View Full Version : Jam making novice?

08-17-2008, 07:28 AM
I'm currently enjoying several months off before the arrival of my first child in late November. :) And, I want to use this time to not only get ready for him but to engage in some fun cooking projects that never fit into my working life. And the first would be - making jam.

I don't have a recipe - so if anyone has a favorite to share that'd be great. I was thinking of peach jam, given berry season is kind of past. But I also see apricots at the farmers market so peach/apricot or apricot alone might also be a possibility. I also don't have the jars. I'll probably order online - NYC is not exactly a canning mecca. I found this link on the Ball Jar website http://www.freshpreserving.com/pages/jars___lids/19.php. What would I need? I just want a couple jars for DH and myself, and then possibly some to give away at Christmas as this will be a crazy Christmas for us with a newborn so planning ahead might be nice. Would that be a half pint size?

Any advice from experienced "jammers" would be welcome! :)

erin elizabeth
08-17-2008, 09:21 AM
Congrats on the little one :) Best of luck!

My family has canned for years and we have had the best luck using the recipes in the Certo package--Certo is liquid pectin. I've not really messed around with recipes that don't have you adding pectin, but I know others on this board have and that if you search (good luck with that, too!) you can find other jam/jelly/canning threads. I've made the peach jam in the Certo package and it is good and v. pretty--lovely color. One tip--stir the jam for about 5 minutes after you take it off the heat. It'll help prevent the fruit from floating.

Oh, and the standard jar size for most jam recipes is the 8oz. That is the product in the second row, first on the left.

08-17-2008, 10:06 AM
Thanks Erin... I appreciate you giving me somewhere to start. That's the problem with projects like this, it's hard to know how to start but once the bug bites - I just want to get going! :)

08-17-2008, 10:53 AM
If you look in the baking aisle of your grocery store, you should be able to find something called Sure-Gel (Jel?). In there it has a chart with the type of fruit you can use, anything else you might need (sugar, lemon, etc) and the yield. I have found those to be pretty reliable. I just bought a large box of peaches yesterday to make some jam with, and picked up the sure-gel today.

Yes, those are the jars you want. The 8oz kind are really nice and they are re-usable.

ETA: The Sure-Gel is powdered pectin. I have not used the liquid. Everyone probably has the kind they like, you might just try both to see what your preference is.

Editing again :o I see on there that they have the Ball Blue Book. This book is great for canning all kinds of things. Its not too expensive and so not a big loss if you get it and then end up not using it much.

08-17-2008, 11:04 AM
ETA: The Sure-Gel is powdered pectin. I have not used the liquid. Everyone probably has the kind they like, you might just try both to see what your preference is.

I use both liquid and powdered pectin, no reasons that I prefer one over the other, they both work well, just some of the steps are in a different order depending on the pectin. I get asked a lot about jam-making, since I do quite a bit of it, and I highly recommend simply picking up a box of pectin and following the directions.

I just made peach jam this week myself. :) Make sure your peaches are juicy and not fresh-from-the-fridge firm. I didn't have enough juice, so I had a few problems. It all worked out though, and once you tackle making jam for the first time, you will be amazed and wonder why you never tried it before.

The one thing I want to stress is that you follow a specific recipe and don't deviate from it. The pectin:fruit:sugar ratio is important for safety reasons and for proper set. You can use no sugar and less pectin if you'd rather a little less sugar. I have a friend who took a jam recipe and used half the sugar called for, and then wondered why it never set up. She shared a jar with me, and I had to toss it, I was worried about the safety of eating it. Ball is an excellent resource for canning supplies, recipes, and also for help should you need it. :D

08-17-2008, 12:27 PM
Congratulations on your pending new arrival. You must be so excited!

So much good information has been given here for the novice canner. I am not sure about New York City but around here canning jars especially jelly jars can be found at the larger super markets and sometimes at hardware stores. There is a possibly you may find them there. Perhaps give them a call and ask.

A while back I started a peach thread because I will be getting a lot of peaches from a friend’s tree sometime soon. The thread is mainly about peach pie but there are a few peach jam recipes included you may want to take a look at.


I am also getting the itch to start canning especially after reading the “The Best Christmas Food Gift" discussion. I will be looking forward to hearing what you decide to make.

08-17-2008, 04:10 PM
Since you are a novice is buy a book called Small Batch Preserving By Ellie Topp & Margaret Howard.
It is an excellent book and gives you all the instructions plus many different and familiar recipes.
Plus the fact it does not make huge amounts .
You may be able to get it at your local library.
Good luck with your preserving and the arrival of your new little one.

08-17-2008, 05:16 PM
helios- congratulations!!- i wish you a continued glorious pregnancy.

I made jam for the first time last year- inspired by this recipe I found that made it look so easy: Healthy Food's Apricot Jam (http://www.healthyfood.co.nz/recipes/2007/march/apricot-jam) And it was! I used this recipe first for a bounty of apricots provided by a neighbor, then later in autumn for peaches that were fairly dripping off our tree. I appreciated the bit about the wrinkle test/plates in the freezer. It really helped me to understand consistency and to get the jam to the set I wanted. The pectin comes from the lemon.

My jars were roughly 1/2 pint size and I had a yield of 6 jars when I followed the recipe to a T the first time. The second batch, with the peaches, I just made sure the ratios stayed the same...

It's from Healthy Food Guide, which is NZ's equivalent to Eating Well, more or less. The metric to standard conversion would look like this:

Fruit: 1.4 kgs = 3.08 lbs
Sugar: same as above
Water: 300 mls = 9 oz
*so basically, I used 3 lbs fruit, 3 lbs sugar, 1 cup water
Temperature: 120C = 250F

08-17-2008, 09:24 PM
I made my first jams before my first son was born -- but for me it was the summer before, 16 years ago. I would suggest you get at least one book before you get started -- the Ball book and the Small Batch Preserving mentioned above would be my first suggestions. If you can't find them locally, they should be available through B&N or Amazon.

I would also recommend getting a jar lifter, a canning funnel and some tongs. You may be able to get them in a canning starting kit -- something like this (http://http://www.amazon.com/Back-Basics-Home-Canning-Kit/dp/B0002BF1WY/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=home-garden&qid=1219027062&sr=8-2). I also have some flour sack towels I use, but you could start with an older kitchen towel (wiping rims may stain the towel). Don't use terry or anything that might leave any lint on the jar rims -- any thing on the rim, tiniest bit of jam or lint will prevent the jars from sealing.

You can use a large pot that you probably already have. You need enough depth to cover the jars plus one inch in water that will have room to boil and bubble. If you use half pint jars (what I would suggest for jams), that means you need less depth and most folks will have a stockpot that will work.

The Small batch book gives good basic instructions and a variety of recipes. I just looked through it and found an apricot, but not a basic peach. I can find a peach or peach apricot recipe for you if you need one -- we made one of each. We didn't use additional pectin, and I prefer that when possible.

Read through all the basic directions at least once before you even get your fruit or start to prepare it. Make sure you understand the process and what you will need to have and do before you get started. Then line up your stuff before you get started. Once you are cooking the jam, you want to have your jars, lids, tools, towel -- everything ready and waiting for you. If you do that, it should go smoothly and you can enjoy the pings of success.

Have fun!

08-17-2008, 09:50 PM
Yes! Yes!Yes! The pings….music to your ears after a LONG day of canning.

Beth, thank you for mentioning the jar lifter. I have canned with one and without one. Trust me when I say it is soooo much easier with one. Having the right tools makes all the difference!

08-18-2008, 06:44 AM
Thank you all for the tips and suggestions. I plan on ordering my supplies later today so I can get this project going.

Thank you experienced jammers! :)