The Canning Queen Answers Your Questions

Update: If canning is your “thing” be sure to visit my new growing, canning, and preserving site at Seed to Pantry. I’ll be adding new canning tips and techniques on a regular basis!

I’ve already made so much jam this summer, that I am beginning to feel like royalty, albeit canning royalty. Along the way I have been getting lots of canning questions and wanted to share them with everyone. I am using the word “jam” here, but all answers also apply to preserves, butters, syrups and other soft spreads.There’s no rhyme or reason to how these are listed, so here goes.

My cooking jam is making a mess! How do I keep it from boiling over?

This is my all-time favorite tip. Before you start cooking the fruit/sugar mixture, rub butter or margarine around the top of the saucepot. The fat keeps the jam from boiling over.

Is there any way to decrease the amount of foam that forms on the cooking jam?

Stirring constantly will keep the foam down. But that can be a lot of stirring! Adding a teaspoon or so of butter to the cooking jam will also decrease the foam. Once you have removed the jam from the heat, but before adding it to the canning jars, you can stir vigorously and usually stir the foam down. If all else fail, skim the foam off the top before putting the jam in the jars.

I recently bought a new water bath canner, but already the canning basket is rusting. How do I stop that?

Get rid of what rust there already is on the basket by washing with an SOS pad (or similar product) or soak the basket in cola (yes, it really does work). To prevent the basket from additional rust, add a tablespoon or so or vinegar to the water bath water each time you process. It doesn’t affect the canning process, but does help protect the canning materials.

My Mom always used paraffin wax to top her jam, and didn’t process jam in a water bath. Can’t I just follow her directions?

I remember my mother making jam the same way, but the paraffin wax approach is no longer considered safe. Processing jam in a water bath adds an extra measure of safety and helps the jam stay good for a longer period of time. (I also remember opening a new jar of jam, removing the paraffin only to find a layer of mold- yuck!) Using the water bath method is less messy than playing around with potentially flammable paraffin too.

Even though I use butter around the top of my saucepot, the cooking jam still spits and gets all over the kitchen. Is there anyway to prevent that?

I have a habit of falling into this trap too because my favorite saucepot is really too small for a large (one that make more than 2 pints) batch of jam. Using a larger saucepot/Dutch oven will reduce and even eliminate the “sticky kitchen syndrome”.

I love to make jam, but most recipes just call for too much sugar. Can I reduce the sugar amount?

Yes and no. Old-fashioned recipes (like I use here on this blog) must be made with the prescribed amount of sugar. Sugar helps the jam set up, and also acts as a preservative in these recipes. Reducing the sugar amount would result in either a runny jam and/or a jam that cannot be safely stored at room temperature.

Jams that use use added pectin can be made with less sugar. Be sure to purchase the “low-sugar” specific pectin. Freezer jams can also be made with less sugar as they are preserved in the freezer.

Can I use honey or maple syrup in jam?

You can replace up to half of the sugar with an equal amount of honey or maple syrup, and cook as you would normally. Honey and maple syrup will change the flavor of your jam though, as they both have quite a bit of flavor on their own. I personally like to use maple syrup with apple spreads or anything cranberry. Honey adds a mellowness to peach that I just love.

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About the Author

Renee Pottle, an author and heart-healthy educator, loves to explore and write about the Mediterranean Diet. She blogs at and

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