Okay, this has been long in the mak­ing, but summer’s been keep­ing me a lit­tle occupied.

So, two things for this post:

1. Jam! I’m made a lit­tle photo tuto­r­ial on how to make jam. I swear, it’s not hard. A lit­tle time con­sum­ing, yes. But once you have your ele­ments pre­pared and ready to go, it’s very straight­for­ward. And after you’ve made jam once or twice you’ll be crank­ing out jars like you’re a machine. Now that I have my own pat­tern down, I can make a batch of jam, start to fin­ish, in about 2 1/2 hours. Not too shabby.

2. I’m going to give this whole online com­mu­nity thing a whirl. I started a very inter­ac­tive forum for nom! nom! nom!. It’s pretty sweet, it has the tra­di­tional forum bits with threads, but you make a pro­file that’s more in depth, kind of like Face­book. Plus, it’s got a real-time chat room inte­grated in it! So, I hope to see you on there. :)

Okay, so on to the jam. This jam is one of my favorites that’s I’ve made (and I’m up to 9 dif­fer­ent kinds, yikes!). It is a mix­ture of mar­i­on­ber­ries (a NW vari­etal sim­i­lar to black­ber­ries), blue­ber­ries and plum. You could eas­ily sub­sti­tute other berries to make up the dif­fer­ence. I have a hard time com­ing up with fun names for my recipes, so I am pretty pleased with myself with this one.

Marion’s Plum Mad About Blue­berry Jam
yields 6–7 half pint (8 oz) jars

3 cups plums, washed chopped and pit­ted
3 cups mar­i­on­ber­ries, washed
3 cups blue­ber­ries
4 cups sugar
juice from 1 lemon
2 tbsp. pectin

To start off the jam mak­ing process, I first pre­pare my jars. This means that I wash and ster­il­ize them. You can do this in a num­ber of ways. You can hand wash them and then sim­mer them in hot water, you can wash them and place them, mouths up, on a bak­ing sheet in a 150 degree oven or you can wash them in a dish­washer and leave it on the hot air dry­ing set­ting. It’s really up to you. This serves mul­ti­ple pur­poses. First off, you are clean­ing the jars (obvi­ously), but you are also keep­ing them warm and san­i­tary so your hot jam isn’t shock­ing a cold glass jar. Can­ning jars are tem­pered, but keep­ing them warm is important.

There is also a school of thought that if you are going to use a hot water bath to seal the jars and you will be boil­ing them for at least 10 min­utes, the jars only need to be washed, but not ster­il­ized. I know this is what many of our grand­moth­ers did, but I’m a per­pet­ual worry-wort, so I ster­il­ize and hot water bathe them.

Any­way, I usu­ally wash them and sim­mer them in my hot water can­ning pot. This way, the water is nice and hot, so once the jars are pre­pared and filled with the jam, it doesn’t take long to bring it to a boil to process them.

Let’s take inven­tory of the tools you need:

jam tools

This is a basic can­ning tool set. You need this in addi­tion to a hot water bath pot. I picked up these tools and my pot for about $30 3 years ago. From left to right you have your fun­nel (to pour your jam into each jar with­out mak­ing a mess), your jar lifter (to lift the jars in and out of the hot water bath safely), your mag­net (to lift the ster­il­ized lids out of their pot), a jar vice thingy (not nec­es­sary, but help­ful to hold onto a hot jar while screw­ing the ring on over the lid, and tongs (which serve many pur­poses). I usu­ally con­fig­ure my stove with a stock­pot to make my jam, my hot water can­ner and a smaller saucepan to ster­il­ize the lids and rings in.

Now, as a basic guide­line, you can fit about 7 jars in a can­ner at a time. That’s 6 around the perime­ter and 1 in the mid­dle. If you’re using smaller jars (such as 4 oz. cuties) resist the urge to crowd them in there. Your jars should not touch inside the can­ner, or you risk the glass of the jars expand­ing and con­tract­ing against each other and crack­ing. Now that I’ve scared you, don’t worry. If you just put in 7 jars, you’ll be fine.

Another thing– make sure your jars don’t have any chips or cracks in them. Can­ning is very earth-friendly in that you can reuse jars and the metal screw rings over and over, but look for flaws in the glass and rust on the rings before using. You must buy new lids (just the flat metal part) each time you can, as they are sin­gle use for a safe seal.

Okay, so our jars are clean. Let’s chop up some fruit.

jamfruitinpot

Here’s our beau­ti­ful fruit, sit­ting in the bot­tom of a large stock­pot. The fruit will boil and foam up a bit, so make sure you use a pot with some space.

jamsimmer

After adding the fruit, I add the sugar (reserv­ing 1/2 cup) and the lemon juice, and cook over medium heat, stir­ring often. Once it comes to sim­mer I crush up the fruit, gen­tly, with a potato masher. I like my jam chunky, so I don’t crush it up too much, but this is your call. By crush­ing up the fruit we also release some of the nat­ural pectin in it, which inter­acts with the acid­ity in the lemon juice, help­ing it gel.

Around now I toss a saucer or small plate in the freezer to get it cold. I would also place the lids and rings in a my saucepan with just a few inches of water (enough to cover, plus an inch) and bring it to a simmer.

jamboiling

Once the jam comes to a boil, I mix up my remain­ing 1/2 cup sugar with the pectin, so the pectin doesn’t clump. This is added to the jam and mixed well to com­bine. Lower the heat to medium and let the jam bub­ble and burp for about 15–20 min­utes, stir­ring con­tin­u­ously, until it begins to thicken.

Once your lids and rings come to a sim­mer, I usu­ally turn off the heat and put a lid on them. This keeps them warm and clean. The heat cleans the lids, but also soft­ens the wax along the bot­tom ring of the lid, mak­ing for a strong seal. You don’t want to boil the lids for a long time, just a nice sim­mer for a few min­utes will do.

jam wrinkle

Once the jam starts to thicken you can begin test­ing it. We are check­ing to see if the jam will gel prop­erly. To do this, retrieve your cold saucer or plate from the freezer and ladle on a lit­tle jam, about 1–2 tbsp will do. Place it back in the freezer for about 2 min­utes to cool. Keep stir­ring that jam! Once the test jam has cooled, take it out and push your fin­ger against the edge of the jam. If it is ready, it should wrin­kle up slightly. That means the jam will gel. If your fin­ger goes right through it with no resis­tance or wrin­kle, clean off the plate, toss it back in the freezer and keep cook­ing that jam. Test again in 5 minutes.

If you are con­cerned that the jam is, yes, wrin­kling, but not as thick as you want your fin­ished prod­uct to be, don’t fret. This is a basic gel test and your jam sets up much more as it cools in the jars over the course of a day or two. This is just a sim­ple way to gauge if it’s ready or not.

jamfunnel

Once the jam is set, you can start to fill your jars. If your jam has a lot of foam on the top of it, skim it off as best you can.

I remove my sim­mer­ing jars from the can­ner with the lifter and tilt them care­fully to dump out the water. Quickly san­i­tize your fun­nel by dunk­ing it in the hot water on the end that will touch the jars and ladle in your yummy jam, fill­ing each jar to 1/4 inch below the edge. If there is too much space, the jar may not make a strong seal. If there is not enough room, the pres­sure from the seal may push out jam, caus­ing it to ooze down the sides of the jar. About 1/4 inch space will do and if you don’t seal or it oozes, it’s not the end of the world. After fill­ing each jar, use a plas­tic uten­sil and run it around the inside of the jar to release any air bubbles.

Wipe the rim with a clean cloth to remove any jam residue and place on a lid and screw on a ring. This is when your mag­net and the jar vice thing come in handy, but a pair of tongs and a towel or oven­mit work, too. Just remem­ber to be care­ful, as your jam and jars are very hot. Do not over tighten the rings. Just screw them down until there is resis­tance, but don’t tighten them, as the glass needs to be able to flex. I fill all of my jars on a cool­ing rack, with the legs folded in, over top of a dish towel to catch any water or jam splat­ter. Be care­ful of your place­ment of jars on the cool­ing rack, dis­trib­ut­ing the weight, so it doesn’t tip. This has hap­pened to me and while I caught them in time, it’s star­tling and the jars are hot to the touch!

jamcansincanner

With the lid on, bring the can­ner to a boil. There should be enough water to cover the jars by 1–2 inches. Once boil­ing, care­fully add them to the can­ner with the jar lifter and cover. For this jam, I processed them by boil­ing for 10 min­utes. Other recipes you find my differ.

And this is where we get into the great jam debates. Some peo­ple process their jam in a water bath. Some peo­ple fill the ster­il­ized jars, invert them for a few min­utes and then just let them seal them­selves, with no water bath. I have tried both. You will hear many peo­ple who have been can­ning for decades, and have never had a prob­lem, insist that you don’t need a water bath. I encour­age you to do some research and do what you are com­fort­able with. You will find, in the world of can­ning, loads and loads of con­tri­dic­tory advice, which is prob­a­bly why it can seem over­whelm­ing. I have found that the water bath seals feel much stronger, but they still seal fine with­out the water bath. I am a very cau­tious per­son, so I pro­ceed with the water bath. It’s your call.

jamremovejar

After the 10 min­utes, remove the jars and let them cool com­pletely for at least 12 hours, I shoot for 24. The rings will prob­a­bly have loos­ened and I usu­ally wait until they are com­pletely cooled before tight­en­ing. After you remove the jars, you should hear the sat­is­fy­ing “ping” of the jars seal­ing. This can take up to 12 hours, but with jam usu­ally hap­pens within a few hours.

Any jars that do not seal should be stored in the fridge and con­sumed first. The oth­ers can be stored in a cool, dark place for up to a year. When­ever retriev­ing jam that you pre­vi­ously canned, always check to make sure it’s still sealed before eat­ing. If the seal released or if there is any sign of mold, dis­card the jar of jam. Foam from the jam can leave a bit of a tex­ture on the top of a jar, but it should be easy to tell the difference.

jam finished

After your jam has cooled and set up, enjoy! Some kinds of jam can take a cou­ple of days to a cou­ple of weeks to really set up, so if it’s not quite as thick as you’d hoped, there is still a chance. And if you have a jam that doesn’t thicken, use it as a dessert sauce or over ice cream. There is plenty of room in your heart for warm berry sauce over fudgy brown­ies or on top of creamy vanilla soy ice cream!

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8 Responses to jam on parade!

  1. Josiane says:

    Thank you for the detailed tuto­r­ial! It makes it seem totally doable. Lots of work, but doable, and so worth it! The day I’ll have home­made jars of jam (fea­tur­ing a cre­ative combo of local organic fruits) to open in Feb­ru­ary, I’ll have for­got­ten every­thing about the labour-intensiveness involved in their mak­ing! :)

    • Kris says:

      Yes, the end results are def­i­nitely worth it. Hon­estly, after hours of slav­ing in the kitchen just hear­ing the “ping” is SO sat­is­fy­ing. Once you get it set up, it’s pretty rhyth­mic and not too bad. I queue up some pod­casts and do a cou­ple of batches back to back.

  2. Courtney says:

    I have not made jam in years, but I think you have inspired me to give it a try again! Your jam recipe sounds fab­u­lous. Question–have you ever tried mak­ing a sugar free jam? Maybe sweet­ened with fruit juice or agave or something?

    Thanks!
    Courtney

    • Kris says:

      I have not made sugar free, but I want to. So many jam recipes have a sick­en­ing amount of sugar, so that’s why I use the pectin to lower the amount of sugar. I would like to try, though, so if I give it a go I’ll let you know!

  3. Beth says:

    Too cool! I can’t wait to try this myself!

  4. Lee Ann says:

    It reminds me of when I’d help my Grandma make jam.
    She was a water bath believer too. :)

  5. Wow, this is a won­der­ful tuto­r­ial about can­ning! I fol­lowed you from the food­ieblogroll and I am so impressed with what you have here. I’d love to guide our read­ers to your site if you won’t mind.Just add your choice of food­ista wid­get to this post and it’s all set to go, Thanks!

  6. Courtney says:

    Thanks Kris! I may do a bit of research and give it a go myself, so I will let you know if I get to it first and am successful!

    Court­ney

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