Jammin’

Isn’t everything better when homemade? I think so. Some foods, I won’t even eat unless it’s homemade. Especially jam. Are you a regular “Jammer”, or is it something you’ve thought of, but never attempted?  Well, come on in to my kitchen, as I make a batch!


I started making jam years ago, due to wild blackberries and raspberries that grow here.  After the cobblers and muffins were baked, I didn’t want to watch unused fruit go to waste.  So, I tried my hand at jam.  Nervous at first, I had mental images of burned pans, sticky messes…nevertheless, I was determined.  If my ancestors could make jam in a log cabin, I could do it in this century, too!  After my first batch, and raves from friends and family, I was hooked.  Similar to knitting, I found practice makes perfect, learning little “tips” that now make it a snap!

Cleanliness is important in making jam.  Re-use your jars and rings, but never the lids.  Always buy new lids.  I put all my jars and utensils in the dishwasher, and use them right after they’re freshly washed.  I spread clean dishtowels on my counters where I”ll be working.  This protects your counter tops from hot jars, gives you a place to set a jar down in a hurry if need be, and catches any drips of sticky jam.  It’s much easier to throw all the towels in the wash at the end of a jam session than to spend time trying to pry dried jam off your counters.  I also keep a clean, damp rag nearby to wipe the tops of the jars before sealing, to ensure a tight seal.

Getting everything ready before hand makes a difference.

I have a very large, enameled cast iron pot that I use for my canner.  When I first tried jam, I didn’t want to invest too much (to see if I liked it).  I now consider jam-making a hobby, an art if you will.  I still  use my large pot, but love the handiness of my jar lifter and lid-grabber (a small handle with a magnet on the end).   I put my favorite Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong music on, (can you hear it?)  and my daughter and I tie on our aprons!

I always buy extra as my daughter can’t help but eat a couple when she does the washing and hulling!

I’ve made three-berry, peach, and  plum jams, but the hands-down favorite is strawberry.  I always buy organic strawberries.  Did you know that strawberries are the food that contain the most pesticide residue, up to seventy-five different types?  I make my strawberry jam when the berries are on sale. Timing’s everything, as overripe fruit shouldn’t be used.  My daughter loves to wash the berries and hull them, and serves as the official “fruit quality-control taste tester”.  We then put the washed berries in a food processor, to puree.  I like to leave mine slightly lumpy.

Whatever fruit I use, I stick to the same formula, about two pounds of fruit, or five cups of puree.  I’ve always used low-sugar pectin with four cups of sugar, but this year tried MaryJane’s Chill-Over powder, with her recipe of using two pounds of fruit and only two cups of sugar.  Yum!  This worked great, and I like that I get to use less sugar.

Bring your jam to a boil, then turn down the heat and let it simmer for a few minutes.  For the best consistency, spoon a bit out and let it cool.  If it’s too runny, let if simmer a bit longer.

Stirring is important to keep the fruit from sticking to the bottom or scorching.

While the jam mixture simmers on the stove, I put the clean jars in my boiling pot to sanitize them, so they are hot when I pour the jam in, and my lids so the rubber seal “grabs” better, drying them well before filling.

I use a roasting rack in the bottom of the canner to keep the jars off the bottom.  A wet towel works, too.

After filling the jars, use a spatula around the inside wall of the jar to release any trapped air, and wipe the tops with a damp dishcloth before sealing and putting in the boiling water.

Make sure your jars are completely immersed when boiling the sealed jars.

I boil the jars for at  least twenty minutes.  Afterwards, I let them cool on the counter on a dishtowel.  I love hearing the “pop” each jar makes when sealed correctly.  After the jars cool, if one hasn’t sealed, just open, wipe the top, re-seal and re-boil.  When we’re done, my daughter and I always have a snack of bread with the last bit of jam left in the pot, a sweet reward!

The most fun part for me is decorating the jars!  Jam’s my favorite gift to give to friends and family, and makes a terrific teacher and hostess gift.  I use rounds of fabric on the tops of the jars, secure it with a rubber band, and then cover the rubber band with ribbon or rafia for a “rustic” look.  Sometimes I’ll hot glue on a silk flower, a holiday pick, or attach a stamped tag.  Wrapping a whole jar in tissue paper and tying the top with a bow is also cute.  People are always appreciative of homemade jams, jellies, and canned items.

Mason and jam jars are one of my most favorite things!  We use them as durable drinking glasses, perfect for iced tea, and the smaller ones are great for juice.  Use the smaller ones for tea light holders.  I line some up on my deck railing.   Everything from flowers to buttons looks charming in a canning jar!

Everything’s cuter in a canning jar!

I saw a soap pump made from a mason jar in a gift shop.  I thought, “I can do that!”

One last tip:  Once opened, jam must be kept in the refrigerator.  To keep it fresh, re-purpose plastic mayonnaise jar lids…they fit perfectly!

That’s my “tricks of the trade”, so to speak.  Let me know if I’ve inspired you to make your own jam, and leave me any tips you have!

HAPPY JAMMIN’!

Leave a comment 19 Comments

  1. Rose says:

    Interesting comment about not reusing the jar lids. Is it because they don’t form a tight seal the second time? My parents made jam and would cover the jam with wax instead of a lid. How safe was this to keep jam fresh and good to eat?
    By the way, your homemade jam is wonderful! It is worth all the hard work you put into it!

    Thank you, Rose.  Yes, with the lids they do not form the tight seal if reused, but they are so inexpensive it certainly is not worth the chance.  The rings and jars are reusable, as long as there are no cracks in the glass.  Hugs, Nicole

  2. Megan says:

    How long will the jam last unopened? I am wondering if I can make jam now with the fresh fruit available, but then save to give as Christmas gifts.

    Hi Megan!  Make your jam now, of course!  Unopened, jam can last for eighteen months if stored in a cool, dry place.  Once opened, in the fridge it can last up to two weeks for best taste.  Enjoy!  -Nicole

  3. linda says:

    Hello Nicole, I am amazed at how canning is taking off this year. Or is it that, now that I am canning too I just notice it more? I started canning for our churchs christmas boutique this Nov. I was kind of shanghied into it actually and now love it. I have about 100 jars so far of jams and relishes. My fave to make was "plum rum walnut conserve". It made me think, how about strawberry dacquire jam for the adults? I had so many organic fruits donated to me that I had to freeze them until I had time to can them all. I have, even now, strawberries and grapes (for jelly) still in the freezer, waiting. I loved your post, very encouraging. Keep up the good work. Linda

    Hi Linda!  Wow!  Those recipes sound great!  I love to try different ones!  I’ve got a few I want to give a whirl that I haven’t tried yet.  Thanks so much for reading, Linda!  Happy Jammin’! -Nicole

  4. Terri Sue says:

    You can use wax for jams.  You go through the same steps of sterilizing your jars.  Fill them a good inch of space at the topsmoothing the top as well as you can. make sure that inch of space is completely clean.  Then pour hot parrafin, (you can get this at the grocery store in the canning aisle), to 1/2-3/4 inch thick over it.  Carefully look completely around your jar to make sure the parrafin is touching the jam completely.  If you see any airholes, use a toothpick to pop them and get the wax down on the jam.  This is not my preferred method.  I use rings and lids, but at one time I had a stove that was so wimpy it couldn’t bring my canner to a boil so i had to do it this way.  It works and is safe if all precautions are taken, but you also have to deal with bits of wax in your jam. The only way to get the wax off is to break it.  You usually get big pieces of wax, but that first two or three pieces of toast are likely to have little wax shards in the jam.  There is one advantage to this method.  You can use whatever glass jars you want,  so you can reuse old jars that had something else in them, if you are only putting up a small batch and don’t want to invest in mason jars.

    Thanks for the tip, Terri Sue.  I’ve never done that, although I did see the supplies in our local hardware store.  -Nicole

  5. Debra says:

    I love to make jam. I love to see and how it all tastes. This was fun to read. Thanks

    Thank you for reading, Debra!  -Nicole

  6. Joy Howard says:

    I was determined to learn how to can this year. A co-worker volunteered his wife. She taught us how to make raspberry-fig, and blueberry jams, plus sweet pepper relish. I then made a batch of strawberry-fig jam on my own. My batch didn’t gel as well. I think the figs were too ripe. But it tastes good so I’m happy.

    Joy, it sounds delicious! Thanks for reading! -Nicole

  7. Janice K. says:

    Thanks for reminding me of the fact that I actually went to the local Mary Jane’s store and purchased Chill-Over powder awhile back! I thought that you could use it for jam…The last raspberry freezer jam that I did was sweetened with stevia. It turned out more like a fruit spread (not as sweet as most jams) and good.
    My mother-in-law does a plum jam. She starts by washing and pitting her plums and putting them in the oven in a turkey roaster with some water. She cooks them down and sweetens them with a little sugar. She even places the jars in the oven in a pan of water to start the sealing process. I researched this part and read that it was not safe, though I won’t tell her! She’s been doing it for years….
    Next I will try your version!!
    Good ideas and lots of fun!

    Janice, my sisterhood chapter and I took a canning class last year at our local extension.  I agree with them, safety must be the first precaution, and using the boiling method for jam, I don’t worry, as that is the preferred method.  If canning low-acid foods, (green beans, etc.) then a pressure canner must be used. I haven’t tried Stevia, but sure was happy with MaryJane’s Chillover Powder.  Have fun!  -Nicole

  8. Kathy says:

    Yummy! Strawberry is my favorite!! Have some on an english muffin with a little melted butter. A cup of tea or coffee…the perfect snack when watching the snow fall.
    My daughter and I canned our very first time this summer. Tomatoes. It should make for a good base to a winter stew this year.
    take care

    Hi Kathy!  Isn’t a little jam in the winter like a mouthful of summer sun?  I think so… big hugs to you!  -Nicole

  9. Mary Murphy says:

    I like making jam and make apple butter every fall with crate-priced apples from the local apple orchard. I was glad to see you working on a smooth-top stove. When I got mine (I love it) I was told by someone that "you can’t can on a smooth-top stove." That made me move to freezing my jams and butters (not as nice to give as gifts). Your article here made me pull out my Use and Care Guide and finally read up on "Home Canning Tips." Whadda ya know? I can can as long as I use a flat bottom pan. Off to can some blackberry jam!

    Thanks for writing, Mary.  Blackberry jam – yummy!  That’s one of my favorites.  I used to have a gas stove, and was talked into the smooth top by the salesperson years ago, but I have to admit the only issue I have with it when canning is that it is easier to scorch the bottom of the pan if you aren’t careful, as the heat doesn’t turn down as quickly as with gas.  Just keep stirring and watching, and you will be fine!  Have fun!  -Nicole

  10. Nancy Buchanan says:

    Have made jam, jelly and conserve for 40 years and like you I was hooked from the first batch. It is the best anti-depression "medication" there is. I can really clear my head, forget work and praise the Lord and have a great gift at the end of the day. Keep on cooking Ladies.

    Nancy, Amen to that!  Thanks so much for reading!  -Nicole

  11. patricia says:

    Hi Nicole,
    It’s me Patricia, I’m addicted to reading your posts! This past weekend, I had a "canning party", we canned strawberry jam, spiced onions, pickles, applesauce and apple butter. I LOVE to can, it gives me such a sense of accomplishment, please keep up the wonderful posts, really makes my day!

    Patricia, oh my goodness, you are so sweet!  What a nice thing to say!  Your canning party sounds like a blast…would make a great Sisterhood Chapter activity!  Thank you again, you made MY day!  -Nicole

  12. Jeanne says:

    I can’t wait to start canning. Peaches are a big thing here this month. I live in Colorado and the peaches are incredible this year. I walked into the neighborhood fruit and veggie warehouse and the smell of peaches was overwhelming. Delicious.
    However, I looked on the internet for some clarity to as boiling the jars for the 20 minutes you suggested and the site I read said if you live at high altitude, which I do, you need to increase your boiling time an extra 10 minutes. I am so excited, I can’t wait for the little lady around the corner to open her veggie stand this morning.
    Most of the canning supplies I bought years ago from an antique auction in Kansas just because I thought it was neat old stuff, but now it will be useful.I just need to check it out for safety. Thank you for giving me the push to try something new.

     

    Jeanne, I love to make peach jam! Thanks for adding the tip for those with high altitude.  Good luck!  -Nicole

  13. Tess Sole says:

    Nicole- Love, love, love your posts!! I’ve been making jam for several years and I, too, love it! I’ve used regular and low sugar pectin but never MaryJane’s Chillover Powder. I’m looking forward to ordering some and trying it! We live in Oregon and get fresh strawberries in our garden, pick organic blueberries and sometimes, organic peaches. It really does give you such a rich sense of accomplishment and the flavors are unsurpassed. Giving it as a gift brings sunny smiles from the recipients and a warm feeling for me inside. Thank you for your encouragement.

    Hi Tess!  Thank you for the nice comment!  How fun to do the picking yourself!  We usually go peach and apple picking every year, and there are farms to pick strawberries and blueberries as well. (It always seems to rain the day we want to go)! Your garden sounds wonderful.  Thanks again for reading.  -Nicole

  14. Nella Spencer says:

    Hi Nicole, Loved your blog and the photos. I’ve been thinking about trying my hand at canning. Thought I could find a little class here in Chicago, but no luck. After reading your instructions, I’m inspired to try on my own. Thanks for boosting my confidence!

    Nella, Thanks for reading.  I’m glad you are inspired.  It is such a fun thing to do!  Good luck, I’m sure it will turn out great! -Nicole

  15. suzanne Treloar says:

    Hi Nicole,
    Loved reading your jam blog as I LOVE jamming and am trying some new stuff this year like Jalapeno and Red Bell Pepper Jam for a great Christmas look.
    Question:
    How did you make that Mason Jar soap container. Where did you get the dispenser part and how to make the hole fit just right? It’s SO cute.
    Thank you.
    Suzie Treloar

    Hi Suzie, Thank you for saying such nice things!  For my soap dispenser, I took a regular mason canning jar, lid, and ring.  I tapped a hole in the top with a hammer and nail.  The dispenser part came from an old dispenser, so I just re-purposed it.  I have only had to replace the lid part one time in two years at it got a bit rusty.  I saw in Lehman’s catalog (www.lehmans.com) that they also sell that part now, as well.  You would just need the jar.  -Nicole

  16. Suzanne Steinhiser says:

    Hi Nicole,
    I certainly enjoy all the blogs on MaryJane’s site,but I particularly liked your "jammin" post. It reminds me of when my children were young and I was full of domestic curiosity. It made me want to repurpose my life, not just my Ball jars. Thanks so much for the inspiration. Your daughter by the way is beautiful. How lucky are the both of you! Suzanne

    Oh, Suzanne, thank you so much! It makes me happy to know I’ve inspired you with my post.  Enjoy all that you do!  Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  17. Monique says:

    I haven’t tried canning yet, but I am working my way up to it! How long do you boil the jars and lids to sterilize before filling? How do you dry them before filling?

    Thank you for your inspirational post.

    Thanks for reading Monique!  When I do mine, I keep my jars boiling in the hot water for a minimum of 15 to 20 minutes before taking them out.
    -Nicole

  18. Caroline says:

    I made jam for the first time this past summer. We woke up early, headed to the farm, picked raspberries, and were turning them into jam within an hour. The mom of a dear friend of mine, who has been canning and preserving forever, hosted me for a hands-on canning 101 session. I am hooked! Cannot wait until next year!!

    For those who are nervous, it is so much easier than you think! Just do it!

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