Easy Does It: Make and Preserve Jam and Jelly!
So what constitutes a good canning recipe? For a recipe to be appropriate (and safe) for home canning, it should include variables like jar size, accurate measurements, and an ingredients list. There is no shortage of canning recipes online but many do not undergo the necessary evaluation to determine accurate processing temperature and time that will yield a shelf-stable home-canned food. It is very important to both the taste and safety of the food to select recipes from reliable sources. Our online recipe collection includes links to a wide range of expert-tested canning recipes. Prefer a hard copy? Check out The Ball® Blue Book or one of our other recipe books to browse over 500 recipes for canning, pickling, dehydrating, and freezing food.
Quality Ingredients = Quality Spreads
You will get out what you put into your jam or jelly. Pick or purchase high-quality fruit when it is at its peak for flavor, texture, and color. Skip mushy, overripe, and diseased fruit, and only prepare the amount of fruit needed for the recipe.
Gather and Prep
Start creating and canning your jam or jelly recipe by first gathering and setting up everything you need!
Use only the jar size specified in your recipe. You can always use smaller jars, but it is never safe to use larger jars as this could affect processing temperature and time. For most jams and jellies, a half-pint (8 oz) or smaller jars are used.
Always wash fruits or vegetables under cold, running water rather than soaking them. This is especially important when cleaning fresh berries and delicate fruits that have a tendency to absorb moisture.
Cut, crush, or juice produce exactly as stated in the recipe to help maintain the correct balance between ingredients.
Measure the full amount of sugar listed in the recipe. If you wish to use less sugar, use a recipe specifically developed to get the taste you want.
When using commercial juice from concentrate or a bottle, use only unsweetened, no-calcium-added juice unless otherwise stated in the recipe.
Make the Magic Happen
The recipe will have specific instructions for cooking—follow them! The goal is to develop a gel structure to maintain a balance between ingredients. For best results, use a wide-diameter saucepan with a flat, heavy bottom and high sides to prevent boil-over during cooking. This additional surface area will also help with evaporation and result in improved gelling.
Three additional points to remember when cooking:
Prepare only a single batch at a time. Doubling the recipe can cause your spread to have a soft set or not gel.
Overcooking or undercooking will adversely affect the set.
Recipes that use pectin are boiled for a specific time as stated in the recipe.
As you begin to cook, foam will form on top of soft spreads during cooking. To reduce foam, you can add an optional ½-teaspoon butter or margarine after removing the saucepan from the heat. Otherwise, use a spoon to skim the foam off the spread prior to filling your jars.
Preserve for Now or Later
Once your jam or jelly has cooked for the appropriate amount of time, ladle the hot spread into pre-warmed jars. There are different processes depending on how you intend to use the spread:
Enjoy it now: Cool filled jars to room temperature. Place lids and bands on jars and label. Refrigerate jam or jelly for up to three weeks or serve immediately to enjoy now.
Freeze it: Leave ½-inch headspace when filling jars. Cool, lid, and label. Freeze jam or jelly for up to 1 year.
Glass jars with straight sides work best for freezing as they allow for food expansion that occurs during the freezing process. Try the Ball® Quilted Crystal Jelly Jars (8 oz) or Ball® Half Pint Jars (8 oz).
Preserve and store: Fill your canner halfway with water, enough to cover the jars by at least 1-inch. Lid the canner, adjust heat, and bring water to a rolling boil. Process according to your recipe, only counting time after the water is boiling. Turn off heat and remove the lid. Let jars sit for 5 minutes, then remove from the canner and set on a towel. Do not retighten bands if they are loose. Cool jars 12-24 hours, then check the seals. Label and store your jars to enjoy all year. With Ball® Home Canning Products, jams can be stored for up to 18 months when using SureTight Lids according to our instructions for Food Preservation.
If seedless jam is preferred, heat crushed berries until soft and press through a sieve or food mill; measure pulp and proceed with the recipe.