During summer, preserving fruit is a great idea so we can enjoy it all year long. We can enjoy cheaper prices because we buy in bulk and in season, and preserve higher quality fruits than we find in the grocery store later.
Here is a quick list of what fruits you can find locally in Maryland, as well as what the best methods are for preserving each one. Depending on the fruit, you may want to choose one method over the other.
When preserving fruit, apples are the easiest to work with. They keep very well fresh all winter if you can provide the right conditions and buy the right varieties.
Apples are a fall fruit, just coming into season now in August. Early apples don’t keep as well as later apples.
Apples are a very versatile fruit. You can store them fresh, you can freeze them for baked goods and smoothies later, and you can can them as applesauce and apple butter.
Dried apples are a tasty treat that are easy to make in your dehydrator or oven. Apple chips can be eaten as is, or rehydrated to be used in baked goods later.
Apples make cider and vinegar as well. And honestly, they are so easy to store year round as fresh, that you may see them at the winter farmers markets.
Apricots and Plums
Apricots and plums are soft stone fruits, and they don’t keep fresh for long. If you don’t dry or can them, you won’t be able to enjoy local apricots or plums outside of their season.
Fortunately, apricots and plums freeze and dry well. Add frozen fruit to smoothies, or make fruit leather with them later. Dry your fruits and chop them for granola, trail mix, or healthy snack options.
Can your apricots and plums as jam, or whole or halves.
Blackberries and Raspberries
Blackberries and raspberries are expensive because they are so delicate. If you find yourself with a large amount of berries, find a way to preserve them before they go bad! Preserving fruits like berries are easy.
Though it is possible to can blackberries and raspberries, most make jam with them instead. You can sieve jam for seedless, or keep the seeds.
By far the easiest option is freezing the berries, by washing them and putting them in a single layer on a baking sheet and freezing. Take frozen berries and store in a bag or container.
You can dry berries or make fruit leather with them for a delicious treat later.
Blueberries are easy to find in quantity at a pick your own farm or your own garden. They are delicious, native to Maryland, and worth preserving for later.
Some say canned blueberries are better than frozen. Your blueberries can be canned with or without sugar.
Frozen blueberries should be prepped like blackberries and raspberries, then used later as snacks, in smoothies, and in baked goods.
Blueberry jam is another delicious way to save blueberry flavor for a cold winter day. Try drying your blueberries and making fruit leather as well!
Cherries can be treated much as smaller berries. They have a pit, which means extra work. You can buy single cherry pitters or multi ones, depending on how often you want to preserve cherries. Try using a chopstick or metal straw as well.
Once pitted, preserving fruit like cherries means freezing, canning or drying them. Canned cherries can be made with sugar syrup or simply water if you prefer. Cherry jam is also a delicious treat.
Freeze your cherries whole or in halves on a baking sheet, then save them in containers for later. You can dry cherries whole or in halves as well, or make fruit leather with them.
If you have ever bought fresh cranberries, you know they bear little resemblance to canned cranberry sauce. They aren’t sweet at all! They are so acidic they can be canned without sugar, though you’ll probably want to add some to improve taste and preserve color and texture.
The easiest way to preserve cranberries is by freezing them on a sheet pan and transferring to a container later, awaiting a further recipe to sweeten them.
You may can your cranberries whole or as sauce for later. Cranberry jam is a favorite as well.
The great thing about drying your own cranberries is that you can adjust the sweetness. I love dried cranberries, but commercially made ones are too sweet for me. You’ll want to cook and add some sweetener before drying cranberries.
Grapes can be treated as berries, and be frozen, canned, and dried into raisins. You can also make grape juice, grape vinegar, or make them into wine.
Grape jelly is made from grape juice. You can make your own grape juice by cooking, mashing, and straining your grapes. That juice, with sugar and pectin, can be used to make grape jelly.
It’s possible to can grapes as well as grape juice. Take the fruit scraps leftover from making juice and puree, sweeten to taste, and make into grape fruit leather!
Preserving fruit like melon, cantaloupe or watermelon is not as commonplace as other fruits. They are great fresh, but rarely cooked.
You can freeze melons with or without syrup. Freeze cut up pieces in a container and pour syrup (or not) over them and freeze for later use in smoothies.
Canning melon straight is not recommended, as melons don’t have enough acid for water bath canning and won’t hold up to pressure canning. You can pickle melons or make jams with them, then water bath can them.
Try making watermelon rind pickles out of your leftover watermelon rinds as a treat!
Drying your melons is a way to keep a sweet, tasty snack available year round, one that you won’t find easily in the grocery store. I’ve heard dried cantaloupe slices taste a lot like dried mango.
Peaches and Nectarines
Peaches are my favorite. I love them fresh, I love them canned, dried, and frozen. I especially love peach cobbler with homemade vanilla ice cream!
When canning peaches, stick to the yellow ones. Some white peaches are low in acid, meaning they cannot be safely water bath canned. I like yellow ones better, personally.
Buy freestone peaches, and then let them sit for a day or two. They will soften and often become easy to peel without having to dip them in boiling water first. When you are ready to can, freeze, or dry them, your work is much easier when they separate from the pit and the skins peel off.
Try canning peaches in pieces with or without syrup. You can also find delicious peach jam recipes out there to can as well.
Freeze peaches after slicing them. You can mash them all in a bag or container together, or freeze them like berries on a tray, so that later you can easily separate the pieces.
Dry your peaches in slices or in halves in a dehydrator or your oven. After they are dry, condition your peaches by storing in jars and shaking a few times a day for a week to redistribute residual moisture.
Strawberries don’t last long, but they can be preserved so easily. You can freeze, dry, and can them so you can enjoy them all winter long.
Can your strawberries in pieces (or whole if small enough), or as jam. You can water bath can them, and they will be great to use in baking or in yogurt.
Freeze your strawberries whole, cut up if needed, or in slices on a tray first. Take frozen pieces and store in a container so you can easily pull out exactly how much you need. If you want, you can freeze them mashed together in portions for later baking recipes.
You can dry strawberries in pieces for a delicious snack later, or as fruit leather. Try mixing strawberries into a fruit smoothie and drying it as well.
You may grow or buy more unusual fruits in Maryland. Fruits like currants, gooseberries, elderberries, and rhubarb, can all be preserved as well.
In general, if you have unusual berries, you can treat them as regular berries. Look for guidance on canning, freezing, and drying them.
Rhubarb, a vegetable that is used like a fruit, can be water bath canned as jams or as is. Freezing it is easy to do as well. You can use dried rhubarb in sauces, in baking, and as a snack.
If you are interested in canning, it helps to can a lot at once. A standard water bath canner makes seven quarts, after all. Talk with your farmer, visit a pick your own farm, or visit a farmstand for larger amounts of fruit.
If you don’t have enough for a full canner, you might want to freeze your fruit until you do. Freezing a tray at a time is easy with smaller amounts of fruit, and then you can mix up your fruits or collect enough of one type to can them.
Dehydrating isn’t dependent on having all the same type of fruit, but it is best to dry a full load when you do run a dehydrator. Pulling out previously frozen fruit and pureeing it into fruit leather or drying pieces works well.
If you want to start preserving your local fruit, try buying twice what you normally buy, and freezing it until you have enough to can or dry. Freezing takes little time and equipment, and can get you started on a journey of eating local seasonal fruit all year long.