Canning pears may seem like a daunting task, but it actually takes no special equipment beyond basic canning supplies and little bit of time. A bit of work in the kitchen when pears are on sale in the fall will mean your family can enjoy delicious pears all winter long. Here are step-by-step instructions for turning a case of fresh pears into jars of canned pears for your pantry.
1. Sanitize the jars.
This can be done either by placing the jars in a dishwasher (on a hot cycle) or by boiling the jars for ten minutes. Leave the jars in the hot dishwasher until you are ready to use them or boil them right before you want to fill them. Just before you fill the jars with pears and syrup (see step 2), place the lids in a small pot, cover with boiling water, and allow them to simmer for about five minutes before placing on jars (see step 5).
2. Prepare the syrup.
A light sugar syrup is used when canning pears to help improve the flavour of the fruit. Stir two cups of white sugar into six cups of water in a large pot and heat over medium heat until sugar has dissolved. Turn stove down but keep syrup warm (just below boiling) until you are ready to add the pears (see step 4).
3. Wash and peel the pears, then remove the pits and stems.
This is the time-consuming part of the task. Pears should be ripe (yellow) and soft, just the way you would want to eat them. Bartlett pears are excellent for canning. Pear peels become tough and stringy when canned, so for soft, delicious canned pears, remove the peels. Place peeled, cored pears in a bowl of water with a generous splash of lemon juice (to prevent browning).
4. Heat the pears in the syrup.
Use a slotted spoon to lift the peeled, cored pears from the lemon water and place them in the hot syrup on the stove. Keep the pears just below a boil for five minutes in the syrup. This is called hot packing and makes it easier to place the fruit in jars. While the pears are heating in the syrup, fill your largest soup pot with water and bring to a boil. This pot should be at least as tall as your jars; ideally, the pot will be large enough that the jars can be covered with an inch of boiling water while processing (see step 6).
5. Fill the jars.
Use the slotted spoon to transfer the pears from the syrup to the sanitized jars. If you have a wide-mouth funnel, this makes it easier to fill the jars; otherwise, just carefully slide the pears one at a time into the jar. Then use a ladle to pour syrup over the pears. The syrup should cover the pears, but leave half an inch of space at the top of the jars.
Run a knife around inside the jars to remove trapped air bubbles. Wipe the rim of the jars and use a set of tongs to lift the lids from the boiling water and place them on the jars. Screw lids on tightly.
6. Process the jars.
Place the sealed jars of pears into the large pot of boiling water. Keep the water at a rolling boil for 25 minutes. Then use tongs or oven mitts to lift jars from water and place on a cutting board or trivet to cool. As jars cool, the lids will “pop” to seal. After ten or fifteen minutes, all the lids should be “down” or sealed. If any jars do not seal properly, place them in the fridge and eat soon. Label the sealed jars and place them in your pantry. Enjoy!
Hints and Tips:
- One 7 litre/9 pound box of pears will yield roughly six or seven 500 ml jars of pears.
- Processing six jars of pears took me about two hours from start to finish, but much of that time was spent waiting for water to boil or pears to process; I also made lunch, emptied the dishwasher, etc.
- Involve your children. I grew up helping my mother can pears. She gave my brothers and I each a small paring knife and a box of pears, and we all sat around the kitchen table peeling pears. My brother and I enjoyed eating all the pear peelings we could stomach, Mom got help with her canning, and we all got to spend some time together.
- If canning pears still seems like a big task, start small. For my first batch, I processed about a dozen pears and got two 500 ml jars. It took me less time than I expected and gave me the courage to try bigger batches.
Be sure to check out the Food Preservation Master Index which has over a dozen home canning recipes.