A Life More Ordinary

Jam and Jelly Best Practices

Posted on: December 7, 2011

On this chilly evening I was thinking about sunnier days when I could make jam and jelly, and decided to write down a sort of “best practices” for next season. If you have any tips, leave a comment, and I’ll include them and link to you. Hope this helps in the jam/jelly making process.

  1. To make sure your soft fruits (raspberries and strawberries) stay more intact during the process, soak them in sugar before you start making your jam. The sugar will help harden the fruit, and keep it from breaking down in the process
  2. All tough-skinned fruit (such as damsons) should be simmered before beginning the process to draw out the juice and break down the skin
  3. Make sure the sugar is completely dissolved before bringing the syrup to a boil. To check, submerge a spoon and checking the syrup when you lift it out. If you can see sugar crystals, then slow that heat down and keep stirring until the syrup runs clear. If this step isn’t adhered to, your jam might not set as well, and it will be sugary (crunchy or gritty). If you are trying to make speedy jam, you can heat the sugar slightly in the oven until it’s warm, but not melted
  4. Keep relaxed about the scum issue. Just wait until everything is set, take it off the heat and throw a large ‘pat’ of butter and stir it around. That should take care of it. If there is still some lingering scum, then do a little scraping
  5. When making jelly, hang the straining device from your faucet and let it drip into a large bowl for at least an hour, or overnight if you really want to get all the juice out of there. Squeezing the bag will cloud up the syrup. If you squeeze the straining device too hard, you will also get a woody flavour from the seeds / stones / skins
  6. After the jam has set, and if you are making whole fruit jam (see #1) let the pot set for 10-15 minutes before you seal them in your sterile jars. This will keep the whole fruits from floating up to the top
  7. To test for set jelly or jam: as you are beginning to cook the fruit and sugar together, put 3-4 small saucers in the freezer to cool right down. When you have boiled the jelly/jam for the recommended time, take it off the heat, take a teaspoon and pull out a little bit of the boiling syrup and pour it on the chilly saucer, then place the saucer back in the freezer for about 1-2 minutes. Take it back out and push the jam with your finger. If a wrinkly skin has formed on the top, then the jam is set. If it isn’t, continue to boil for another 5 minutes and do it again (this is also a good time for taste testing too)
  8. Think small: large batches of jam and jelly will lessen the taste of the fruit. The goal is to cook the fruit quickly to lock in that taste before it breaks down, as well as achieving a good set
  9. Don’t skimp on sterilization. Always wash jars and lids (or rings and tops) in hot soapy water. You can either boil the jars for 10 minutes, or place all jars in a cold oven, turn the heat on to around 350F (180C). When it reaches temperature, the jar is sterilized. If you are using quarter turn lids, boil them for about 5 minutes. If you are using bands and tops (ball, kehr, bernardin, kilner) boil the bands but only get the clip tops to almost a boil, the remove from heat
  10. Wait until the jars are completely cool before either writing on the tops, or placing labels on the glass. Store unused jam in a cool dark place, preferably a cupboard and always refridgerate after opening
  11. If you find that after the jam has cooled that it hasn’t set, don’t worry, just pour it all out and boil it up again with the juice of one small lemon. Repeat the set test (#6), re-sterilize the jars (#7) and maybe think about doing a smaller batch (#8)
  12. If you find that mould has grown inside your jam jar, don’t fret. Take a spoon and scrape off the mould along with the jam around .5inch or 1cm below it. The rest of the jam isn’t affected and be sure to pop it back in the fridge. Then make sure you finish the jar as quick as you can. The high sugar content in the jam or jelly acts as a preservative, so you don’t run the risk of Clostridium botulinum
  13. Don’t forget to wipe down your jars with a warm damp cloth after sealing, or you’ll just get all sticky when you reach for it.

*got any more tips? leave a comment and I’ll add them, linking to you!*

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4 Responses to "Jam and Jelly Best Practices"

I will bookmark this page for next summer! I didn’t know $6 about the fruit floating to the top. I will say, though, that when I read the post title, I was really hoping for jam and jelly spreading and eating techniques. 🙂

I am going to someday post the recipe for not-too-sweet triple berry jam that I made up this summer to food.com. I LOVE how it turned out. You may not love it since you like sugar more than I do, but I’m giving you the recipe anyway:

3/14 c (2 lb) finely chopped and smashed strawberries
3 cups blueberries (not smashed)
12-oz package of raspberries (sorry I didn’t measure this in cups)
1/4 c lemon juice
3 c sugar
1 box low sugar pectin (sooo happy I found this stuff!)

Smash berries to your liking. Mix together fruit, pectin, and 1/4 c sugar. Bring to a boil. Add in the rest of the sugar, and return to a boil. Let it boil 1 minute, and then take it off the heat. Makes 8 half-pints.

Thank you Little D. It’s not that I really like sugar or anything like that, but I see it as a “traditional” way of preserving fruits. As long as you don’t go overboard during the day, sugar is alright!

I’m going to have a search around in the grocery store here to see if there is a low sugar pectin available. I would love to try your recipe next season. 🙂 If you have any jam and jelly spreading and eating techniques you would like to share, please feel free. I know some people really like their pb&j toasted in a brevel. I never quite got used to that. 😉

[…] 2012 Clent Vegetable Garden Jam and Jelly Best Practices […]

[…] has been reached. If you are interested in how to make a set test, you can find it in my “Best Practices” […]

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