More Canning Questions Answered

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!

Great response to last week’s post answering your canning questions. So today I have answered a few more for you. Keep them coming either through the comments or be email and I will continue to answer them all.

This summer is just too hot to make jam! Can I freeze the fresh fruit and then make it into jam this fall?

Absolutely. This is a great idea, especially if you live in one of this summer’s “hot zones.” Peaches, all berries, and cherries freeze especially well. When you are ready to turn them into jam just measure out the correct amount (don’t even have to thaw) and proceed with the recipe.

Why do some jam recipes call for the addition of lemon juice and some do not?

Lemon juice is added to some fruits to increase the acid content. This is especially important if you are making old-fashioned jams that do not call for the addition of pectin. A high acid level helps the jam set, or gel, thus the addition of lemon juice! Fruit that naturally has a lower acid level (like peaches) usually needs lemon juice added. Lime juice may be added instead if you like. Lemon juice is also sometimes added to help keep the fruit from turning brown.

I want to make large amounts of jam to give as Christmas presents, but I don’t want to spend all day cooking. Can’t I just double or triple the jam recipe?

Sorry, the answer is no. Jam, especially old-fashioned jams, work best when made in small batches. Large batches of jam made at home (without commercial equipment designed for large batches) often result in burned, over-cooked jam. Stick to small batches for perfect jams and other soft spreads.

How can I tell when an old-fashioned jam or preserve is set? I always seem to overcook them.

This is a common problem, especially if you are new to cooking old-fashioned jams. There are a couple of ways to check. My favorite is to drop some of the cooking jam onto a glass plate and put it in the fridge for a minute. If the jam sets up to the level you like (there is no such thing as the “right” level, only the level you prefer) remove the cooking jam from the heat and ladle it into the jars. Another way is to drop some of the cooking jam onto a glass plate that is already cold. Draw a spoon through the jam. If the line stays separated, the jam is done. You can also check by temperature. Jam is usually set when the temperature reaches 8-9 degrees above the temperature of boiling water. Water usually boils at 212 degrees, but not always. Several things can affect the temperature including altitude and barometric pressure. So if you choose to use this method, measure to see what today’s boiling water temperature first. Otherwise you may end up with burnt jam from cooking too long.

I remember my grandmother boiling all her jars in a big pot before making jam. Do I have to do that?

No. Grandma did this in the old days before jams were processed in a water bath. The jars and two-piece lids must be clean though. I usually run them through the dishwasher and then use them directly.

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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 SeedToPantry.com and HestiasKitchen.com.

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