jams and jellies
When my hubby and I were newlyweds, (in 1976) we ran a tiny radio station in the middle of the Chippewa National Forest in northern Minnesota. The first spring we noticed small trees on the property with little red berries so we checked with our Agriculture Extension Officer to see what they were. He came out, identified them as edible Pin Cherries and passed along his wife’s recipe for Pin Cherry Jelly. That began my love of making jams and jellies.
Since this time I have made jams or jellies nearly every year. I have found them to be great hostess gifts for all sorts of occasions. It’s an inexpensive and easy way to show thoughtfulness.
A loaf of fresh bread or muffins with a jar of jam will be welcome in many situations:
1. A sick neighbor or one with a sick family member
2. As a thank you for a kindness
3. Welcome to the neighborhood
4. For hosting us overnight
5. As Christmas or holiday gifts
6. For my children and grandchildren to take home
7. For someone who lives alone, such as a widower or a retired priest
8. For friendship, just because
9. To donate for a charity auction
10. If you have jam, you’ll find reasons to share it.
Here are a few tips if you’re new to the jam game.
types of jars
1. Use only glass jars that can use a band which screws on the top.
2. You can purchase “canning” jars at grocery stores, discount stores and sometimes at large pharmacies. At least here in the Midwest, they are easiest to find during the summer.
wash jars in dishwasher to sterilize
3. Sometimes you can reuse pasta sauce jars or other food jars from the grocery store.
4. Sterilize your jars – even if you have just purchased them from a store.
5. I like to put my jars in the dish washer to sterilize them. I start cooking my jam during the last drying cycle of the dishwasher so the jars are warm when I’m putting the hot jam into them.
6. If you are putting hot jam into cold jars, put a knife in the jar to keep it from cracking the jar.
7. Use only ripe fruit free from blemishes.
8. For jelly, you’ll need to either use juice or strain the berries through cheesecloth for a clear product.
1. There are two general sizes of jar “mouths:” regular and wide mouth.
jar mouth sizes
2. This is important for purchasing the jar lids and bands to seal your jam.
3. Lids are the flat pieces that sit on the jar. (You can find them with a domed middle.)
4. Never reuse a lid. They won’t seal twice.
5. Bands are the pieces that hold the lids in place. These MAY be reused
6. Boil the lids and bands for a few minutes while you are making your jam.
boil the lids and bands to sterilize
1. Most jam and jelly recipes call for a powdered fruit pectin. Don’t skip this step.
pectin on sale
2. My favorite is Sure Jell and I try to buy extra at the end of the summer when they go on clearance.
Getting a good seal
1. Follow the specific instructions for your jams.
2. Don’t skimp on the sugar.
3. Take the hot jars out of the dishwasher (or large pot if you’re sterilizing them this way).
4. Ladle the jam into the jars, making sure you are holding the jars with a hot pad or mitt.
5. Use a clean lint-free cloth to wash the jam off the top and sides of the jar while it is still hot.
6. Put the lids and bands on all the jars.
7. Within an hour you’ll hear them all “pop” which means you’ve gotten a good seal.
8. When they are cooled off, wash any remaining sticky stuff off the sides.
Make them beautiful
I think they are glorious just as is, but if you want more “wow” here are a few ideas.
1. Label jars with the variety of jam and the year you made them. (At least for me this is important, so I use up the oldest jams first.)
2. Tie ribbons around them
3. Use decorative tissue papers and wrap them before tying on a beautiful ribbon.
4. Put in a basket with muffins or breads.