Introducing kids to food preservation

As the holidays approach, spend some time in the kitchen with kids and make some food preservation home preserved gifts this season.

Do you have a hard time buying gifts for family and friends during the holiday season? Here is an idea for this holiday season: Grab your kids and head into the kitchen to prepare some homemade preserved gifts. Engaging with youth in the kitchen can provide you with memorable family time to talk and share and learn. Food preservation is a science allowing kids to explore and understand the science of safe food preservation, so lifetime skills are being learned and experienced in the kitchen. Making jam and jelly is a great way to begin preserving with youth. Jam’s high acidity, large amount of sugar, and lack of available water slow the growth rate of microorganisms like mold, but freezing or boiling water canning is needed to fully stop spoilage. There are a wide variety of recipes available allowing you and your children to select favorite flavors to prepare for homemade gifts. Michigan State University Extension reminds you that boiling water bath process is necessary for safe jellied products. A vacuum seal forms as the jars cool which keeps air out of jars so that the food inside is less likely to spoil. 

It is also critical to remember when teaching youth to use current, research-based methods for preserving food at home. Paraffin or wax sealing of jars is no longer considered an acceptable method for preserving any jellies. Any pinholes or cracks in the wax paraffin can allow

airborne molds to contaminate and grow on the product. Also, leaks or holes in the paraffin can allow the product to seep out during storage. Once on the surface, this seeping product

will provide nutrients for molds to grow on the surface and enter into the jam or jelly in the jar. Using recommended resource for your jam and jelly homemade gifts is necessary and easy to do by visiting the National Center for Home Food Preservation website.

For proper texture, jellied fruit products require the correct combination of fruit, pectin, acid, and sugar. The fruit gives each spread its unique flavor and color. It also supplies the water to dissolve the rest of the necessary ingredients and furnishes some or all of the pectin and acid. Good-quality, flavorful fruits make the best jellied products.

Grape Jelly (with powdered pectin)
  • 5 cups grape juice
  • 1 package powdered pectin
  • 7 cups sugar

To make jelly, begin by measuring the grape juice into a kettle. Add pectin and stir well. Place on high heat and stir constantly, bring quickly to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. Add sugar, continue stirring, and heat again to a full rolling boil. Boil hard for 1 minute and then remove from heat; skim off foam quickly.

Pour the hot jelly immediately into hot, sterile jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened clean paper towel; adjust two-piece metal canning lids. Process the jars of jelly in a Boiling Water Canner for 5 minutes for half-pints or pints.

Preserving gifts of jam and jelly at home with your kids can teach them valuable skills as well as bring families together to create not only gifts to share but also memories and traditions that will last a lifetime.

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