Those cute little-canned mandarin oranges were a staple in my grandmothers holiday cooking. She’d use them pretty up a fruit salad or decorate the edge of a platter. I’d spend my time trying to sneak in under her and steal a tiny slice for myself. Now that I have my own little orange thieves underfoot, I’m canning oranges of my own.
Oranges are a high acid food, and they’re perfectly safe for water bath canning. This applies to all types of oranges including navel oranges, mandarins, clementines, and tangerines. The California oranges of my childhood are slightly more acidic than Florida varieties, but they’re all well below a safe canning pH of 4.6.
Preparing Oranges for Canning
Oranges can be canned whole or in segments. Segments tend to work better for larger navel oranges, but smaller clementines are perfect for canning whole. Regardless of whether you can oranges whole or in segments, they obviously need to be peeled. Remove as much of the white pith as possible, while avoiding puncturing the segment membranes. If you cut into the segments the juice will run into the canning syrup, and they’ll lose flavor that way.
For canning whole oranges, it helps to remove the pith from the center of the orange as well as the big hunk of pith that tends to sit at the flower or navel end of oranges. It can be tricky to remove it without breaking the orange into segments, but if you take a finger and gently slide it through the center of the orange the navel end pith and the stringy interior pith will all come out together.
Creating space in the center or the orange is also helpful to allow the syrup to penetrate into the center of the fruit. For orange segments, simply remove as much pith as possible and break the fruits into individual pieces.
How to Can Oranges
Oranges are usually canned “raw pack” which means that the fruit is packed into the jar without any pre-cooking. A boiling hot syrup is poured over the top before the jars are sealed and processed in a water bath canner. When canning oranges, choosing the liquid is completely up to you. Straight water is fine from a safety perspective, but it’ll wash out the oranges and leave them flavorless.
It’s generally recommended that you can oranges in a very light, light or medium sugar syrup. Sugar and water measurements for different canning syrups can be found here. An extra light syrup approximates the amount of natural sugar in the fruit and will help them keep their flavor and sweetness without adding extra. Dissolve sugar in water and bring it to a rolling boil before pouring it over oranges packed in canning jars.
It takes about 2 pounds of orange slices to fill a quart canning jar, and roughly 3/4 of a pound fits in a pint canning jar. For whole oranges, I can fit about 10 clementines in a quart canning jar. That works out to roughly 1 1/2 pounds of whole oranges per quart. Pack the oranges tightly, as they’ll shrink a bit during canning.
Oranges require 1/2 inch headspace. Both pints and quarts are canned for 10 minutes below 1000 feet in elevation, or 15 minutes up to 6000 feet in elevation.
Oranges are easy to can at home using a simple water bath canner.
- 15 lbs oranges peeled and membranes removed
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 10 1/2 cups water
Peel the oranges and remove as much white membrane as possible. Divide oranges into sections, or leave very small clementines and tangerines whole if desired.
Pack oranges tightly into canning jars, leaving at least 1/2 inch headspace.
Bring water and sugar to a boil in a saucepan and stir to dissolve sugar.
Pour boiling sugar syrup over oranges, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Seal with 2 part canning lids.
Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes below 1000 feet (both pints and quarts). Increase time to 15 minutes for 1000 to 6000 feet in elevation.
Recipe yields a full canner bath of 7 quarts, canned in extra light syrup. Significantly fewer oranges are needed for canning whole oranges.
Canning Oranges ~ Variations
- The Ball Complete Book of Home Canning suggests canning oranges in a spiced honey syrup, made by dissolving honey in water and simmering it with whole spices such as cinnamon.
- Preserve It! has a tasty recipe for canning oranges in a caramel syrup. The sugar is first cooked into a light caramel syrup before more water is added to make the canning syrup.