Jam and jelly season is here!

Are you ready to preserve some of nature’s delicious produce? Here are some tips on preserving and canning jams and jellies.

Canned apricot jam
Canned apricot jam

Jam and jelly season has arrived. It is important to keep in mind if you are using fresh produce that jam and jelly should be made within a day or two of the berries being picked. If you are unable to do this, you should freeze the berries without adding any sugar until you have time to make your jellied product.

For best results, use a current research-tested recipe from a site such as the National Center for Home Food Preservation. Check to make sure you have the ingredients and equipment needed before starting the process. 

Making jam and jelly involves kitchen chemistry, meaning exact measurements and proper ingredients are important. The essential ingredients for making a quality product include fruit, pectin, acid and sugar. A quality fruit will give good color and flavor to the jellied product. It also furnishes part of the pectin and acid needed to form the gel. Avoid using badly damaged fruit; it will not improve during the preserving process. You may also choose to use canned or frozen fruit, but be sure that these products are in their own natural juices and no sugar has been added.

Pectin will help the fruit gel. Some fruits have enough pectin naturally, but there are also commercial pectin products in liquid and powder form that are made from apples or citrus fruits. Remember, the liquid and powder is not interchangeable in recipes. Manufacturers make a variety of pectin to help reduce sugar or use sugar substitutes. To do this, look for the appropriate research tested recipe and pectin.  

Acid is another important ingredient. Keep in mind that the acid level varies in fruit. Some recipes may call for bottle lemon juice, whereas others may be fine with just the fruit itself. The role of acid is to help with gel formation and enhance flavor.

Sugar is the final key ingredient. Its important role is to help form a good gel and work as a preservative, preventing the growth of microorganisms. You should never make adjustments to the quantity of sugar or the end result may be syrup instead of jelly. 

When preserving, make sure to process in a water bath canner to prevent mold growth. This short process is quick though times will vary depending on the recipe and density of produce being used. Never make up your own times. Instead, follow what the tested recipe states. If the process time is less than 10 minutes, you will need to pre-sterilize your jars. To do this, simply place the washed jars in boiling water for 10 minutes. This is recommended when doing jellied products due to the short processing times. If processing times are longer than 10 minutes, this pre-sterilization is not needed.

Finally, make sure you follow the recipe recommendations for appropriate jar size. You may always use a smaller sized jar, but it is not recommended to use a larger jar. If jellied products are put into larger jars, you may end up with a product that does not set up. Michigan State University Extension recommends utilizing research tested recipes to ensure a safe, quality product for you and your family.  

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