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Jam and Jelly Making Tips

Jam and Jelly Making Tips

Home made jams and jellies just taste better than store bought.

That is why many are happy to put up with an afternoon or evening devoted to stocking their shelves with delicious, home made, flavorful jams and jellies. Some tips for the "perfect" jar of jam:

  • A sound seal and sufficient head-space in the jar is imperative.
  • It must also be heat processed.
  • Last, it is often a matter of taste, color, and texture aroma, clarity and consistency of spread.
  • Follow instructions exactly as stated.
  • Avoid floating fruit by cooking it long enough to remove the air in it.
  • If you pick your own fruit, never do so after a rain.

Loose jam results from under-cooking the fruit, which does not give the pectin a chance to jell. On the other hand, overcooking can dramatically alter the flavor of the fruit (possibly burning it) and can make jellies too stiff.

All in a Name

Jam Jar

  • Jam:   You make jam from crushed or chopped fruits and sugar. Fruits have either naturally high-pectin content, which makes the jam jell, or you add pectin.
  • Preserves:   Preserves are similar to jam but fruit is in larger pieces.
  • Jelly:    Similar to jam but you strain cooked fruit to create a clear spread.
  • Conserve:   Conserve is jam jazzed up with nuts, dried fruits and spices.
  • Marmalade:   Marmalade is jam made from citrus fruit.

Tips to Ease the Process

  • Use only the best quality fruit at its peak of ripeness.
  • You should process all home-canned foods for safety reasons. A boiling-water bath is sufficient for high-acid foods such as fruit jams and jellies, while low-acid foods such as vegetables require a steam-pressure canner.
  • Do not seal jars with paraffin or turn them upside down to form a seal. These old-fashioned methods are now big food safety no-nos.
  • Use only current tested recipes and follow them exactly.
  • Label and store jars in a cool, dry, dark place. For best quality, use them within one year.
  • Inspect jars and contents before serving. If the seal is broken or the lid bulges toss it. If there is mold or an unusual smell or color, toss it.
  • If you add a small pat of butter when cooking fruit for jams and jellies, you won't have so much foam to skim off the top.
  • If you have any problems with fruit jelly not setting up, place the jars in a shallow pan half-filled with cold water. Bake them in a moderate oven for 30 minutes.

Equipment

Steel/Porcelain Water-Bath Canner (also called a water-boiling canner): Large deep pot with a metal rack to raise jars from the bottom, used to heat process jam to prevent contamination and to seal jars.

Jar lifter: Heavy-duty tongs that get jars in and out of the boiling water.

Lid wand: A lid wand is a nifty plastic rod with a magnet at one end that lifts rubber-rimmed metal lids from boiling water.

Wide mouth funnel: A wide mouth funnel makes pouring hot fruit into jars easier and neater.

Home Canning jars and two-piece vacuum caps: The metal lids have a special rubber-sealing compound around the edge, and the accompanying metal rings keep the lids on right while a seal forms. When the jars have cooled, you can remove the rings for re-use. Use your lids only once.

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