The Basics of Preserving Jams and Jellies

If you are like most people, you have been buying jams and jellies off the shelf at the grocery store. You look to see the flavors they have on hand, wish they had something different, and reach for the one you are used to buying. And your probably do this once or twice per month. But with the canning and preserving process, you can take jams and jellies to a whole new level; and many people do each year. Jams and jellies are one of the most popular items that people like to preserve.

Why make your own jams and jellies, rather than purchase them right off the shelf? There are many reasons:

  • You can control the flavors, and what goes into them. No more unwanted ingredients, high fructose corn syrup, or fake sugar substitutes. No more being limited to the flavors on the shelf. You can control the amount of and type of sugar or sweetener, the texture, and even the flavors.

  • Because making your own jams and jellies is a special process that you do, they will make great gifts for people. Hey, if you get really good at it and have a special flavor that people seem to request time and again, you can even make a little business out of it, selling them at the local farmer's market!

  • You will get a great feeling of accomplishment just knowing that you were able to make your own jams and jellies. Not everyone can do such a thing, and being able to do it is gratifying.

  • Saving money is another benefit of making your own jams and jellies. Good jams and jellies at the store can cost a couple of dollars per jar. But you won't spend that much making up jars of it yourself at home, especially if you are using fruit you grew in your own garden, or got at a good price at the farmer's market.

Food for Thought

In order to get accurate timetables and specific directions for canning and preserving different types of foods, you should invest in a good canning and preserving book. Having one book that contains all this helpful information will be good to keep on the shelf whenever you need to know how long a particular food should cook. Walk through your local bookstore and browse the section containing canning and preserving books to see which one will suit your needs. There are many available! You may want to reserve several at your local library so you can look them over and see which one would be the best one to invest in purchasing for long-term use. You can save money on the book by purchasing from But you will never regret having a handy canning and preserving book on your shelf. It can be an invaluable tool.


All About Canning Jams and Jellies

The hot water bath method is quite popular for canning jams and jellies. It is important to always start with good fresh fruit to get the best results. So if you have fruit that has brown spots, blemishes, etc., you will need to cut those parts off in order to get the best taste and keep bacteria from growing inside the jar. It is recommended that you only use fruits that are firm and high in pectin when making jelly that you will not add pectin to, so you will want to avoid using any type of commercially frozen or canned fruit juices. For best results, use a combination of fruit that is 75 percent ripe and 25 percent under-ripe. If you plan to make jelly from fruit that is low in pectin, you will need to pick up some pectin from the grocery store. It is sold in both a powdered and liquid form.

Before cooking the fruit it has to be thoroughly washed. Then you will move on to crushing any soft fruits or berries, and take all firmer fruits and cut them into small pieces. The peels and core can be used in the juice during cooking, as it is a good source of pectin. Depending on the type of fruit you are using, you will add water to the fruit and bring it to a boil, then simmer it for the time required for each type of fruit. This can be found in a canning and preserving recipe book or by doing a quick search online for that particular type of fruit.

For example:

If you were to make an apricot jelly, you would cook the following:

  • 4 cups of crushed apricots

  • 4 cups of sugar

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

This combination would end up yielding 5 to 6 pints of jelly. After boiling for the recommended amount of time, you would test it, using a spoon, to see if it has turned into a gel and sticks to the spoon. If it drips off, it is not ready, but if it sticks to it, then it is "set" and ready. There are three main ingredients that are needed to make a "set" jelly: sugar, pectin, and acidity. When it is set, you are ready to fill the jars, using a funnel, and put the lids on.

Again, cooking times and recipes for making your own jams and jellies vary, depending on the type of fruit you plan to use. This type of information can easily be found in canning and preserving cookbooks, as well as by conducting searches online. There are many websites that offer a wide variety of recipes for you to choose from.

Did you know?

Pectin is a water-soluble substance found in fruit (in the skin and core) and other plants that will create a gel texture when cooked, and it is the basis of fruit jellies. This is why it is important when making jellies to make sure you are using fruits that are high in pectin. Some fruits that are high in pectin include blackberries, apples, cranberries, plums, and citrus fruit peel. The highest level of pectin is found in fruit that is just under-ripe and just ripe, which is why using a mixture of the two is recommended. As mentioned above, if you are using fruits that do not contain a lot of pectin (e.g., strawberries, cherries), you can purchase pectin to add to the cooking mixture in a powered or liquid form, such as Sure Jell, Fruit Jell, etc. It usually sells for $2 to $3 per box.


A Yearly Tradition

Many people who like to make their own jams and jellies end up doing so on a regular basis. Whether you do it once every few months or once per year, you can make it a tradition. Create your signature flavors of jelly
Pickles, Chutney, Ketchup, and Relish

The great thing is that once you get started and master one thing, you will find that you want to keep going. Pretty soon, with a little practice, you will have a pantry filled with lots of home-canned and preserved foods. What a beautiful sight to see!

Many people like to make their own types of condiments and side items. Everything from your own homemade salsa, to pickles and ketchup, can be created and preserved. It gives you a great way to put your own signature touch on your salsa, or create an amazing chutney that people will be asking for!

In this section, we will look at some of the various types of condiments and side items that you may be interested in canning and preserving. You just might get some ideas for canning and preserving that you hadn't thought of before.

From Pickles to Relish

Many people find that making your own pickles is one of the easiest things you can do when it comes to canning and preserving. Whatever kind is your favorite, you can make them, including bread and butter, gherkins, kosher dills, and even sweet pickles. To make your favorite type of pickles, you will need to get some fresh, crisp cucumbers. You can also get some quick process pickling mix from the store, which usually costs around $3 to $4. In addition to your canning and preserving tools, you will need vinegar, jars, lids, and rings. Follow the process of boiling, filling, and sealing your jars, along with adding your pickling mix.

For example, if you wanted to can some pickles, you would follow these steps:

  1. Get some fresh, crisp cucumbers.

  2. Wash and cut them into the desired size and shape.

  3. Sterilize the lids and jars.

  4. Heat the boiling canner.

  5. Boil the lids and jars.

  6. Meanwhile, bring the pickling mix to a boil, according to package directions.

  7. Fill the jars with the raw cucumbers, add in the simmering pickle mix, leaving headspace, and properly top with the lid and ring.

  8. Boil the jars in the canner for at least 10 minutes.

  9. Carefully use your jar-lifting tongs to remove the jars and put them in a place where they can cool, undisturbed.

  10. Store and wait at least two weeks before using, in order to get the best flavor.

Similar steps will be taken if you pickle beets, zucchini, carrots, apples, and corn, among others.
You can make and can a variety of relishes. If you want to make a traditional pickle relish, just opt for a recipe that uses cucumbers. You can also make a variety of relishes, including: zucchini, sweet and hot corn relish, green tomato, cranberry rum, red pepper, green olive, spicy carrot, and others. There is no limit to the creativity you can use in creating your own relishes! Following the process above, relishes would involve an extra step of chopping the vegetables.
Combine all ingredients. Keep refrigerated.
If you are planning on giving any canned goods away as gifts, you should always properly label them. This way the person knows important information about the food. You should include such information as what it is, the date it was created, the ingredients (in case someone has food allergies), storage and handling instructions, and tips on how to use it, if it is something like a chutney that they may not be familiar with. You can easily print nice labels with your computer that include all this information.


From Chutney to Ketchup

Chutney is increasingly becoming popular in Western diets. It is a sauce of sorts that has been popular in East Indian cuisine for many years. It is used as a side dish, for dipping, and even on sandwiches. Many chutneys can be made with ingredients like mango, coconut, mint, cilantro, ginger, and a variety of other Indian spices. They are also becoming a more popular item for canning. Most fruit-based chutney, like mango, peach, pear, etc., are cooked and then often canned.
Curried Fruit Chutney
1 can sliced pineapple
1 can peach halves
1 can pears
1 can apricots
1 small bottle maraschino cherries
1/3 cup butter
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
3 teaspoons curry powder
1. Drain the liquid from all the fruit.
2. Melt the butter, and then stir in sugar and curry.
3. Arrange drained fruit in a shallow, oblong baking dish (or whatever pan you have)
4. Pour the butter mixture over the fruit.
5. Bake at 325 degrees for about 90 minutes.

And if you like making sauces, don't stop with chutney! You can perfect and can your own pasta sauce. Not only will it taste better than store-bought, you will be able to control the ingredients so that you don't get so much sugar and salt, making it much healthier.

Like chutney, specialty mustards, and even your own ketchup, can be made and canned. Just think of the possibilities when it comes to mustard. You can have honey mustard, hot mustard, or any other specialty flavor that is of interest to you. Ketchup is another type of condiment that can easily be made in batches and then canned. Using a blender you can follow a recipe to create the right mixture then, follow the canning process.

Another popular option you may want to consider canning is salsa. You can make batches of it in a variety of flavors, including traditional, mango, peach, and green chili, among others. Canning salsa would follow the same process as other foods, where you would prepare the salsa first, and then follow the canning process through storage.
Vegi-Corn Salsa
One 16-ounce package of frozen corn
2 medium diced tomatoes
2 cans of small black olives, sliced
1 bunch of scallions, chopped
5 chopped garlic cloves
1/3 cup of olive oil
3 tablespoons of cider vinegar
1 teaspoon of oregano
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 medium avocados, diced
1. In a small bowl, mix seasonings and garlic together and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, combine corn, onions, and olives.
3. Pour seasonings over the corn mixture, stir, and set aside to marinate.
4. Before serving, add tomatoes and avocados.


The Canning Routine

Most canning with jars works in much the same way. You will always take the steps of picking out fresh quality foods, preparing them, filling the sanitized jars, and then preparing the jars (using either the boiling method or the pressure method). Once you have that process down, it is really a matter of finding recipes that you want to try and getting hands-on experience to perfect the process.

If you look in canning and preserving recipe books you will find many recipes for a variety of chutney, mustard, ketchup, and other types of condiments. Experiment with recipes, just as you would recipes for non-canning purposes, and find some of your family favorites. Or, you can create your own that you can save in your own cookbook of family favorite canning recipes, so you start your own traditions.

Did you know?

Have you been giving some thought to canning your own chocolate sauce? You might want to re-think it! According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, recipes for canning chocolate sauce should largely be ignored, even though they still float around the Internet and other places. Turns out, that the chocolate sauces are so low acid, they will put people at risk for botulism poisoning when they eat them. No type of canning of chocolate sauce is recommended. Instead, if you want to preserve some chocolate sauce it's recommended that you follow a recipe for freezing it.