Tips for Easy Jam-Making

July 21, 2011 |  by  |  Blog

There is almost nothing as rewarding as opening your pantry in December to see neat rows of jam, stewed tomatoes, and dill pickles that you made back in the peak of harvest season. But make no mistake, canning can also be a lot of work! For me, the word “canning” invokes memories of sticky September afternoons and long hours spent over boiling pots.

Making jam is a great way to preserve your berries and fruit in small batches, and it doesn’t need to take more than a few hours. Small-batch jam is also a great first canning project for someone who doesn’t want to invest too much time or money right away. Strawberries, cherries, and raspberries are all in season at the market and will make great jams and preserves. Here are a few easy steps you can take to cut down on time and ensure that your canning experience is so positive, you’ll be back for more:

  1. Purchase all of your supplies in advance. You will need enough jars and lids, pectin, and sweetener for the amount of fruit you have. It’s also a good idea to have a few extra jars on hand, just in case. These items never expire and can be purchased at most any grocery store, so just add them to your shopping list and pick them up the next time you go.
  2. Read your recipe before you start. Find a recipe that you’re excited about and read it through a few times before even beginning to  cut off your stems. If you start cooking your fruit before you’ve read the entire recipe, you are more likely to skip a step or make a mistake. There is little else as disappointing as a batch of jam that won’t set. Save yourself the frustration by reading your recipe.
  3. Prepare your fruit ahead of time. The goal is to have your fruit ready to go when you are, so you don’t have to spend a ton of time pitting seeds on the day of jam-making. Only the best-looking fruit and vegetables should be used for preserving to avoid potential contamination. Cull any over-ripe fruit and use in a dessert or fresh-made compote. Cut out any seeds, stems or pits, and slice your fruit, then store it in a sealed container in the refrigerator. You can prep your fruit up to a few days in advance. Just keep in mind that your fruit will not keep as long and will lose flavor once it’s been washed and sliced. Prepping your fruit is a matter of delicate timing, but can save you a ton of time.
  4. Recruit reinforcements! Not only is canning more fun when done with others, but you’ll be amazed at how much time you will save when you can form an assembly line!

There is an Malian proverb that goes, “doni doni che be jdimi,” or “little by little, the chicken drinks water.” You don’t have to can all of your preserves in one day, or even one weekend. Have fun with it, take your time, and work in small batches. You’ll be amazed at how fast a few jars every week can turn into a pantry full of delicious jam. Happy canning!

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