Always in season, canned fruit is a reliable stockroom staple
Canned fruit is ubiquitous in foodservice, and for good reason.
Always available, canned fruit can be served right out of the can, or used as an ingredient in recipes. It is also attractive to operators for several other reasons; it’s an affordable, shelf-stable, versatile product that requires zero labor, is uniform in quality and is always available. Canned fruits often cost less than competing products, especially fresh produce,making them especially attractive when prices skyrocket on certain produce items.
Let’s take a closer look at what you need to know when buying canned fruit.
GradesThe USDA has developed grade standards for most processed products today.These standards represent the minimum quality requirements that processed foods, such as canned fruits,must meet to be graded and sold on the market.Most canned fruits are available in Grades B (Choice) & C (standard) except for Fruit for Salad, which is available in Grade A and B.
There are many factors used to determine grade, depending on the nature of the item. However, key criteria are color, character, uniformity of size and absence of defects.
Color: Depending on the product and its grade level, color tolerance varies, but generally, canned fruit should have a bright and uniform color. If a fruit has a slightly dull color, it may be because it was recently packed. Light colored fruits, like pears, are packed in cans with plain tinplate body interiors. The product exposure to tin serves to keep the color of the fruit bright. If you open a can of pears and the color of the fruit is slightly dull, it only means that the fruit was packed a little less than one month ago.
Character: refers to the maturity, ripeness, tenderness and overall texture of the fruit. Canned fruit should be free of peel coverings.
Uniformity of size: Fruit pieces should be uniform in size and shape.
Absence of defects: Because fruit is grown in trees and fields and be cause such a great volume of it is canned every day, an occasional stem or stone sometimes slips through. It is virtually impossible to eliminate these and other “natural” defects. Because of this inevitability, the USDA allows for a certain number of such defects in its grading standards.
Most canned fruit is available in several packing mediums including water, juice and light or heavy syrup. The syrup consists of water, sugar and corn sweetener. Some packers use a proprietary sweetening blend that helps fruit retain more of its natural color.
Remember, a top grade product is not necessarily the best product. Depending on the application, a lowergrade product may be a better choice. Both controlled label and national brand packers specify their own specific grade standards for products. These standards often exceed the federal minimum standards.
Canned fruit experts say that the true key to the final product’s flavor and texture is not so much the fruit’s variety, but when that fruit was harvest ed and how it was handled and stored before canning. Pears are the exception, however, since they are harvested at an immature stage and then held under temperature- and humidity-controlled conditions until needed. They are then transported to the cannery where the final ripening takes place.
Canned fruits are generally packed at the peak of the season. However, the overall quality of any particular year’s pack is dependent upon weather-related variables, so there may be year-to-year variations in product quality and color.
Canned PearsConfiguration: Pears are available in halved, sliced, diced and chunks. Halves are available in four sizes (number of halves per can): 25-30, 30-35, 35-40, 40-50. Varieties: Bartlett (preferred for its shape and character) Yield: 24 (1⁄2 cup) servings of fruit and liquid.
Canned PeachesConfiguration: Available in halves, slices, diced and chunked. Peach halves come in four sizes (number of halves per can): 25-30, 30-35, 35-40, 40-50. Varieties: Cling (predominate), Elberta Yield: 24 (1⁄2 cup) servings of fruit and liquid
Fruit MixesThis category of canned fruit includes fruit cocktail, mixed fruit, chunky mixed fruit and fruit for salad. Most canned fruit is sold in #10 cans.
Fruit cocktail: cling peaches (30-50%), pear dices (25-45%), whole seedless grapes (6-20%), pineapple sections (6- 16%) and cherry halves (artifically colored, 2-6%). Fruit pieces should be bright in color and uniform in size. Overall color balance is a quick indicator of proper ingredient proportions. For example, with too few peaches, the color will tend to be overly white.
Mixed fruit: includes cling peach dices, pear dices and whole seedless grapes. (The percentage of fruit varies depending upon the supplier.)
Chunky mixed fruit: cling peach chunks (23-46%), pear chunks (19-38%), whole seedless grapes (6-12%), pineapple sections (8-16%) and cherry halves (3-8%).
Fruit for salad: Cling peaches or slices (23-46%), pear slices or quarters (19-38%), apricot halves or quarters (optional, if present 15-30%), pineapple sections (8-16%), maraschino cherries (3-8%) and/or seedless grapes (6-12%).