Canning Asian pears is a bit different than putting up European pear varieties. While European pears are high acid fruits with soft flesh, Asian pears are crisp low acid fruits that need added lemon juice for safe canning.
Right out of college I was working at a non-profit that specialized in agriculture advocacy, and I found myself tabling at an expo on local food. The woman next to me was from a local orchard, and she was handing out samples of locally grown Asian pears (no small feat of work here in our harsh climate in Vermont).
The weather that day turned bad, and turnout was much less than expected…which meant she had several cases of Asian pears left when the event ended. She offered them to me, and I eagerly accepted…but now I had a problem. Asian pears don’t keep well, and though I ate all I could manage on the long drive home, I still had quite the haul to preserve.
Some quick googling and I learned, much to my dismay, that Asian pears are not quite acidic enough to safely can on their own. At that point in time, around 2008, the conventional wisdom was that you could not can Asian pears because there was no tested recipe approved by the national center for food preservation. A decade before that they had been considered just fine for canning, alongside regular pears.
In 2015, the Oregon State Extension tested a recipe for canning Asian pears and concluded that they are in fact safe for water bath canning, so long as you add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice per pint or 2 tablespoons per quart.
It’s interesting how canning regulations seem to go back and forth, with best practices shifting from one decade to the next. It’s not just with pears. Mangoes, for example, used to be approved for home canning. The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving (2006) includes a recipe for canning mangoes, but now the conventional wisdom is that they’re unsafe for canning. Since they’re only just barely low acid, I imagine in a few years that will be reversed again, as new tested recipes come out, likely involving the addition of just a bit of lemon juice similar to canning Asian pears.
Just one more reason to always check a few sources when you’re looking for a canning recipe, so you have the most up to date information available.
How to Can Asian Pears
The first step to canning Asian pears is peeling and coring. They peel easy enough with a sharp paring knife, and I’ve found the best way to remove the core is to use a small metal teaspoon measuring spoon (or melon baller). That pulls out all the hard internal core portion in the center, leaving more fruit than coring with a knife.
Asian pears tend to brown very quickly, faster than just about any other fruit I’ve canned. It’s important to get them treated with lemon juice quickly, just as soon as you get the core out. I peel them and core them one at a time, getting each pear half into a bowl of water with a bit of lemon juice added just as soon as the core is removed.
Once they’re peeled and cored, you have two options for canning. Asian pears can be raw packed into jars as they are, or they can be hot packed. Raw packing means you can work with the pears more easily to fit them into the jar, but it has consequences for quality. Raw packed Asian pears don’t store as well, will float in the jar and will discolor over time. They also don’t work well for canning without sugar (if that’s your preference.)
For a raw pack, simply pack the peeled and cored Asian pears into either quart or pint canning jars, leaving 1-inch headspace.
Hot pack store much better and maintain better quality, but you have to pack them into jars hot, which can be tough on the fingers. I’ve found that using the long end of a wooden spoon into the jar helps position them, and then I can pack the Asian pears into canning jars efficiently without burning my hands.
For hot pack, bring the Asian pear pieces to a boil in a pan along with your canning liquid. This can be water, juice or syrup (extra light to medium). Cook the pear pieces for about 5 minutes, so they’re still firm but hot all the way through.
Strain the pears out of the juice and hot pack them into prepared canning jars, leaving 1 inch headspace.
Regardless of whether you’re raw packing or hot packing, canning in juice, water or syrup, you need to add lemon juice to acidify the canning liquid for safe canning. Adding lemon juice is not optional, though it does have the added side effect of helping maintain flavor during canning.
Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice to each pint canning jar, and 2 tablespoons for a quart jar.
For both raw and hot pack, once you’ve added lemon juice to each jar, it’s time to pour boiling canning liquid into the jars to fill. The canning liquid is completely up to you, and they can be packed in plain water, juice (apple or pear) or syrup of your choice. I generally use extra light syrup because it roughly approximates the natural sweetness of the fruit.
For a guide on sugar to water ratios, here’s a table with quantities of sugar to make various strengths of canning syrups, from extra light to extra heavy syrup.
Pour the hot syrup into the jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. (Note: You left 1 inch of headspace above the whole pear chunks, but now you’re filling with canning liquid and leaving only 1/2 inch headspace.)
Remove air bubbles, adjust headspace, wipe rims and process the jars in a prepared water bath canner for 20 minutes for pints or 25 minutes for quarts.
Once the Asian pears are canned, they can be used in much the same way as any canned pears. The trick is, they’ll have their own flavor of course, but they’ll also stay firmer in baked goods. I really love using canned Asian pear halves to make a version of this NY Times Plum Torte. The pears work out really wonderfully in place of the plums.
Though they're a low-acid food, Asian pears are safe for home water bath canning, provided you add lemon juice to the canning liquid.
- Asian Pears
- Canning Liquid (Water, Syrup or Juice)
- Lemon Juice (1 Tbsp per Pint)
- Prepare a water bath canner and canning jars (pints or quarts).
- Peel and core pears, and slice or leave as pear halves. Put the pear pieces into water with a bit of lemon juice to prevent browning.
- Prepare canning liquid of your choice (water, apple juice, pear juice, white grape juice or sugar syrup). Bring the pear pieces to a boil in the canning liquid and cook for 5 minutes.
- Hot pack the pear pieces into canning jars leaving 1 inch headspace, and add 1 tablespoon lemon juice to pints (or 2 tbsp for quart jars).
- Pour boiling canning liquid over the top of the pears, this time leaving only 1/2 inch headspace.
- De-bubble jars, adjust headspace, wipe rims, apply 2 part canning lids and process in a water bath canner. (20 minutes for pints, and 25 minutes for quarts).
A canner load of 7 quarts requires 17 to 19 pounds of asian pears, while a canner load of 9 pints requires 11 to 13 pounds of fruit.
I prefer to can Asian pears in extra light syrup, and I make a syrup with 10 1/2 cups of water to 1 1/4 cups sugar for a canner load of 7 quarts.
More Canning Recipes
Looking for more fall canning recipes? Here are a few to keep you going: