Back when Jared and I were dating, we took a trip to visit his family. During that week, my now Mother-in-Law and Grandmothers-In-Law taught me the “traditional” way of canning jam using the hot pack method. This is NOT the USDA approved method, so there is a chance of the jam spoiling, particularly if the jars fail to seal. I usually make a few batches over the summer when fruit is in season and then use them up before the next summer.
The secret to this method working is that everything has to be hot. The jars are kept warm in an oven while you prepare the boiling hot jam. As the jars cool down to room temperature, they will all self seal.
To make jam you only need to buy canning jars, pectin, fruit, and sugar. While it is traditional to use half-pint jars for jam, you can use whatever size you prefer.
Prepare your jars by washing them in warm soapy water, especially if you are reusing jars that have been in storage for a while. Rinse well then place in a warm oven. If your oven does not have a warm setting, set it for 200 degrees.
Prepare your lids by boiling them in a pan on the stove. While the jars and rings can be reused over and over, you need new lids every time you can a new batch. (If you are not canning and just using jars for storing leftover in the refrigerator, then you can use old lids.)
The seal on the lids needs to get soft in order to seal the jars. The rings are the only part that does not need to be hot, so you can leave them on the counter while you work.
Jam can be made from either fresh or frozen fruit. Either way you will need to prep the fruit to get your desired texture. Fresh fruit should be washed, have stems and leaves removed, and chopped into small pieces. Frozen fruit need to be defrosted, then chopped as desired.
I personally prefer jam with a very smooth texture so I choose to puree all my fruit in the blender. If you desire a chunkier jam, you can chop the fruit into small pieces or mash with a potato masher.
Now its time to start cooking the jam! Use a pot that is at least twice the volume as the jam you are preparing so you don’t get a boil over.
Add your sugar to the pot with the fruit. Jam can be made with varying amounts of sugar, including sugar free, depending on your preference. You just need to match the type of pectin you are using with the amount of sugar you add. If you deviate from the recipes provided with the pectin package it is possible that your jam will remain liquid once cool or possibly spoil in storage.
The fruit and sugar need to be brought to a rolling boil before the pectin is added. It’s very important to stay right with your pot and continue to stir so you don’t have a mess on your hands! Do not walk away!
Once you have a rolling boil that you cannot sir down, your jam is ready for pectin to be added. Pectin is available in both powdered and liquid form. You can use either, just follow the recipes that come in with the package. You need to follow the sugar to fruit ration specific to the type of pectin you use in order to get a proper texture of your final jam.
Now that the jam is cooked and your jars are nice and hot, its time to fill them! Handle the jars carefully as you remove them from the oven. Place a towel or use a cookie sheet under your jars to catch any drips. Fill the jars to within a half inch of the top. On most brands of mason jars, a half inch is is the bottom of the grooves. It is very helpful to use a funnel for this, but make sure its designed specifically for canning. Regular funnels may not be heat safe.
Once your jars are all full, place the lids and rings on the jars. Rings only need to be finger tight. It’s actually the pressure change that occurs when the jars cool that seals, not the rings. A common misconception is that you have to work extremely quickly while canning. That’s not quite true. You do need to get the jars full and the lids on while everything is hot, but you do not have to move so fast that you risk burning yourself or spilling hot jam everywhere.
Enjoy your jam! As you can see in the picture above, we made two batches. One used fresh strawberries and the other used frozen mixed berries. Both turned out to taste wonderful!
As your jars cool, you will hear the lids pop as they seal. Once everything is cool, if a jar did not seal it needs to be stored in the refrigerator and used fairly quickly (within a few weeks). Jars that did fully seal are safe to store on your pantry shelf for a year or two. If you store your jars in a place that gets hot (like a garage), there is a chance the jars will unseal and spoil. Cool storage is best.
As is always true with home canned food products, there is a chance things can spoil while in storage. If you open a jar and there is mold or it smells off, don’t eat it.
What kind of jam will you be making this summer?