Jammin it up: Making jam is a summer adventure

Jam is easy and fun to make and memories are made when others help you preserve nature’s bountiful supply.

Spring and summer means the opportunity to preserve some delicious foods for the months ahead. Many people, like me, look at this time of year as an adventure – a time to try preserving something new. It also means a very special time to be with my family while we are preserving nature’s bounty.    

Being it is early in the season, one of the first things I preserve is jam: Strawberry, strawberry rhubarb, raspberry, peach, the list goes on. Always use good quality produce for your jam but don’t discard the slightly over-ripe berries; they are fine to use for jam making. 

Michigan State University Extension has created the following jam making questions and answers guide to help you through the process.

Q. One batch doesn’t make a lot of jam–can I double the recipe and use exactly twice the recommended ingredients? 

A. Jams will not always set when the recipe has been doubled.  Increasing the size of the recipe is never recommended. Better success is obtained by making two separate batches of a recipe rather than doubling the size.

Q. Why do I have to let my jams sit a while after they are made, before storing them?

A. It is essential that jams sit undisturbed for at least 12 hours after they are made. Moving the jars could break the gel. After they have cooled for 12 hours you can check the seals, remove the screw bands, wash, rinse and dry the jars and label them. Then store those beautiful jars of jam in a cool, dry, dark place.

Q. How long should I keep my jams and jellies?

A. To have jams at their best quality preserve only the quantity that can be used, or given away as gifts, in less than a year. They lose flavor and, their bright color within a few months.

Q. In the past I have used paraffin to seal my jars. Why should I process my jams in a boiling water bath?

A. Processing jams in a boiling water bath prevents mold growth and makes a better seal. Do not seal your jars with paraffin because the seal is not sufficient to keep out bacteria and the jams can then become moldy. Always use a lid and screw band and process in a boiling water bath canner for the best and safest jam products.

Instead of canning alone, share the joy of preserving jams by including your family, a friend, your children or grandchildren. Jams are one of the easiest and quickest items to preserve. They are so attractive that they are great to give as very special gifts as well.

If possible, can early in the day, especially if you are making jam with children. The kitchen is cooler then and everyone is ready to begin the new day with an exciting adventure. 

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