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Please help a total kitchen idiot make jam!

448 Views 10 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  BusyMommy
I wnt to make jam this summer. BAlckberries grow free on the side of the road EVERYWHERE here, and I can get pick your own organic blueberries for 89c a pound. But, I have never done any kind of preserving. Ihave read recipes, but they are assuming a lot from me!
So, can I make jam without a pressure cooker? What the heck is pectin? WHat is the cheapest way to buy it? Can I use something besides white sugar? What do they mean when thye say to SEAL the jars? How do I do that? DO I need to use special canning jars? How long will it keep? Where should I store it?
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freezer jam is very easy and doesn't take alot of special equipment. I will look around for my recipe. gotta go baby crying
Berry jam is the EASIEST kind to make - and you don't need a pressure canner, pectin or any of that stuff.

Just wash the berries and put them in a heavy bottomed pot (no water except what is there from washing). Cook over low heat until juice comes out then increase the heat and cook for about an hour or so until soft. Add sugar to taste - many cookbooks say 3/4 to 1 cup sugar per cup of fruit but I never use that much. Bring to boil and cook until thickened 30 to 45 minutes - skim off any foam that appears.

Now the canning part is a bit harder to explain in an email. You can do open canning method where you boil the jars and lids - pour boiling hot jam into hot jars. Seal and let cool about 24 hours. Lids should not "give" when you push in the middle. You can also process the jars in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes after filling them to ensure they are sealed.

If you look in a Joy of Cooking, Betty Crocker or any one of those comprehensive cookbooks - you will get more details - or pick up a ball canning jar booklet. It really is not hard at all.

And you can freeze the finished jam too like was mentioned above. Just cook the jam, cool to room temp and put in freezer containers.
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Oh yeah - you can also freeze the berries until you are ready to make jam. That is what I am doing right now since I don't get enough blackberries from one picking to go thru the trouble of jam. I just wash the berries and put in freezer containers until I have enough for jam.

(The frozen berries are great in smoothies too!)
I'm with Cathe, I don't use extra pectin or anything. I like to make blueberry jam, strawberry jam and peach preserves for gifts and for us. Freezing berries works well too because then you can make jam when you want to heat the house up, like in November instead of July! I have a recipe somewhere for Sugarless Blueberry-Pear Jam that uses apple juice for sweetening and thickening that is delicious, let me know if you want it.

I did want to add that I follow the current recommendations to process jams and preserves for 10 min in a boiling water bath. I don't always process them, but if I just use clean, hot jars and lids, I refrigerate and use within 2 weeks. These may have changed, but this is what was recommended last year when I checked.

The best resource for good recipes, IMO, are older cookbooks. My new Joy doesn't have a preserving chapter at all, but my 10yo version has great recipes. I follow old recipes, new processing advice.
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I just wanted to add that freshly made jam is a great reason to bake your own bread.
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thanks cathe, that does sound easy. I am definately going to freeze alot of them too, so I dont "lose" them while sitting around being intimidated by the whole thing!
Kari_mom, what do you mean by "processing"?
The trouble I have with this is that I am completely not a visual learner, so I do not learn how to do things by reading a book. I am an avid reader, but when it comes to step by ste instructions, I have to do my own thing and make mistakes along the way. I always begin with a recipe, then make it up while I go along. But, I am soo afraid of botulism, or whatever, that I dont want to do that. But, looking in a cookbook is like reaidng a foreign language to me!
Processing jams mean in a boiling water bath. You get a big pot of boiling water. YOu need something on the bottom to keep jars off the bottom of the pot - like a rack or something. I got a pot at a garage sale a few years ago but you can get them at a hardware store like Orchard Supply or most places where they sell canning jars. Anyway, the jars must totally me immersed in boiling water. After you put in the jars, you wait for the water to come back to a boil then start timing. I thought the recommendations were 5 mins but Kari Mom may be right about 10 mins. I've never done the processing for jam - just for applesauce and tomatoes. BUt the "open kettle method" which is what I do, is cautioned against in all the latest books. I learned it from an old-time farmer who lives nearby who says she has "done it this way for 70 years and never had a problem!"
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why do they recommend against it?
I'm not exactly sure - I just looked up in a couple of books - one older books said use open kettle method only for jam/jelly. Another book says Open Kettle method no longer recommend even for jam making. This book says 5 minutes boiling water processing for jam. (Encyclopedia for Country LIving).
Okay...processing about to begin.


And, to venture where I have never ventured before...
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