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Preparing and using syrups for preserving fruits

A pot of syrup for canning cooking on stove.

Liquids used to can fruit

Fruits may be canned in water, juice or a sweet syrup. The sweet syrup doesn't preserve the fruit but helps the fruit maintain its shape, color and flavor. Commercial unsweetened apple juice, pineapple juice or white grape juice make good canning liquids. These may be used directly or diluted with water. Juice can also be extracted from some of the fruit that is being canned or from fresh apples, pineapple or white grapes. To extract the juice crush ripe, unbruised fruit. Heat to simmering over low heat. Strain through cheesecloth or a jelly bag.

Preparing and using syrups

The following guidelines for preparing and using syrups offer a new “very light” syrup, which approximates the natural sugar content of many fruits. The sugar content in each of the five syrups is increased by about 10 percent. The lighter the syrup, the fewer the calories it contains. Quantities of water and sugar make enough syrup for a canner load of pints or quarts. They are included for each syrup type.

Many fruits that are typically packed in heavy syrup are excellent and tasteful products when packed in lighter syrups. It's recommended that lighter syrups be tried, since they contain fewer calories from added sugar.


  1. Heat water and sugar together.
  2. Bring to a boil and pour over raw fruits in jars.
  3. For hot packs: Bring water and sugar to boil, add fruit, reheat to boil and fill into jars immediately.
  4. See canning quick reference chart for processing times.

Other sweeteners

Light corn syrups or mild-flavored honey may be used to replace up to half the table sugar called for in syrups. Artificial sweeteners should be added just before serving the fruit. Saccharin-based sweeteners can become bitter and aspartame-based sweeteners may lose their sweetening power during processing.

Guidelines for making different types of syrups for canning

Syrup type % sugar (approx.) Cups water (for 9 pt. or 4 qt. load) Cups sugar (for 9 pt. or 4 qt. load) Cups water (for 7 qt. load) Cups sugar (for 7 qt. load) Fruits commonly packing in syrup
Very light 10 6 1/2 3/4 10 1/2 1 1/4 Very sweet fruits
Light 20 5 3/4 1 1/2 9 2 1/4 Sweet fruits
Medium 30 5 1/4 2 1/4 8 1/4 3 3/4 Sweet apples, sweet cherries, berries
Heavy 40 5 3 1/4 7 3/4 5 1/4 Tart apples, apricots, sour cherries, gooseberries, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums
Very heavy 50 4 1/4 4 1/4 6 1/2 6 3/4 Very sour fruits

William Schafer, emeritus Extension specialist and Suzanne Driessen, Extension educator

Reviewed in 2021

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