The Basics of Making Your Own Jam

Learning how to can your own jams and preserves can be a fun and economical way to save your summer fruits and enjoy them for several months. By canning your own fruits, you know exactly what you are eating and you don't have to worry about too much sugar or the unhealthy preservatives you might find in some store-bought jams.

If you want to try out canning for the first time, there are only a few things you'll need and a few things to keep in mind. There are various home canning kits you can buy in stores or online, which will include things like a canning pot, a canning rack, a funnel, and a jar lifter.  However, you probably already own many of the tools you need!

What you'll need: - Fresh fruit and sugar. These are the basic ingredients for almost any jam. Consult a recipe for the exact measurements and jam making procedure. - A large pot. - A sturdy pair of tongs. - A rack or tea towel. To prevent the jars from sitting directly on the bottom of a your pot of boiling water, you can place them on a rack in the pot or just line the bottom of the pot with a tea towel. This will just prevent the glass from getting too much direct heat and from clinking around too much. - A funnel. This can be helpful, but is not necessary. A funnel will just help you minimize the mess when filling your jars with the jam. - Several glass jars with matching metal lids and screw bands. You can reuse the jars and screw bands over time, but you will need new a new metal lid for each jar. The metal lid has a sealing compound that will get used up each time, so new ones will be necessary for future cannings.

The basic steps: - Cook down the fruits into a jam. There are various methods of doing this that include roasting the fruits first or boiling the fruits down into a pulp. Consult a recipe for this since different techniques will work better for different fruits. - Add the jam to the pre-sterilized, still-warm jars. Make sure to leave about a 1/4 inch space between the top of the jam and the top of the jar. - Place a lid on the jar. Before you do this, make sure the top of the jar is completely clean of any jam residue otherwise the jar can't seal properly. - Screw on the metal band onto the jar to hold the lid down. Screw it on snuggly, but not too tightly. - Place the jam-filled jars back in the pot. Cover with water by at least one inch and bring to a boil. Boil for about 5 minutes, or whatever your recipe directs. - Remove the jars from the boiling water and let them rest overnight, undisturbed. Make sure to keep them upright the whole time. - Check to see if the jars sealed correctly. If the lid pops back up when you press it down, it is not sealed correctly and you should use the jam soon. If the lid stays down, you can store away your preserves for several months.

For more tips and information, check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation and their section on jam and jelly. If you don't want to make your own jam, there are great specialty jams right now. Check out these five delicious artisan jams for something special on your next PB & J.

Do you can or make jam at home?

Photo: ryochiji