Before one can distinguish the relative values of market grades of canned goods, it is necessary to know how these are determined by the packer. For fruits and vegetables the lines of quality determination are much the same and as follows:
Naturally the fruits and vegetables produced in sections where expert gardening or fruit-raising prevails and which naturally favor such crops, will be superior in quality. Of the most common and widely used, those grown in the northern states are superior in texture and flavor to those grown in the South, and because of the firmer texture "stand up" better in packing.
The larger the fruit, provided it is uniform and good in other respects, the higher it will be graded. The smaller vegetables are graded highest, since they are generally younger and tenderer, juicier, and sweeter.
Flavor is an important factor to the consumer, but does not take precedence of size, texture, and color in grading either fruits or vegetables, because the buyer is generally influenced by the handsome appearance of fruits or the delicate appearance of immature vegetables which may be quite lacking in flavor. The public's preference is taken into consideration, and fine-flavored products, not notable for size or color, may be graded lower than those of pleasing appearance and inferior flavor. A striking illustration of this is found in the preference for very small peas which consist principally of skins, water, and a little sugar. Because of public preference, these are graded higher than the larger peas of rich flavor and higher nutritive value.
'Fine texture is a characteristic of high-grade fruits and vegetables. Tough peas and beans, fibrous okra and asparagus are graded low.
The natural color of the product when at its best is the standard of the high-grade pack. Unfortunately, the attempt to emulate nature has been overdone by some packers to the point where most of the public have come to regard copper-greened peas and beans as superior to those of nature's green. Now that the law requires that the facts regarding the use of coloring matter be stated on the package, the public is in a position to choose between the natural and the artificial, the safe and the possibly harmful. Fortunately, it is the fancy grades of vegetables which receive the copper treatment, such as the very small peas and beans in which the nutritive value is low and the price prohibitively high to the average buyer. Even when the natural color of the vegetable after cooking is the standard sought, grading of the product is still done on color lines. Peas that have an occasional yellow one in the lot are graded lower than those uniformly green, while if many are yellowish the lot is graded lower still. String beans containing an occasional brown or rusty pod are graded lower than those uniformly green.
The fruit or vegetable of suitable size which is sufficiently perfect - free from bruise and spots of decay - to can whole is of the highest grade, provided it grades high on other points. Those cut in halves grade next highest, such as peaches, apricots,pears, and apples, and those in slices next, such as sliced peaches. Smaller pieces, sometimes referred to as chips, grade lower yet. Pineapple slices afford the highest grade in that fruit, the chunks and cubes grading next and the chipped, grated, and crushed pineapple respectively lower.
Those fruits which are improved by peeling are left unpeeled only in the lowest grades. The same is true of pitting and coring, except when the fruit is handsome in appearance but unsound at the pit or core.
Fruits packed in water are of the lowest grade and generally known as "pie" fruit. Those packed in sirups are graded according to the density of the sirup, 35° to 40° sirup being used for preserves, such as strawberries, 30° to 34° for fancy peaches, plums and other fruit for table sauce; 25° to 28° for high-grade fruits for table sauce; 20° to 25° for a still less rich grade of table sauce, and 10° to 20° for very light sirup suitable only on sweet fruits or those to which more sugar will be added in preparation for the table. Juicy vegetables such as tomatoes are now by law required to be packed in their own juice. Other vegetables must be packed in as little water as is necessary to immerse them completely. A little salt and sugar are allowed in the liquid.