So, I went to Walmart to pick up Certo to make some jam yesterday. I asked the young man, “Do you sell the boxed Certo, for making your own jam?”
To which the young man replied, “You can make jam?
I’m sometimes amazed that in my grandparents time, people had to go to the store every day to get meat for dinner, because they didn’t have a fridge. People had to use the fruits and vegetables from their garden to feed their families for the winter, and there was no such thing as frozen dinners. But things have changed so much over two generations, that our generation is, for the most part, unaware of skills like how to make jam. And it really isn’t that hard, honest. If a zombie apocalypse ever does come, our generation is screwed…. or at least we have a lot of learning to do…let’s just pray that we still have wifi!
Anyways, I thought I would post how to make jam. This year, I’m going to post how to get a little creative with jam recipes. They really are pretty forgiving, andthere has only been a couple times over the last 15-20 years that my jam hasn’t set properly. So, hopefully these tips will help.
I bought a flat of over ripe figs for $5, which I thought was a great deal…ok, except they looked more like this…
So, I skinned them and chopped them up..
But, that only made just under two cups, which is not enough for jam. So, I found a couple of ripe mangos in the back of the fridge, so I chopped them up too.
Then I washed a bunch of jars, and lids, and tossed them in the oven at 300 degrees.Tip number one: this is the easiest way to sterilize the jars and lids. You leave them in the hot oven while you are cooking the jam. I added the mango and figs to a saucepan, mixed it with the powdered pectin and brought it to a boil.
The other thing I should mention is that if I am going off script with my fruits, and mixing fruits, or adding fruits like figs and mangos, that are not on the little recipe paper that comes in the powder box, I always try to keep the fruit at about 4 1/2 cups. 4 1/2 cups fruit and 6 cups of sugar has always worked for me. I know that sounds like a lot of sugar, which it is, but it’s not like anyone should be eating a bowl full of jam, just a teaspoon at a time.
Tip number two: the recipe always says to let it boil for a minute, but let it boil for longer. Make sure it comes to a rolling boil, and let it continue for 2-3 minutes. If you don’t let it boil for long enough here, your jam might not thicken enough. Then, I always measure my sugar into a bowl first.. this way I don’t loose count, and I can focus on stirring it as I pour it in.
Keep stirring it, and scraping the sides until,it comes to a rolling boil. Once again, let it boil for longer that what the recipe will tell you. The jam will foam a little and boil up a lot, increasing in size. Don’t let it boil over, burned jam smells horrible, and is not fun to clean up.
You can let the jam set and cool down for a couple minutes before you jar it. If there is a lot of foam floating on the top, skim it off with a spoon into a bowl. The foamy part is still delicious to eat on toast, just doesn’t look so pretty of the top of your jam jars.
I usually use a smaller measuring cup to spoon it into a container with a lip, or spout to pour it into the jars.
Tip number 3: fill 5 or 6 jars half full at one time, then fill the second half. Most of the pieces of fruit float, and if you fill one jar at a time, by the time you get to the last jar, there usually isn’t any fruit left.
Use a clean, damp cloth to wipe the rims of the jars to make sure there isn’t any jam to prevent the jars from sealing properly.
Use oven mitts and a towel to pick up the jars and tighten the lids. This is the part where I burn my fingers most often. The jars are really hot, and the jam is really hot, so you can’t do it with bare hands.
Tip number 4…my best tip of all. Turn the oven off, and put all of the filled jars back in the oven and leave them there for 12-24 hours. This will seal the jars… no need to boil them. In a few hours, you should hear the jar lids pop, as they cool down and seal.
And, finally, Tip number 5, label them ASAP. Trust me, it’s really hard to tell the difference between Blueberry, blueberry-banana, and Blueberry-strawberry jam by looking at them! Label them as soon as they are cool enough.
I order address mailing labels from Vista print, and instead of an address, I write, “This jar contains…” it is a pretty inexpensive way to have custom labels. I also order circle labels for the tops of the jars saying something like “made for you in the Viero kitchen”
Now that everything is labelled, come Christmas time, I just pull out a few bottles and put them in a little gift basket, maybe toss in some cookies, and give them out as teacher presents, and gifts.
I usually make 60-100 jars of jam every summer. I’ve only made about 40 so far, so I’ve got some works to do still. But, trust me, come December, I am always thankful that I put in the time now!
I hope I have inspired you to go off the recipe card, and experiment. But, if you have never made jam, strawberry is always the best place to start! Good luck!