Friday, April 08, 2011

Homemade Jam: How to and Why I love it

I have been making jam with fresh picked berries for several years. Each year I do it I make more because we love it so much. We go to u-pick farms for strawberries in the spring and then blueberries in mid summer. As I said in an earlier post this week we picked about 14 pounds of organic strawberries for $2.25/lb. I think we ate about 4 pounds fresh on pancakes and for snacks, so I had about 10 pounds for jam.

Benefits of making jam at home:
  1. Control of amount of sugar and what is going into the jam
  2. Supports local farms
  3. Less waste--use same jars year after year
  4. Cost:  I spent about $1.50 per 8oz jar of jam 
  •  I've been buying conventional (not organic) all fruit preserves at Kroger for $1.79 for 8 oz. To get it homemade, local, and organic would be a whole lot more.
  • The only place you can get organic jam cheaper is in large quatities at Costco or maybe Trader Joe's and we don't have either. 
This homemade (local and organic is even better!) jam makes great gifts for teachers, friends, neighbors, and families. Another thing I love about having jam around is that it is very satisfying to have the pretty red or blue jars of fruit in the pantry. It is very rewarding to pull a jar of my own jam out of the pantry and serve it to my family:) 
    What you need to make strawberry jam:

    Berries. For the smallest batch you'll need about 2 quarts of berries which will yield 4-5 cups of jam. (If you want to make a bigger batch you can. I made 4 batches at once.)

    Pomona's Fruit Pectin
    This is an all natural pectin that can be found at your local natural food store like Earthfare, Wholefoods, etc. (or the amazon link provided) It is what makes the jam have the gel consistency without using gelatin or alternately using tons of sugar and cooking way down the old fashion way. It comes in a small box for somewhere around $3.00-$4.00. There are detailed instructions and recipes inside the box.

    Jars. Jars come in cases at the grocery stores. You only need 4-5 cup or 2 pint jars but you have to buy them in a case. Consider this an investment as you'll be able to use the same jars for many years.

    Lids and rims. The metal rims can be used many times but the flat lids have rubber seals and these need to be replaced every year. Get these near the jars at the grocery store.

    Sugar. The amount depends on how much you want to use. I used 1 cup organic sugar per batch.

    Water Bath Canner. Get from Target, Walmart or hardware stores. 

    Misc. Canning supplies optional but very helpful. The funnel and tongs are a must.

    The Process:

    1. Wash, trim, and mash about 2 quarts of berries. You'll need 4 cups of mashed berries for one batch.

    2. Sterilize the jars. Do this by boiling them in water for 10 minutes or cleaning them in high heat dishwasher. Leave them in the water or washer until needed so they stay warm. Consider how much time this step is going to take because getting a large pot of water to boil or a cycle in the wash take different amounts of time. When you have about 20 minutes left start the rest of the process.

    3. Sterilize the lids and rims. Put them in small pot covered with water and boil for 10 minutes. Leave them in the pot until needed.

    4. Open box of pectin. Directions clearly explain the following. It comes with 2 small pouches. The large one is the pectin that you add to the sugar and the small one is calcium powder.

    5. First add the 2 teasponns of calcium to 1/2 water and stir well. Keep in the refrigerator until needed.

    6. Measure proper amount of sugar in a bowl. The amount varies depending on your taste.

    7. Measure 2 teaspoons of the pectin (large pouch) and add to the sugar. Stir well.

    8. Place berries in large pot and add calcium water. Stir well. Bring to a boil. Add sugar and stir vigorously for 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat.

    9. Use a ladle and funnel to scoop hot jam into hot jars. Leave a half inch of space at top of jar. Wipe rims with wet cloth. Place lids on top. Screw down rims tight but not too tight. Usually I tighten as much as I can then go back a bit.

    10. Use tongs to place jars in boiling water. They need to be fully submerged with about an inch of water on top. Boil for 5 mins (check instructions because you may need to add time depending on altitude.)

    11. Remove from water with tongs and let cool. After a few minutes check that jars have sealed. I love hearing the little clicks as the lids are sucked down:) It's a sign of success! If they do not seal the first, remove lid and check that there is nothing on the rim blocking the seal and reboil for 5 minutes.


    KathyB said...

    Where did you come from little one? I never taught you those kind of things! Your jam looks beautiful and those are the best directions I've ever seen because never do you see exactly how to do it all! Nice work - can't wait to have some. Love you all!

    AllisonSpooner said...

    Good morning. I stumbled upon your blog because I am planning make preserves today with Pomona's pectin (the cooked, low sugar recipe). Thanks for the helpful tutorial and tips- definitely more information than what comes with the pectin. Question - is the water bath canner a must? I know I can use my dishwasher for the first part of the sterilization process, but I guess the hard part to get around is boiling the jars once the preserves are in them. Is there a way to do that without a water bath canner?

    Jennifer said...

    Hey Allison,

    I don't know of any way to preserve the jam without using the water bath canner. That is a very important part of the process and I know the jam won't last unless it is sealed properly. You could just make the jam and put it in the freezer--then you don't have to worry about the canner. Thanks for stopping by and good luck!