Floating Fruit in Home Canning: What causes fruit, like peaches, to float in jar of canned fruit or jams?

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There are a variety of reasons why fruit floats:

  • Overripe fruit - the acid and pectin content is lower. Pectin helps hold fruit in suspension.
  • Over-processing destroys some of the pectin.
  • too much sugar (it's the density or fruit v. solution, fruit is lighter than the syrup ) - Using a heavy syrup (a medium or light syrup is recommended).
  • Packing fruit too loosely in the jar. If jars are packed too loosely or if air remains in the tissues of the fruit after processing. Pack the fruit tightly in jars without crushing it.

It can also be due to the canning method - raw v. hot packing. Raw-packing is the practice of filling jars tightly with freshly prepared, but unheated food. Such foods, especially fruit, will float in the jars. The entrapped air in and around the food may cause floating and discoloration within 2 to 3 months of storage. Raw-packing is more suitable for vegetables processed in a pressure canner. Hot-packing is the practice of heating freshly prepared food to boiling, simmering it 2 to 5 minutes, and promptly filling jars loosely with the boiled food. Whether food has been hot-packed or raw-packed, the juice, syrup, or water to be added to the foods should also be heated to boiling before adding it to the jars. This practice helps to remove air from food tissues, shrinks food, helps keep the food from floating in the jars, increases vacuum in sealed jars, and improves shelf life. Preshrinking food permits filling more food into each jar. Hot-packing is the best way to remove air and is the preferred pack style for foods processed in a boiling-water canner. At first, the color of hot-packed foods may appear no better than that of raw-packed foods, but within a short storage period, both color and flavor of hot-packed foods will be superior.

Here are some ways to help prevent fruit floating:

  • Pack fruit solidly into the jar, as closely as possible without crushing.
  • Use firm, ripe fruit for canning.
  • Heat fruit before packing (Hot packing, rather than cold or raw packing).  See this page for more information about hot packing.
  • Use light to medium syrups instead of a heavy syrup. If you are canning without a sugar syrup, the fruit should be firm and just ripe. Pack raw fruit firmly into the jar and cover with boiling water or unsweetened fruit juice. For hot-packed fruit, heat the fruit in water or unsweetened apple juice; then pack the hot fruit and syrup into the clean jars.
Note that any portions of fruit that are above the liquid in the jar will darken over time (surface oxidation), but these portions are still safe.  Because they are visually unappealing, some people just cut the dark sections off and discard them.


 


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