoon to transfer the pear slices from the pot to the jars, then top them off with the hot syrup from the simmering pot or with heated apple juice or white grape juice. All of those choices sound good, don't they?

After running a plastic knife along the sides of each jar to dislodge bubbles, add more liquid if necessary, leaving a half-inch of headspace (the air space between the top of the fruit and the beginning of the threads of the jar).

Wipe the jar rims with a damp cloth to remove any syrup or fruit that could prevent the lid from sealing,

Then add the canning lids and bands. Tighten the bands finger-tight.

Immerse the jars in the water bath canner using canning tongs. Add enough hot water to the canner so there is 1" to 2" of water above the tops of the jars, and turn up the heat under the canner.

Once the water begins to boil, add the canner lid and set the timer. If you live at sea level, process pint jars for 20 minutes, quarts for 25 minutes. If you live more than 1,000 feet above sea level like I do, add an additional 5 minutes of processing time.

When the time is up, turn off the burner and let the canner cool off naturally. When the contents are cool, use canning tongs to remove the jars from the canner and place on a towel-covered surface where they can rest undisturbed for 24 hours.

The jars will begin to "ping" as they cool, signalling that the jars have sealed. Press lightly on the tops to check the seal; if the lid gives to pressure and wiggles up and down, the jar didn't seal correctly and you'll need to refrigerate the contents and eat within a week, or reprocess the contents in a new jar with a new lid.

Click here for more canning tips and some ideas for frugal canning.

Caramel pear jam, the most decadent jam on the planet!

I kept half a dozen pears aside to make Spiced Caramel Pear Jam (in the photo above) and put 2 gallon-size Ziploc bags of the peels and cores into the freezer for jelly-making later, or I might use them to make vinegar. (Snag my ebook "How to Make Vinegar from Scratch" for free.)

That Spiced Caramel Pear Jam is delicious in these jam bars, too. Just sayin' but you really should make some!

This post contains affiliate links. Read my disclosure here.

How to can pears in a water bath canner.

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