Making and canning homemade jam is a great way to save the fresh fruits of the season.
When Spring and Summer fruits are in season, many of us will reach for our homemade jam recipes for canning to preserve that precious harvest. Not much can beat the flavor of homemade jam spread over a biscuit or lathered on fresh bread, or even mixed into your favorite yogurt. And to be honest, homemade jam is pretty simple to make and can for later.
The only ingredients needed for homemade jam are fresh fruit, sugar, and some loving care. Our grandmothers made homemade jam all the time, with just those ingredients. Simple, real, delicious. It was thick, rich, and full of the flavors of the season. The kind of flavor that would make your tastebuds sing.
Today, many people add store bought pectin in order to achieve that true “set”. As a matter of fact, most homemade jam recipes for canning now call for it. Pectin is what helps jam get to that thick consistency to spoon out of the jar and spread onto bread. Without it, many are left with a fruit flavored syrup that is great on pancakes, but will not spread on breads.
Is adding pectin absolutely necessary? Actually, you can learn how to make jam without added pectin. Do this simply by cooking the fruit and sugar for the right amount of time. This requires a lot of patience and care as it can take as long as 30 minutes, and you will need to stir the entire time to avoid burning or overflow. The time spent will be worth it, as you open the jars all winter long.
How do you know your homemade jam is set? When is that critical moment that the jam will be “jam” instead of syrup? There are a couple “tried and true” methods to test it before canning.
1. You cover a spoon with the homemade jam and liquid, and then take it out of the heat. Once it has begun to cool, you will see the jam slide off the spoon with one or two drops clinging to it together. It takes a bit of practice, but this is my favorite method to use.
2. Add ¼ cup of rubbing alcohol to a bowl and spoon in a teaspoon of your jam. If it jams up to that thick consistency within 30 seconds, it is ready to can. My grandmother swore by this method. Also, just as a reminder, please don’t sample this jam after it has been in alcohol. You will want to toss this in the garbage after testing.
To can your homemade jam, you will need clean and sterilized jars, new lids, and clean bands. Jam should be water bath processed, not pressure canned. This is because of the delicateness of the fruits that can be destroyed under pressure. Follow the recipe or your canner instructions for time.
Do not use the “open kettle” method, the sealing wax, or invert method for canning homemade jam, even if Grandma did it. There are more bacteria in the air than she had to deal with, and we know more about food safety now. Just don’t, please. It’s not worth the risk.
Your homemade jam can be stored on a pantry shelf, properly canned for up to a year. After that, it can begin to lose some nutritional value and the flavors may start to fade. For most of us, using it up within that time isn’t a problem. I usually can’t get our jam to last that long!
Do you can homemade jam without added pectin? What’s your method to determine if it’s ready to can? Be sure to pin this for later!