Simple Canning – Jam or Jelly

I love home made jams and jellies, but the process can look pretty daunting. I’ve simplified it so you don’t have 10 pots going at the same time. You do need to be careful though, because if your jam isn’t cooked right or properly sealed, it can spoil and be unsafe to eat.

Fortunately, it’s not rocket science. At least, it’s not quite rocket science. Okay, in my kitchen it’s not even in the same neighborhood as rocket science. Still, it’s worth being careful…

Here’s what you’ll need:

a big pot for the jam or jelly
a big pot for a water bath
a small pan for lids
jars, lids and rims
Tongs for lifting the jars in and out of the water (Optional but they make for fewer burned fingers)
a wide mouth funnel for filling jars
baking pan

Method:

1. Fill a big pot 2/3 full of water, and set it on to boil to use as a “water bath.” Start a teakettle at the same time so you can add water as needed.

2. Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Wash jars in hot soapy water and rinse, but do not dry. Place them upside down in a baking pan and place in the oven. Bake 20 minutes. Turn oven off and remove only when you’re ready to fill them. Be careful – they will be pretty hot.

3. Bring water to boil in the little sauce pan. Once boiling, add the lids. Remove from heat and keep there until you need them. Some people use a magnetic thingy, which I may invest in. For now, I just dump out the water when I’m ready to use them.

4. Make the jam or jelly according to the recipe.

5. Position funnel over empty jar and fill, stopping 1/2″ from the top. Carefully wipe the glass tops of the jars with a damp towel and put the lids on. Put the bands on, but don’t completely tighten.

6. Place the jars in the water bath and top up with boiling water until they’re completely covered. Bring the water back to a boil, then turn down and let them cook for at least 10 minutes. (This is call processing.)

7. Remove from the water bath onto a clean dish towel, and let cool for several hours or overnight.

8. Check the lids after the jam has cooled to be sure the centers are firmly down. Tighten the bands and label the jams.

If the lids are loose or they bobble up and down, they aren’t sealed. Just remove the lids, wipe down the glass again, wash the lids and replace them and the loosely tightened rims. Process them for another 10 minutes, or just keep those jars in the refrigerator.

That’s it. It’s actually pretty easy!

Tanya’s English Rhubarb Ginger Jam

My friend Tanya brought over a jar of this amazing jam, which her mother in England always made, and we finished it off in the first week.  So I decided to make a batch yesterday with another friend, Donna.  It’s so unusual and so good. (Think it would be amazing on baked Brie!)

Tanya mentioned that the recipe was on BBC Good Food.  After much research, (what exactly is Jam sugar?) metric conversions and hard math, we came up with this recipe.  Read more here about how to can jams and jellies.

8 cups rhubarb, cut into 1/2″ pieces (2 lbs.)
Juice and zest of 1 1/2 lemons  (or 6 Tbsp lemon juice)
9 Tbsp pectin powder
1/3 cup finely diced crystallized ginger
2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger root (Use more if you really like ginger)
8 cups sugar

Add everything except sugar into a large pot. On high heat, bring to a boil, stirring constantly then reduce heat and cook for a few minutes until the rhubarb is soft. (Frozen, chopped rhubarb will cook a little more quickly.) Be sure to continue scraping the bottom as the pectin likes to stick there.  You can use a potato masher to break the fruit down a little more.

If your rhubarb is a mostly green variety – you can add a drop or two of red food coloring, which will turn it a soft pink.  But it’s totally optional.

Add sugar and bring back up to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil for one minute. Remove from heat and continue to stir and scoop off the foam.  The foam is perfectly edible – just doesn’t look pretty in the jars.

With a clean damp towel, carefully wipe off the glass tops of the jars, fill to 1/2″ from the top and put the lids on.  Place rings on, but don’t completely tighten them.

In a large stock pot or canning pot, put jars into simmering water.  Cover completely and bring back up to the boil. Turn down to a simmer again and leave it for 10 minutes.

Remove from pot, and place right side up on a clean towel.  Leave to cool overnight.  In the morning check to see that the lids are all staying down in the middle.  If they’ve popped up, or they go up and down, they haven’t sealed, and need to be wiped down, and put back in the simmering water again for 10 minutes.

Grean Apple Mulberry Jam

Maya and her friends were Beatles fanatics starting in middle school and referred to themselves for a time as “The Grean Apples” and later just “the Gaggle.” We gave the girls pretty much carte blanche to cook in our kitchen.  One day they got a wild hair to make Mulberry Jam, after picking a bucket of mulberries from Elmwood Park. Each girl got to take a couple of jars home and they had a blast making it.

3 lbs. mulberries
1/2 cup lemon juice
7 cups sugar
1 pkg liquid pectin

Wash berries. Put into a large pot and mash gently. Heat on low heat for 15 minutes, covered. Add sugar and lemon juice, and bring to the boil. Stir in the pectin, and keep at a boil for one minute, stirring constantly.

Pour into prepared jars and seal. Read more here about how to make jams and jellies.

Chokecherry Jelly

Choke_Cherry_01Chokecherries grow wild in Nebraska, sprouting a spike of white flowers in the spring and deep purple/black berries in the fall. They are blisteringly sour, but make delicious jelly or wine.

In 2011, Maya and I were driving along the main road at Niobrara State Park, and saw a large shrub/tree bobbing and swaying in a dozen different directions.

Slightly freaked out, we slowed down and realized that there were actually a flock of wild baby turkeys (poults) on a chokecherry feeding frenzy.

Since we love chokecherry jelly, we stopped at the park office and asked if it was okay to pick chokecherries. Reassured, we headed back into town and picked up sugar, pectin,  mason jars and an empty box to hold our berries at Farnik’s Market.

We found a chokecherry bush that was loaded with berries and started picking.  Just as we were finishing, calamity!  Maya slid down the hill, badly scraping her arm on the way.  We took our berries back to the cabin and washed and bandaged the worst of her scrapes.  Poor kid! She was a real trouper (as always) and still pitched in.

3 lbs. chokecherries to yield 3 1/2 cups of juice
4 cups sugar
1 box powdered Sure-Jell
1 cup mason jars (7 or 8) washed in hot soapy water, and rinsed with boiling water. (Leave the jars in the hot water until you’re ready to fill them.)

In a large pot, wash and remove berries from stems. Drain well. Add a cup of water to the berries, and cook on medium/low heat, stirring to break the berries open.

Lay a piece of thin fabric (we improvised with a cotton bandanna) in a colander with a bowl underneath and pour the berries in. Tie the corners together and let the juice drip out for a couple of hours. Then gently squeeze the berries to get out any remaining juice.

Add the juice and Sure-jell to a pot and bring to a boil. Add sugar and bring back to the boil for one more minute. Pour into mason jars, cover and lower them into a gently boiling pot of water. Keep the water simmering for 10 minutes. Remove and let cool.

Nebraska City Apple Butter (our version)

Nebraska City is home to Arbor Day Farm and Morton Orchards, which is famous for their apples. We love their apple butter, which Lied Lodge uses with sauteed apples to make amazing oatmeal. This recipes comes as close to their delicious apple butter as we’ve been able to get. Tart apples are great for this, but we often use a blend of whatever is looking good. Maya and I first made this on 9-24-08.

enough apples to make 9 cups crushed apples or apple sauce

5 cups sugar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1/2 cup apple cider

Peel and quarter apples. Cook with cider until soft. Add everything else, and cook for one hour on low heat. Pour into sterilized jars and process as usual. Sweet, spicy and a little tart – it is so good.

Spicy Peach Jam or Sauce

peach jam finalUpdated August, 2019.  This recipe comes courtesy of Stephenson’s Apple Farm, a wonderful restaurant in Kansas City that no longer exists. It’s a sweet, spicy jam that I’ve never had anywhere else.  Make it without pectin for a wonderful, bright sauce for bread pudding, pancakes or ice cream.

Ingredients:

5 cups of unpeeled peaches (3 lbs. – can cut into chunks and buzz them gently in a food processor, or just cut into small pieces and use as is.)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp ginger powder
Scant 6 Tbsp  Pectin (I used Ball Classic Pectin)
5 cups sugar

Should fill 9- 10 half pint mason jars.

Sterilize jars in oven (see note below).  Boil lids for 5 minutes and remove from heat.  Create a water bath by filling a large stock pot halfway with water and bring to a boil.  Turn down to a simmer.

Put everything but sugar into a large kettle. Stir over high heat to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. (If using fruit in chunks, you may want to reduce heat and continue cooking until fruit is all soft.) Be careful to keep stirring the bottom – where the pectin can tend to clump.

Add all sugar and bring back to a full rolling boil. Cook for one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and skim off any foam that rises to the top. Stir and skim for 5 minutes. (The foam is edible, just doesn’t look nice in the jar.)

Ladle into clean mason jars, and follow regular canning procedures. Read more here about how to make jams and jellies.

Note: My dear friend Donna got two lugs of beautiful Colorado peaches and we made Peach Jam and Rhubarb Ginger jam yesterday.  She showed me an easy way to sterilize jars in the oven, saving stovetop space. Here’s how to do it:

Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Wash jars in hot soapy water and rinse, but do not dry. Place them upside down in a roasting pan and place in the oven. Bake 20 minutes. Remove and let cool slightly so you can handle them for filling. You’ll still sterilize the lids in boiling water, but can use a much smaller pan for that.

If you don’t have time to make the jam right when peaches are really good,  either buzz them in the food processor or cut them into chunks and freeze 5 cups in a freezer bag, laying the bags as flat as possible in the freezer.  Then when you’re ready, just add them frozen to the pot and make the jam as usual.