Canning Basics: Syrup Options for Canning Fruit


All fruits need some sort of liquid to be added to fill in the space in the jars between the chunks of fruit. There are many options to fit this requirement and we can make our choices based on personal tastes and still get very good results.

Canned in Water- Using straight water to can fruit is the least desirable option. Fruit canned in water, is frankly, watery as nearly all fruit will absorb pure water and end up tasteless and mushy. If you truly do not want to add any sweetener, take the extra step and can in juice made from the fruit you are canning.

Canned in Homemade Juice- Mash a sufficient quantity of fruit to make 2 quarts of mash. The very ripest fruit, peels and cores from the rest of the fruit is fine for this. Add a small amount of water and place together in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes at medium heat. Mash the fruit to a smooth consistency. Pour cooked mash into a colander lined with cheese cloth and allow the clear juice to drain. Use this juice as the syrup for canning your other fruit. The remaining mash can be placed in a food processor until smooth and used as an addition to yogurt or smoothies or oven dried into fruit leather as desired.

Canned in Fruit Juice-Commercial apple and white grape juice are excellent syrups for home canning. Use bottled juices to approximate a "Light Syrup". Use frozen concentrates to make sweeter syrups. A mixture of frozen concentrate with an equal measure of water will approximate a "Medium Syrup". Frozen concentrate, thawed and used at full strength will approximate "Heavy Syrup". For even more flavor, commercial pear, peach and pineapple juices can be used.

Canned in Sugar Syrup- This is the traditional syrup for home canned fruit and is usually the least expensive option. Make syrup by measuring out the amounts of sugar and water and bring them to a boil. Extra syrup may be stored in jars in the fridge for 6 months or more or may be canned for future use by processing in a water bath canner for 10 minutes and storing in the pantry.

  • Very Light: 10% sugar approximates the natural sugar levels of most fruit while adding the fewest calories. This level of sugar is acceptable to people who are accustom to a low sugar diet. Formula is 6.5 cups of water to 3/4 cup of white granulated sugar.
  • Light: 20% sugar is for very sweet fruits like mangoes or papaya. Try a small batch to make sure this is going to be sweet enough for your taste. Formula is 5.75 cups of water to 1.5 cups of white granulated sugar.
  • Medium: 30% sugar is the standard for most home canned fruits and approximates the sweetness of commercially canned peaches and pears. Formula is 5.25 cups of water to 2.25 cups of white granulated sugar.
  • Heavy: 40% sugar is used for certain application such as gooseberries, sour pie cherries, and other very tart fruits. Formula is 5 cups of water to 3.25 cups of white granulated sugar.
Note- Medium and Heavy syrups will seem like a lot of sugar to most new canners, but remember that only a small amount of the syrup is used for each jar of fruit. For example, a full jar of peach slices will typically only need 1/4-1/2 cup of syrup and the fruit may be drained before being eaten. Personally, I drain fruits to eat at breakfast or as a light dessert and use the juice to sweeten a half gallon of sweet tea or lemonade--2 treats from each jar.

Canned with Honey or Agave: Both honey and agave are about the same amount of sweetness as sugar *by weight*. A small adjustment in measuring is needed to prevent over-sweetening. Keep in mind that both agave and honey will add their own flavor to the canned product so start with small batches to make sure that the flavor is going to meet your taste preferences.
  • Very Light: 10% sugar approximates the natural sugar levels of most fruit while adding the fewest calories. This level of sugar is acceptable to people who are accustom to a low sugar diet. Formula is 6.5 cups of water to 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons of Honey or Agave.
  • Light: 20% sugar is for very sweet fruits like mangoes or papaya. Try a small batch to make sure this is going to be sweet enough for your taste. Formula is 5.75 cups of water to 1.25 cups of Honey or Agave.
  • Medium: 30% sugar is the standard for most home canned fruits and approximates the sweetness of commercially canned peaches and pears. Formula is 5.25 cups of water to 2 cups of Honey or Agave.
  • Heavy: 40% sugar is used for certain application such as gooseberries, sour pie cherries, and other very tart fruits. Formula is 5 cups of water to 3 cups of Honey or Agave.
Canned with Stevia or Splenda: Since stevia and Splenda don't add any "body" to the consistency of the syrup, they are not recommended(see Canned in Water, above.)