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Now that I’ve shown you a little bit about the basics of canning, we can now move on and talk about making jellies, jams, and preserves. If you missed my first two diaries, you can read the first dairy in this series here, in case you need some information on the basics of using a water bath canner. My second diary covered making pie filling, and canning things like fruit sauces, butters, and juice. Noddy also wrote a good diary on small batch canning that is definitely worth a read. If you can stand to read any more of my hack writing, I’ll try to share a little more of what I know.

There are probably as many recipes floating around for making jams, jellies and preserves as there are people who like to make them. Back when I was younger, we not only made jelly out of the fruits we had growing in our garden, we would also go out and pick wild blackberries from the vines that grew near the road that led up to our place. Sometimes we would go down and gather elderberries from the bushes near the creek, or go out in the woods and pick mayapples, which my mom would turn into a wonderful tasting jam. You can even make preserves and jelly out of stuff like green tomatoes and corncobs! I’ll share some of those recipes at the end of this diary.

Jams and preserves are generally made of crushed or diced up fruit. Jelly is made from fruit juice, while a marmalade is just a jelly that has little pieces of fruit suspended in it. The trick to making a good batch of jelly or jam is to strike the right balance between the acid in the jelly, the amount of sugar in the recipe, and pectin. Pectin is the substance in fruit that causes it to gel--it’s what products like Sure-gel are made out of. Some fruits, like apples and grapes, contain enough natural pectin to gel without the addition of extra pectin, though it’s easier to make jellies out of them if you add pectin to the recipe. Others, like strawberries, contain very little natural pectin--you have to either combine those kinds of fruits with other fruits, or use store-bought pectin to make them gel properly. In addition, you sometimes have to add a little lemon juice to jam and jelly recipes in order to get the acid balance just right.

Whether you use powdered pectin or liquid pectin is mostly a matter of personal preference--though there are a few recipes I’ve found that seem to turn out better with liquid pectin. Powdered pectin is generally less expensive than liquid pectin. In some instances, you might notice that when listing the amount of powdered pectin to use, I tell you to add a little bit more than what comes in a box--that is because I had a hard time getting the jelly to set in the past using the “standard” recipe, which usually only calls for one package of pectin.

The process for making jellies, jams, and preserves is essentially the same. The only difference is that with jelly, you’re going to extract the juice from the fruit. With jams and preserves, you’ll crush or chop up the fruit, and possibly run it through a food mill to get rid of any seeds or skins. The processing times are the same, as are the amount of headspace you leave in the jars. You can use either fresh or frozen fruit--though in my opinion, you’ll get better results if you use fresh fruit.

First, I’ll walk you through the process of making a simple batch of jelly. In order to extract the juice from the fruit, you usually have to crush it or chop it up--you can make quick work of crushing the fruit by running it through a blender. Oftentimes, you’ll need to cook the fruit a bit--the heat helps the fruit release more of it’s juice. Then you just strain the juice through a jelly bag, a strainer, or a piece of cheesecloth. You can also strain it through a coffee filter if you don’t have any of the above handy, or you want a really clear looking finished product. If you don’t want to go to the trouble of extracting the juice, you can use bottled juice or frozen juice from concentrate that has been reconstituted. Sometimes, you have to use a little more pectin if you are making jelly from ready-made juice.

Once you have extracted the juice from the fruit, it’s time to start cooking the jelly. It’s a good idea to have your canning jars, lids, and rings ready to go at this point, since you’ll need to fill the jars quickly once the jelly is done. At this point, you pour the juice into a big pot, and add the pectin, sugar, and any other ingredients that will go in the jelly, and start cooking. As soon the jelly starts to bubble, I pull the jars out of the boiling water I am using to sterilize them, and set up the area where I am going to fill them. This way, the jars will still be sterile when it’s time to use them.

You will need to keep stirring the jelly as it cooks, since it tends to stick pretty easily. You can tell it’s done when it “sheets” off a spoon that you have kept down in a bowl of cold water. Here’s an image of what jelly sheeting off a spoon should look like:

There are also other ways you can tell if the jelly is done. One way is to put a plate in the freezer, and let it get cold. Drop a few drops of jelly on the plate--if they gel, the jelly is done. You can also use a candy thermometer to tell whether or not the jelly is ready. At sea level, the jelly is done once it has reached 220 degrees. For every 1,000 feet of altitude above sea level, just subtract 2. Thus, if you are 1,000 feet above sea level, the jelly will need to reach 218 degrees, while at 4,000 feet, it will only need to reach 212 degrees.

As the jelly cooks, you might notice that it produces a lot of foam that rises to the top--you will want to skim this foam off as soon as the jelly is done cooking. Don’t worry about getting it all--you’ll end up overcooking the jelly. Just do the best you can with it. The foam doesn’t really affect the quality of the food--the jelly just looks nicer if you remove most of it.

Once you have removed the foam from the top of the jelly, it’s time to fill the jars. Quickly fill each jar, leaving about ¼ inch of headspace. Be careful, because splashes from the jelly are hot enough to easily blister your skin. It’s best to use a towel dipped in water as hot as you can stand to handle to clean the rims of the jars, since any jelly spills will be very sticky. Put on the lids and rings, and then process the jars.

Now, we’re going to stop for a minute, and talk about the difference between a hot, sterilized jar, and a hot, clean jar, since this determines how long you will need to process the finished product.  A hot, sterilized jar is one that you fill within just a few minutes after you’ve pulled it from the boiling water bath. A hot, clean jar is one that has sat on the countertop for 10 minutes or so, or one that you just pulled out of the dishwasher. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t trust a dishwasher to properly sterilize a jar. If you used hot, sterilized jars, you process them for 5 minutes. If you used hot, clean jars, you process the jelly for 10 minutes. If you’re not sure if your jars are sterile or clean, err on the side of caution.

If you are 1,000 feet or more above sea level, add 1 more minute for every thousand feet of altitude--thus, if you’re at an altitude of 5,000 feet, you would add an additional 5 minutes to the processing time. With that said, you should also be careful about over processing your jelly--over processing can cause the natural pectin in the jelly to break down, causing it to be runny. You have to especially be careful if you are canning something that is low in pectin, like strawberry or blueberry jam.

I usually make jelly in half-pint jars. Based upon my own experience, it seems that jams and jellies generally turn out better if they are processed in smaller jars.

Below are a few recipes for some commonly made jellies--plus my own recipe for watermelon jelly:

Apple Jelly

Makes about 8 or 9 half-pint jars

About 6 lbs. apples, or 6 cups prepared apple juice
7 cups sugar
1 box powdered pectin

If you’re using fresh apples, core them and slice them up. You don’t need to peel them unless you want to. Put them in a large kettle with about one inch of water in the bottom. Cook them until they are soft. Strain the apples in a colander lined with cheesecloth. Measure out 6 cups of juice, and pour it into a kettle.  Mix the pectin with about 2 cups of the sugar, and stir it into the juice. Cook the jelly over medium high heat, stirring constantly, until it reaches a hard boil. Stir in the rest of the sugar, and let the jelly return to a hard boil. Cook it for 1 minute. Test the jelly to see if it is done, by checking to see if it will sheet off a spoon, or use any of the other methods I mentioned above. If it’s not done, cook it for 1 minute more, and test it again. If it’s still not done, keep cooking and testing it once every minute until it is finished--it shouldn’t take longer than a few minutes more. Once the jelly is done, skim off the foam, and pour it into hot, sterilized jars, leaving ¼ inch of headspace. Clean the rims of the jars, put on the lids and rings, and process for 5 minutes, making adjustments to the processing time based upon your altitude.

Grape Jelly

Makes 7or 8 half-pint jars

5 lbs of fresh grapes, or 5 cups of unsweetened grape juice
1 box of pectin
7 cups of sugar

If using fresh grapes, wash the grapes, and either smash them up with a potato masher, or chop them up in a food processor or blend. Put the grapes in a kettle, and add just enough water to cover them. Bring to a boil, and cook for about 10 minutes. Strain the fruit through a jelly bag or a colander lined with cheesecloth. Measure out 5 cups of juice. Put the juice in a large kettle, and bring it to a boil. Combine about 2 cups of the sugar with the pectin, and stir it into the juice. Bring it back to a hard boil, and cook it, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Add the rest of the sugar and cook it for 1 minute more. Test the jelly for doneness by seeing if it will sheet off a spoon, or use any of the other methods I described above. If it’s not done, cook it for 1 minute more, and test it again. Keep cooking and testing it once every minute until it is done. When it’s ready, skim off the foam and pour the jelly into hot, sterilized jars. Clean the rims of the jars, and put the lids and rings on. Process for 5 minutes, making adjustments to the processing time for altitude.

Watermelon Jelly

Makes about 8 half-pint jars

8 cups of cubed watermelon with the seeds picked out
7 cups sugar
2 boxes of pectin
¼ cup orange juice

Liquefy the watermelon in a blender or food processor. Combine about 2 cups of the sugar with the pectin. Put the watermelon in a kettle, and add the orange juice. Stir in the sugar and pectin mixture, and bring to a hard boil. Stir in the rest of the sugar, and return the jelly to a hard boil, and cook for 1 minute. Test the jelly for doneness by seeing if it will sheet off a spoon, or use any of the other methods I described above. If it’s not done, cook it for 1 more minute, and then test it again. Keep cooking and testing it once every minute until it is finished. When the jelly is done, skim off the foam and pour it into hot, sterilized jars, leaving ¼ inch of headspace. Wipe the rims of the jars and put on the lids and rings. Process for 5 minutes, making adjustments to the processing time based upon your altitude.

Making Jams and Preserves

Now, that you know how to make jelly, making jams and preserves will be easy. If you’re going to try to make jam out of fruits that have a lot of small, tough seeds, like blackberries, you’ll definitely want to get a food mill to get rid of them. Here are a few good recipes--notice that I added a little extra pectin to some of the them.

Strawberry Jam

Makes about 8 or 9 half-pint jars

3 quarts strawberries
1 box powdered pectin, plus 1 tablespoon
8 cups sugar

Sort through the strawberries to remove any that are getting soft or mushy, then wash and hull them. Quarter the berries up, then crush them. Combine the pectin with about 2 cups of  the sugar. Put the crushed strawberries in a kettle, and stir in the sugar and pectin mixture. Bring to a hard boil. Stir in the rest of the sugar, and bring the jam back to a hard boil. Cook for 1 minute, then test it for doneness by seeing if it will sheet off a spoon, or any of the other methods I outlined above. If it’s not done, cook it 1 minute more, then test it again. If it’s still not done, keep cooking it and testing the jam every minute until it is finished. Skim off the foam, and pour the jam into hot, sterilized jars, leaving ¼ inch of head space. Wipe the rims of the jars clean, and put on the lids and rings. Process for 5 minutes, making adjustments to the processing time based upon your altitude.

Peach Preserves

Makes about 6 half-pint jars

3 lbs peaches
4-½ cups sugar
1 box powdered pectin
¼ cup lemon juice

Wash, peel, and pit the peaches. Dice them up, and then measure out about 1 cup of the peaches. Crush these in your blender or food processor. In a kettle, combine the crushed and diced peaches, and cook over medium heat about 20 minutes, or till the peaches start to become liquefied. Combine the pectin with about 1 cup of the sugar, and stir this into the peaches. Add the lemon juice. Turn up the heat, and bring to a hard boil. Stir in the rest of the sugar, and bring back to a hard boil. Cook for 1 minute, and test for doneness by checking to see if the preserves will sheet of a spoon, or use any of the other methods I outlined above. If it’s not done, cook for 1 more minute, and test it again. If it’s still not done, keep cooking and testing the preserves each minute until it is finished. When it’s done, skim off the foam, and pour the preserves into hot, sterilized jars, leaving ¼ inch of headspace. Wipe the rims, and process for 5 minutes, making adjustments to the processing time based upon your altitude.

Blueberry Jam

Makes about 8 half-pint jars

About 3-½ lbs. fresh blueberries
7 cups sugar
1 box, plus 1 tbsp. pectin
¼ cup lemon juice

Wash and crush the berries. Place them in a kettle along with the lemon juice. Combine the pectin with about 2 cups of the sugar, and stir this into the blueberries. Over medium high heat, bring the jam to a hard boil. Add the rest of the sugar, and bring it back to a hard boil. Cook for 1 minute, then test it for doneness by seeing if it will sheet off a spoon, or any of the other methods I outlined above. If it’s not done, cook it 1 minute more, then test it again. If it’s still not done, keep cooking it and testing the jam every minute until it is finished. Skim off the foam, and pour the jam into hot, sterilized jars, leaving ¼ inch of head space. Wipe the rims of the jars clean, and put on the lids and rings. Process for 5 minutes, making adjustments to the processing time based upon your altitude.

What To Do If You Mess Up

Sometimes, no matter how carefully you follow the recipe for making a batch of jelly or preserves, you’ll end up having problems getting it to set, or it will set up too stiffly. I’ve been canning since I was 12 years old, and sometimes, even I manage to mess up a batch of jelly or preserves--so don’t get too frustrated if it happens to you.  Sometimes, the fruit might be the culprit--you may have gotten a batch of  strawberries or apples that had a little more, or a little less pectin than the “average” strawberry or apple. If you’re working with a new recipe, you may need to tweak it a little bit in order to get it to turn out just right.

If you got the jelly or jam too soft, you can remake it. For every quart of jelly, make a solution containing ¼ cup of sugar, 1 cup of water, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, and 3 teaspoons of powdered pectin. Pour the jelly into a kettle along with the pectin mixture, and bring it to a hard boil. Cook it for about 30 seconds, then start testing it for doneness  every minute until it is finished. Pour it into hot, sterilized jars, and process it just like you would a regular batch of jelly.

Of course, if you don’t want to go to all that trouble, you can always use soft jelly as a delicious ice cream topping.

There’s not much you can do to fix jelly that is too stiff. Next time you make the recipe, reduce the amount of pectin a little. But all is not lost--you can heat the jelly up, and use it as a dessert topping!

Now, I’ll share those recipes I promised at the beginning of this diary.

Corncob Jelly

Makes about 6 half pint jars

12 corncobs
2 quarts of water
1 box plus 1 tbsp.powdered pectin
2 tbsp. lemon juice
3 cups sugar

Put the corncobs and the water in a large kettle. Bring them to a boil, and cook, uncovered, for about 30 minutes. Remove the corncobs, and strain the juice. Measure out 3 cups of the corncob juice, and put it in another kettle. Add the lemon juice, and combine the pectin with 1 cup of the sugar. Stir the pectin mixture into the juice, and bring to a hard boil, stirring constantly. Add the rest of the sugar, and bring back to a hard boil. Cook for 1 minute. Test the jelly for doneness by seeing if it will sheet off a spoon, or use any of the other methods I described above. If it’s not done, cook it for 1 more minute, and then test it again. Keep cooking and testing it once every minute until it is finished. When the jelly is done, skim off the foam and pour it into hot, sterilized jars, leaving ¼ inch of headspace. Wipe the rims of the jars and put on the lids and rings. Process for 5 minutes, making adjustments to the processing time based upon your altitude.

Green Tomato Preserves

Makes about 6 or 7 half-pint jars

3 cups of diced green tomatoes
2 pouches of liquid pectin
¼ cup lemon juice
7 cups sugar

Put the green tomatoes in a kettle along with the lemon juice, and simmer over low heat, stirring constantly, about 10 minutes. Turn up the heat to medium-high, and stir in the pectin and 2 cups of the sugar. Bring back to a hard boil, and stir in the rest of the sugar. Bring back to a hard boil, and cook for 1 minute. Test for doneness by checking to see if the preserves will sheet of a spoon, or use any of the other methods I outlined above. If it’s not done, cook for 1 more minute, and test it again. If it’s still not done, keep cooking and testing the preserves each minute until it is finished. When it’s done, skim off the foam, and pour the preserves into hot, sterilized jars, leaving ¼ inch of headspace. Wipe the rims, and process for 5 minutes, making adjustments to the processing time based upon your altitude.

Mayapple Jam

Makes about 6 half-pint jars

2 quarts of mayapples
1 cup water
1 box powdered pectin
4 cups sugar

Wash the mayapples, and cut off the stem. Slice them up, and cook them in the water about 15 minutes, or till they are soft. Run the mayapples through a food mill or colander to mash them up. Put the mashed mayapples in a kettle, and add the pectin and 1 cup of the sugar. Bring to a hard boil, stirring constantly. Stir in the rest of the sugar. Bring back to a hard boil, and cook for 1 minute. Test for doneness by checking to see if the jam will sheet of a spoon, or use any of the other methods I outlined above. If it’s not done, cook for 1 more minute, and test it again. If it’s still not done, keep cooking and testing the preserves each minute until it is finished. When it’s done, skim off the foam, and pour the jam into hot, sterilized jars, leaving ¼ inch of headspace. Wipe the rims, and process for 5 minutes, making adjustments to the processing time based upon your altitude.

I’ve pretty much given you a basic overview of most of the things you can do with a water bath canner. There are many good books and online resources available that will teach you how to make an enormous variety of jams and jellies. In Part 4, I’ll show you how to use a pressure canner.

Originally posted to Practical Survivalism and Sustainable Living on Fri Nov 25, 2011 at 05:52 PM PST.

Also republished by Toolbox and Urban Homesteading.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Love your diaries, thanks so much (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tonyahky, emsprater

    these are the skills we all need to get back to or learn for the first time.

    Yum, so what do you serve the jam with?  Biscuits?  Fresh Bread?  Irish Soda Bread?

    I don't eat wheat anymore, but just made some cranberry orange muffins with almond flour and the time before that, made anise lemon muffins.  

    Thanks again for this great community service, sharing your wealth of knowledge with us.

    I belong to the “US” of America, not the “ME,$,ME,$,ME,$,ME,$” of America!

    by SeaTurtle on Fri Nov 25, 2011 at 06:16:16 PM PST

  •  To make your money go further (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tonyahky, Leo in NJ, emsprater, dle2GA

    a couple of spoonfuls of jam in plain yogurt are much better than those little pre flavored cups they sell and much cheaper.

     If I am not making my own yogurt I usually buy it in quarts the best I can afford. I also use plain yogurt for making bread (no jelly, just plain)

    It is the heart that makes a man rich. He is rich according to what he is not what he has -Henry Ward Beecher

    by PSWaterspirit on Fri Nov 25, 2011 at 06:28:35 PM PST

  •  Making pectin? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tonyahky, emsprater

    I make my own pectin out of green crab apples or apples off trees that are not sprayed.  I never have been sure how much natural pectin is equal to dried or liquid pectin?  Any suggestions?

    •  I think that would depend upon how strong (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JFinNe, emsprater

      it is. You can test the strength of the pectin by pouring some rubbing alcohol in a small bowl. Then drop a small spoonful of cooled down pectin in it. If it gels after about a minute, it should be strong enough. You should be able to lift the pectin out of the bowl with a spoon. According to the recipe I have, you should use anywhere from 4 to 6 tablespoons per cup of juice or crushed up fruit. I would probably go with 4 tablespoons for fruits like apples, and 6 tablespoons for fruits like strawberries or blueberries--maybe even a dab more.

      My grandmother used to make her own pectin for canning strawberry jam.

      •  Thank you very much (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        tonyahky, emsprater

        People with ugly knarly green apples on their trees practically beg you to pick their apples, and all you have to do is wash them, cut them in quarters, simmer with seeds, stems, and skins then strain through cheese cloth over night.  I combine different fruit juices (lemons, rhubarb, cherries, apples, what ever,) then freeze both the pectin and juices until it is not so hot in the kitchen.

        When I make apple pectin, I also add lemons with their rinds in the mix, as lemon rinds are extremely high in pectin also. When the mixture of apples and lemons have cooked down and beginning to turn to mush, I mash them further with a potato masher.  There is something so satisfying in making an all natural product ( and I am bewildered by how foods in powder form are made, so I try to avoid them.)  Thanks again!

  •  Thanks for your diaries! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tonyahky

    I grew up on a farm in rural Alabama, and my grandmother used to make jams and jellies all the time, canned everything in sight.  I got to help a lot.  She passed when I was 11, and my experiences stopped then.  As a young adult, I often made my own blackberry jam and strawberry jam, usually with good results.  Now I am lots older, I reside in FL and grow everything I have room for on a standard subdivision lot.  I've made nectarine jam ( from a tree supposedly  bred to be FL climate friendly, but the fruit is usually small and gnarly ) and muscadine jam.   The muscadine jam was the best I've ever done, but I really disliked having to squeeze out every grape's flesh to separate the hulls and pulp.  It was worth it, though to be able to process the hulls in my Ninja to tiny particles and return them to the jam for flavor, color and texture.

    I'm over blessed with a wonderful lemon: it's not a Meyer, it's more round with a peel that has a naval orange texture, less acidic juice and still tart in a slightly sweeter way than most lemons are.  I want to try making a marmalade from them, but I've never made any marmalade.  Do you have any suggestions or maybe even a recipe?  Any other ideas on how to utilize the bushels of lemons I have?

    Thanks again for your diaries, I'm now going to be a follower......

    'Destroying America, One middle class family and one civil liberty at a time: Today's GOP'

    by emsprater on Sat Nov 26, 2011 at 11:34:23 AM PST

  •  Jam and jelly is very fast to make if you (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tonyahky

    don't can it.

    I love making canned jam - it's a yummy use of fruit and wonderful for having a bit of summer all year round, as well as being a great gift. But, it does take some time and effort to maneuver all the canning apparatus, and to deal with all the small jars.

    What I realized by accident one day is that making the jam is really very fast and easy - and we go through jam so fast in this household that we can put it in two large jars, stick them in the refrigerator, and eat them up before they go bad.

    It takes jam making from being all afternoon in a hot kitchen to being 30 minutes in the evening after preparing a relatively small amount of fruit. (In my case, that's most often blackberries, which are plentiful, and take very little prep time.)

    It won't be the right choice always, but it's nice to have options!

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 11:26:34 AM PST

  •  Also, I prefer to use the low sugar pectin (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tonyahky

    which allows me to make jam with only a cup or two of sugar instead of more sugar than fruit.

    I usually add a little ground cinnamon and clove to my blackberry jam. Yum.

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 11:29:01 AM PST

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