Wednesday, August 4, 2010


My mom used to make jam for us when I was growing up. It was always more flavorful than the store-bought stuff, plus it was a great way to use up fruits that we picked from out back yard and our CSA. I tend to get a little manic about making jam, but we always use it, and we give a number of jars away to appreciative friends and family members. My husband will pretty much only eat homemade strawberry jam now, so in the spring we make a pilgrimage to an absolutely amazing strawberry farm in New Jersey. It's a bit of a drive, but it's well worth the trek-- they really have the best berries. I always buy at least 10 quarts of strawberries (despite the dirty looks we get from the people behind us in line), and when we get home at the end of the day, we wash them, hull them, and throw them in the food processor. Ball's directions says not to do this, but I've been doing it for years without a problem. After I've pulsed the berries down to the consistency we like (no slimy chunks), I divide the purée into 5 cup increments (either in containers, labeled at the top with permanent marker, or in seal-a-meal type bags that I double bag and then stick into thick gallon-size freezer bags). By doing this, I can stick all of the fresh fruit right into the freezer and don't have to worry about canning it immediately, and I've saved myself an important step later on. I do the same for sour cherries and blackberries when they're in season, although the increments are different.

When you buy the Ball No Sugar Needed Fruit Pectin, there are tons of recipes, pictures, and all of the directions you'll need inside. I more or less follow all of their directions... except that I NEVER add the juice or water that all of their recipes call for. I found that the few times I mistakenly did add the extra liquid that the jams never jelled properly. Some people use Sure-Jell, but I always stick to Ball (whose website stinks, hence the lack of hyperlink).

J'adore: Homemade Jam

Ingredients for Strawberry jam:
5 cups mashed or puréed strawberries**
1 packet Ball Fruit Jell No Sugar Needed Pectin
1.5-2 cups granulated sugar*

Ingredients for Sour Cherry jam:
4 cups chopped and pitted sour cherries
1 packet Ball Fruit Jell No Sugar Needed Pectin
2 cups granulated sugar*

Ingredients for Berry Berry Cherry jam:
2 cups blackberry juice
2 cups mashed or puréed strawberries
2 cups chopped and pitted sour cherries
1 packet Ball Fruit Jell No Sugar Needed Pectin
2 cups granulated sugar*

1. Fill a large canning pot with hot water and bring to a boil. Clean jelly jars, lids, and bands with warm soapy water. (I'd recommend 8 8oz. jars to be on the safe side. Although most of the recipes only make around 6 jars, you don't want to end up short, especially if you've added all 3 cups of sugar). Put the clean jars in the canning pot and boil/simmer for at least ten minutes with the lid on. Place the lids in a small pot and boil/simmer for at least ten minutes. Put the bands aside where they will be easy to access.
2. Pour fruit purée into a large cooking pot and turn heat to med-low. Bring fruit to a simmer. Sprinkle the pectin in a little at a time, so as to avoid chunks, stirring constantly. Bring mixture to a full boil, stirring constantly. Once mixture is boiling it is time to add sugar. Start with one cup, stir in completely, and taste to see if it's sweet enough. Continue adding sugar until the desired sweetness has been achieved, but no more than three cups. Bring mixture to a boil again. Boil for one full minute, stirring constantly.
3. Remove from heat and skim foam, if necessary.
4. Remove hot jars from canning pot and turn upside-down onto a clean dishtowel.
5. Ladle hot jam into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace (to the bottom of the jar's threads). Wipe the threads and rim clean if you spill any jam. Place a lid onto the jar and secure by tightening the band onto the jar. Place full jars back into the boiling canning pot, making sure that the jars are covered by at least 2 inches of water.
6. Process jars in the boiling water for 10 minutes with the lid on.
7. Carefully remove the jars from the boiling water and place on a clean dishtowel. When all of the jars have been placed on the towel, cover them lightly with another clean dishtowel.
8. Listen for the jars' lids to pop. Usually this will only take an hour or two, but it can take up to 24 hours for all the lids to pop. You'll know that a lid has created a seal when the center of the lid is concave. DO NOT press on the lids if they have not sealed on their own! If, after 24 hours, your jars still haven't sealed, just stick them in the fridge.
9. Label sealed jars and store in a cool, dry, dark place. Jam will keep for about a year, if you have it around that long!

*You can use anywhere from no sugar to 3 cups of sugar depending on your personal preference and depending on the batch of fruit you're using. I always use at least one cup of sugar and then add more based on taste. Do not add more than 3 cups of sugar.
**9 quarts of fresh strawberries makes 3 batches of jam: 18 8oz. jars, 4 4oz. jars; 2 quarts makes approx. 5 cups of purée .

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