Make Jams and Jellies
Jelly, jam, preserves, conserves, marmalades and fruit butters are all made from fruit, preserved by sugar and thickened or gelled to some extent.
To gel properly, sweet spreads must contain the right combination of fruit, pectin, acid and sugar. The fruit gives each spread its unique flavor and color. Fruit also supplies the water needed to dissolve the other ingredients and some or all of the pectin and acid. Good quality, flavorful fruits make the best sweet spreads.
If combined with the right amount of acid and sugar, pectins cause a gel to form. All fruits contain some pectin. Apples, crabapples, gooseberries and some plums and grapes contain enough natural pectin to form a gel. Other fruits, like strawberries, cherries and blueberries, contain little natural pectin. They must be mixed with other fruits high in pectin or with commercial pectin products for a gel to form.
Fully ripened fruit contains less pectin, so combine it with one-fourth underripe fruit when making sweet spreads without added pectin.
Caution: Commercially frozen and canned juices are low in natural pectins and make soft-textured sweet spreads. Use only in recipes calling for added pectin.
The right amount of acid is critical to gel formation. With too little acid, the gel will never set. Too much acid will cause the gel to lose liquid (weep). If fruits are low in acid, add lemon juice or other acid ingredients as directed. Commercial pectin products contain enough acid to ensure gelling.
Jelly is a mixture of fruit juice and sugar that is clear and firm enough to hold its shape.
Other sweet spreads, like jam, are made from crushed or chopped fruit. Jam holds its shape, but is less firm than jelly. When jams are made from a mixture of fruits they are usually called conserves, especially when they contain citrus fruits, nuts, raisins or coconut.
Preserves are made of small, whole fruits or pieces of fruits in a clear, thick, slightly gelled syrup.
Marmalades are soft, transparent fruit jellies that contain small pieces of fruit or citrus peel.
Fruit butters are made from fruit pulp cooked with sugar until thickened.
Sugar helps preserve sweet spreads, contributes flavor and aids in gelling. Granulated white sugar is most often used to make jelly or jam. You can replace part of the sugar with corn syrup or honey, but too much masks the fruit flavor and changes the gel structure. Use tested recipes for replacing sugar with honey and corn syrup. Don't reduce the amount of sugar in traditional recipes, because a gel won't form, and yeasts and molds may grow in the sweet spreads.
Even though sugar helps preserve sweet spreads, molds can still grow on the surface of these products unless they are heat-processed.
To prevent mold growth and to keep good flavor and color, pour hot sweet spreads into sterilized jars; leave 1/4-inch headspace. Seal with two-piece lids, and process. Sweet spreads are best if eaten within one year.
Source: University of Missouri Extension, Barbara J. Willenberg and Karla
Vollmar Hughes, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition
Making Jam or Jelly
Food made with love and food that is traditional within your family always tastes special. Even though many parents work outside the home, there seems to be constant interest in food preservation, especially making jams and jellies when fresh fruit is in season.
1. Prepare your fruit. Wash and remove stems.
2. Squeeze and crush fruit in pot.
3. Add water and simmer on high for 5 to 10 minutes to fuirt. Let cool.
4. If making jelly, strain the crushed fruit in a cheesecloth over a pot to save the juice. Squeeze out as much juice as possible. Disgard the cheesecloth with the seeds and pulp.
5. Measure the amount of crushed fruit or juice, then refer to recipe below and measure out the pectin and sugar needed.
6. Sanitize jars.
7. Add the pectin to the fruit mixture or juice and stir over high heat until it comes to a boil. Stir in the sugar and boil for one minute. Don't worry if the mixture starts to foam, but do not let it boil over.
8. Ladle the mixture into warm sterilized jars, leaving 1/4" at the top. Wipe off any spills on the glass rims then put on 2-piece lid and band. Dry the rings, then screw on.
9. Use plastic coated tongs to gently lower jars onto the canner rack. Be sure the water level is at least an inch above the jar tops. Cover, turn the heat to high. When it comes to a boil, process for 5 minutes.
10. Turn off the heat and remove jars. Allow to sit undisturbed overnight. Label and store in a cool, dry place. Refrigerate after opening.
Selecting Fruit for Jelly
To make a good jelly, fruits must have a high, natural acid content and plenty of a jelly-forming substance called "pectin."
If the fruit tastes tart a high acid content is indicated. Fruits which have a high enough pectin content to make good jelly are tart apples, plums, currants, crab apples
Blackberries, strawberries, elderberries and choke chcrries may also be used for jelly making by adding the juice of tart apples in about equal proportions. Save apple skins and use them in making jelly; they are particularly rich in pectin.
Fruits selected for jelly should be just barely ripe. Juice of overripe fruits may not "jell". On the other hand, don't choose fruits that are too green or you will have jelly of poor quality.
Using one part underripe fruit to several parts ripe fruit sometimes makes it possible to make good jelly of certain fruits without adding apple juice.
Excerpted from Westinghouse Home Canning Guide
* Canning pot, often referred to as a boiling-water canner. It should be deep enough to cover jars by at least one inch of water.
* A canning rack fits inside the pot to keep the jars from touching and breaking
* Canning jars.
* Canning bands and lids.
* Saucepot to cook the jam.
* Tongs coated in plastic to hold jars
* Tongs or magnetic jar lifter
* Plastic jar funnel for ladling the jam into the jars if your ladle is too large.
* Measuring cup
* Large spoon
* Clean dish towel
* Pen or Marker
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