“Let’s make jam” is not something you’d expect to hear in the prairies in the middle of winter. But, it’s something I highly recommend because…
- Making jam when it’s -30 is warm and comforting.
- Jams and jellies make excellent gifts.
- Frozen fruit works perfectly for jams.
- Making small batches is quick and easy.
- It’s very rewarding to make your own preserves.
- You get to try some awesome recipes in the Prairie Fruit Cookbook!
Do not be intimidated to make jam. If you can make spaghetti and sauce – you can make jam. What?! Well, if you can make spaghetti and sauce – you know how to boil water, you know how to stir together a few ingredients, you have the ability to be at your stove for 30 minutes and you have a big pot. These are essentially the same skills and tools you need for making jam. So – you’re all set!
If you’ve never made spaghetti and sauce before, I recommend you start with Strawberry Freezer Jam. It’ll take 15 minutes, there’s no cooking involved and it tastes amazing! You can see a sneak peak at how it’s done in this Fruit Share video by Shaw Cable.
Basic Ingredients You’ll Need
Lemon Juice (not all jams need this)
Basic Pectin Options (for more details check this Pectin Chart)
Regular Powder – requires as much or more sugar than fruit, requires cooking
No Sugar Needed Powder Pectin – you choose how much and what type of sweetener (honey, stevia, sugar, etc) you use (I typically add some sugar or honey to taste), requires cooking
Liquid Pectin – requires as much or more sugar than fruit, requires cooking, more expensive, dissolves slightly quicker
Freezer Jam Pectin – uses less sugar than fruit, does not require cooking, produces very fruity tasting jams that are slightly softer than regular jam
My favourites are No Sugar Added Pectin and Freezer Jam Pectin because I can control the sugar and I’m satisfied with the ingredient list in these particular products. This photo shows a lot of Bernardin products – that’s just what happened to be available – I am in no way being endorsed or paid by Bernardin. In fact, I really don’t like the ingredients in their No Sugar Freezer Jam Pectin and would not use it.
For those of you who are regular jam makers, you know there are plenty of other options to choose from – Pomona, chia seeds, homemade pectin, relying on naturally occurring pectin, etc. We’ll save those for another discussion. These four options are the easiest to get started with and the most readily available.
The great thing about all these pectin packages is that they also come with great, easy to follow instructions. Buy a package and simply follow along.
You can’t just substitute one type of pectin for another without modifications. They’re made differently and require different processes and ingredients to make them work properly. Follow the instructions and use the type of pectin recommended in a recipe. If a recipe calls for regular pectin or just says pectin – assume they are referring to the regular powdered pectin.
If you must, here’s how to substitute powdered pectin for liquid pectin.
Sterilizing and Water Bath Canning
Sterilizing and water bath canning sounds way more intense than it really is. Once you do it, you’ll ask yourself what all the fuss was about, because it’s nothing more than boiling jars in water. In fact, it’s kind of like boiling spaghetti!
It’s easy and it’s important. It just takes a few more minutes to make sure your finished product won’t spoil, can be stored for a long time and will be safe.
Sterilizing and heating jars before adding the hot jam ensures there’s nothing in those jars that will make the product spoil. It also heats the jars so that your hot jam goes into a hot jar.
Water bathing them once their filled properly ensures if any microorganisms snuck in during the process they’ll be eliminated and it seals the jars to ensure nothing gets in while they sit on the shelf.
For step by step instructions for both check out this Canning Safely info sheet.
If you really, really want to avoid these steps – make freezer jam. Freezer jam can be safely stored in the fridge for 3 weeks or in the freezer for up to a year. And with freezer jam, you can reuse whatever jars or plastic containers you have in the house – you don’t need canning jars. A great way to get started!
Canning in a Soup Pot
You don’t need the big enamel canning pot that you’ve seen proudly displayed by avid canners. When I’m making a small batch of jam, I just use my big soup pot. I line the bottom of the pot with a wash cloth, add my jars being sure to leave space between them and boil away. The cloth prevents them from clinking together. Just make sure there’s about 1 inch of water above the rim of the jars.
Now all you need is some fruit and a recipe and you’re all set.
Here are some recipes you might enjoy.
Please, let me know how it goes or if you have any questions or any reservations about making jam. I’m so curious to hear what you think and to see your results.
Getty Stewart is an engaging speaker and writer providing tasty recipes, time-saving tips, and helpful kitchen ideas to make home cooking easy and enjoyable. She is a Professional Home Economist, author of Manitoba’s best-selling Prairie Fruit Cookbook, Founder of Fruit Share, mom and veggie gardener.