Wednesday, July 09, 2008

WFMW: Easy Canning Tutorial for Fruit Jams

Works for me Wednesday is hosted by Shannon over at Rocks in my Dryer! Head on over for other valuable tips!

Edited with a few extras. You'll see them with-in the text, appearing in bold orange.

This is the first year I have really "canned" anything, and "canned" it properly. I've always been too scared to try, thinking that it was too difficult. Low and behold... it's not. So, here is a tutorial to help anyone else that is anxious about canning jams, but wants to give it a try. Jump off the anxiety fence and dive into jamming fruits with confidence! It really is easy, and having jars of jam made from fresh summer fruits really WORKS FOR ME! (pictures below -- sorry for bad quality -- used camera phone bcs I couldn't find my camera)

Now, before you read this, you must understand that this tutorial is NOT for freezer jam -- but don't worry! Do NOT stop reading. Canning jam is just as easy! The difference is that you will actually be processing your jars of jam in a boiling water bath. And again... these instructions are for the novice canner. I'm certain that experienced canners have more tips and tricks to add, but these are the bare bones I came up with.

What you will need:

  1. half-pint wide-mouthed canning jars (jams are sticky, and it is just easier to get them in the wide-mouth canning jars, but you can use what ever kind of 3-part jar you want)
  2. a wide-mouthed funnel
  3. a heavy bottomed 6-quart pan for cooking the jam (I use the one I make my spaghetti sauce in)
  4. a tall stock pot (8 qt) or preferably, a canning pot
  5. rubber-tipped tongs
  6. large glass bowl
  7. potato masher
  8. large glass measuring cup for crushed fruit
  9. plastic dry-measure cup for sugar
  10. a TON of sugar
  11. fruit
  12. pectin
  13. a good recipe (the boxes of pectin all have good recipes in them)
  14. Instant read thermometer

STEP 1: First, I put the stock pot or canning pot of water (filled up to within 2-3 inches of the top) on the stove to start boiling (it can take a long time). If it comes to a boil before I'm ready, I just let it go, because it takes too long to get it re-started.

STEP 2: Place all the canning jars, lids and rings into the dishwasher and run it on the hottest setting with the heat dry option on to sterilize them. I did use detergent in the cycle.

STEP 3: Begin crushing your fruit in a single layer in a large glass bowl with a potato masher. Pour the mashed fruit into a measuring cup and continue mashing until you reach the required amount. Mashing the fruit releases the fruit's natural sugars and flavors. (or, you can place your fruit a little at a time in a zip loc and squeeze it -- that's what I do, and trust me -- it is more fun that way!)

STEP 4: Measure out your sugar and have it all in one bowl, ready to pour into your hot fruit and pectin. It will make the whole process go smoother.

STEP 5: Have your recipe and ingredients ready. Read through it numerous times so you are familiar with it, because you will be working quickly. The box that the pectin comes in will give you instructions on how much fruit, sugar and pectin to use. It will also tell you to use a "non-reactive utensil" to stir the jam ... in layman's terms... use a wooden spoon when stirring the jam. I used a very long-handled wooden spoon so as not to burn myself with splattering, bubbling jam. I also put my hand in a glove-style pot holder, because I was burned badly with hot, melted sugar (it sticks to your skin and keeps burning) when I was little, so I'm a bit gun shy. And... to add to my gun-shyness, I now use the pot holder when adding or removing jars from the water bath because I got scalded with splashing water a few weeks ago. But -- don't let that scare you. Jamming isn't all that bad -- I'm just a pansy!

Also: Do NOT double jam recipes, because the jam won't "set" properly. Make sure you boil your jam fully in a "rolling boil" fashion ... NOT a simmering boil. Follow the instructions carefully. Each jam has a different boil rate (liquid pectin is less than powdered pectin), but regardless of the time, to have a good firm jam, it MUST boil. Make sure you stir constantly while boiling it, and DON'T multi-task with more than one pot of jam. Trust me. I tried, and it just doesn't work.

STEP 6: Once you've properly boiled your jam (regardless of boil time, it should reach 220 degrees, which can be read with an instant read or candy thermometer), you will want to fill the jars when they are HOT so they don't break. I placed the funnel in the jar, and used a plastic soup ladle (do not use metal) to pour in the jam -- it made the whole process go smoothly and a lot cleaner. I also used the glove-styled pot holder to hold my jars while filling them, because the boiled fruit is very, VERY HOT. After you fill them, make sure your jars are wiped clean of any splashes. Cover them with the lids (I ran my finger along the edge to pre-heat the gummy sealer) and rings, and begin placing them into the boiling water bath.

I processed my first batch of jam in a stock pot that was brought to a rolling boil for 10 minutes. I didn't bother to buy a canning pot until later on, which I love, but you can do it in a stock pot. Just make sure you place something at the bottom so that the jars don't touch the bottom of the pan. Once you carefully add the jars to the stock pot (they should be covered with about 1" of water, so you may need to scoop some water out -- I used my Pyrex glass measuring cup to scoop water out with), bring it BACK to a full hard boil and then begin timing the boil for whatever amount of time the recipe calls for.

STEP 7: When you take out your processed jars of jam, make sure you use tongs that have rubber or silicone tips, otherwise your jars might slip and cause the water to splash out and scald you ... this happened to me the first time. After that, I went out and purchased silicone-tipped tongs and was super careful. I put the wet jars back into the case they came in (with the dividers) and placed them in a single layer on my kitchen table to allow them to cool. You will hear the lids popping and crackling as they settle into their sealed position.

STEP 8: Allow your jars of jam to cool without touching or bumping them in a draft-free place (usually takes overnight). Once the jars are cool, you can check that they are sealed by pushing down on the lid to make sure it has been sucked down -- just press in the center, gently, with your finger. If it it pops up and down, it is not sealed, and must be placed in the refrigerator right away. In all the jam I made, I didn't have one single jar that didn't seal properly.

Once they cool and sit a couple days... you can either open a jar for daily use (I only waited 24 hours because I was so anxious...) or you can store them on a shelf in a climate controlled pantry or basement. Do not store them in the garage where it would be un-heated or un-cooled (those are very technical terms).

I hope these instructions help out any first-time, anxious canners out there, and if you are a seasoned canner, please feel free to add any tips in the comment section!

Now, GO FORTH and pick some yummy fruit and can your own jams!! Then come back and let me know what a rock star you are to your family!


Donnetta (momrn2) said...

Have you done freezer jam? That is all I've ever done.

So I'm wondering, do you have a preference for one over the other? Not only in the process of making it but also in the final taste, consistency, etc.?

ames said...

You are *awesome*!! I am SO intimidated by canning that I have never done it, but I was trying to figure out how to store my rhubarb compote so I could ship it to friends. This is absolute perfect timing, thank you!