Making Homemade Jam
Every year we make jam. I love the taste of homemade jam. Once you taste the goodness of your own jam you won’t be able to go back to the store bought overly sugared tasteless jam. If you have never canned before jam making is a very easy and rewarding first step.
You can turn almost any type
of fruit into jam. Berries are my favorite. We love strawberry jam and that will
always be my first choice in a berry jam. When we moved out to the country our
property was literally covered in blackberry bushes (they are one step away from
a noxious weed in my part of the world ~smile~). So for the last many years our
shelves are always filled with jars of homemade blackberry jam.
But any type of fruit will work for jam. Over the years I have made peach, nectarine, blueberry, plum, grape, apple jams and jellies and even very different and unique things like zucchini jam and beet jelly.
When I first started making jam I went to a nearby strawberry field that was open for U-picking. I picked a nice big box full of sweet berries. I bought some jars, pectin and sugar from my local grocery store. I came home, opened the box of pectin and followed the directions. It was basically very easy.
As the years have gone by I have become more health conscious and now I usually buy a type of pectin that does not require sugar for the gelling process. I use Pomona Pectin. It can be found in health food stores or on line sources such as http://www.pomonapectin.com/
The pectin’s you buy in the store require sugar in order to make them gel. You typically can not just add less sugar and have an acceptable end product. Some reduction may work, but in general you need that sugar. Pomona Pectin uses calcium for gelling. This allows you to use a very little amount of sugar or honey or fruit juice for making your jam.
While one method may be healthier than another I realize that sometimes one has to just give something a try even if it is not the ideal. Homemade jam, even using store bought pectin is still better tasting and more enjoyable then the store bought version. Not to mention that it is always rewarding when you produce such goodness for your family right from your own kitchen!
You will need a few pieces of basic equipment for making and canning jam. You will need a large pot, large enough to hold your jars or a canner. You can purchase boiling water bath canners at stores like Walmart. I have often seen canners at thrift stores and garage sales, so keep your eyes open! You also may no someone who no longer cans and has one you could borrow or buy from them. I have a pressure canner (needed for canning vegetables and meats and any other low acid foods) and I use this for canning. I put a pizza pan on the top of it for a lid while canning.
You will also find it very helpful to have jar lifter to take the hot jars of jam in and out of your canner, a lid wand (this is a long stick with a magnet on the end of it so you can pick up the hot rings and lids to put them on the jars) and of course clean and washed jars. Also a canning funnels is very helpful for pouring the jam into the jars without making a mess. Below is a picture (left to right ) of a lid wand, jar lifter and canning funnel.
Before you begin you will need to gather your equipment together, your jars and your rings and lids. You can reuse canning rings but never can you reuse canning lids. You must put a brand new lid on every time you can.
Wash all jars and rings and get out brand new lids. Keep the washed jars in hot water or in a dishwasher that is hot. Put the rings and lids in a small pan to simmer (but not boil) to keep hot.
Start a pot of water heating up to boiling for canning the jars of jam.
Prepare your fruit. If you are making berry jams you need to wash the berries and in the case of strawberries they need to be hulled. Using a potato masher crush berries or if using other firmer fleshed fruit such as peaches or nectarines then use a knife to chop them into small pieces. Measure out the amount required by your recipe and put in stock pot. Measure out sugar and set aside.
Open the packet of pectin and add this to the crushed fruit and stir well. Put this over medium high heat and bring to a boil. This must a hard rolling boil. That is a boil that when you stir it, it can not be stirred down. Once it is a hard rolling boil, cook this for 1 minute (or the amount of time specified by the type of pectin you are using).
After the minute is up add the sugar. Bring to a rolling boil again. This must a very hard rolling boil (one that can not be stirred down). Stir and boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat. If foam appears at the top of the pan, remove with a spoon.
Now fill your hot jars with the hot jam. Wipe off the top and put a new hot lid on and then a ring. Tighten until “just” tight.
Put the jars into the pot of boiling water that you started heating up before hand. Make sure the water is boiling when you add the jars and that the water comes up and covers the top of the jars.
Process (let the jars sit in boiling water) half pints for 5 minutes and pints and quart jars for 10 minutes.
Remove jars and let them cool. Test for seal. If any have not sealed put them in the fridge and use them up first.
Making jam with Pomona’s Pectin is similar in process. One thing you do before you start making jam is to make calcium water. This is a simple thing to do. They have a packet of calcium powder along with directions that tell you how much water to add and each type of jam recipe will tell you how much of this calcium water you need to add. One batch of calcium water will last for several batches of jam.
Using Pomona’s you will add your crushed fruit to your stock pot then add calcium water and stir. Then you add the pectin to your sweetener (whatever type you choose: sugar, cane juice crystals, honey, fruit juice) Then cook it pretty much as stated above, fill jars and process the same. Pomona Pectin also gives direction for making jam with no sugar.
If you would like to see the jam making process step by step and in pictures you can click on the jams listed below.
Blackberry Jam (same method would basically be used for all berry jams)
Grape Jelly (this jelly is made using grape juice you purchase from the grocery store)
Zucchini Jam (a different and unusual jam, but tastes delicious and is a great use of the summers bounty of zucchini)
The Homestead Kitchen