Wednesday, July 8, 2009

I have had some requests about canning jelly & jams. I have been canning jelly, jams and a few other things for about 7 years. When I was pregnant with my second child I moved in with my in-laws for about 9 months while Robert was deployed to Qatar with the Army. While here my MIL Betsy introduced me to canning, and introduced my son to a few new foods as well (sardines, spinach, etc).

If you are thinking this sounds way too domesticated for you, I want you to know I was not raised in a very domesticated fashion, so there is hope that you can take this on no matter how comfortable you are in the kitchen! It is fun, the kids can help a bit, measure sugar, chop fruit (push the food processor buttons, or use a potatoe masher). No matter what it is so much fun to open a jar of jelly or jam you made months ago when the berries were in season and enjoy the your favorite fruits and you made it!
You can juice your fruit and freeze the juice for future canning of jelly, or freeze your whole fruit for jam. I have done both and they work out great!

Since learning in 2002 I have been canning every year making jam and jelly with fruit that we pick locally or that we get at the farmers market and then I give those items away for Christmas presents.

So here is what you need to can:
1 big pot ** (I started out using a big stock pot I bought a long time ago from SAM’s)
Jars & lids *– you can find these at goodwill, garage sales, salvation army, or of course walmart
Pectin – you can use liquid or powder I do not think it matters (just my opinion)
A recipe (the pectin boxes have tons)

First you need to read through your recipe (a couple times). The best one to start with is strawberry – you can always find frozen strawberries and these work just fine. But you need to know the order to your steps very well before you begin and you need all your items prepped before you begin.

Prep work: all jars cleaned with soap and water, then sterilized in boiling water (in your pot)
All lids cleaned
Boiling water ready (to pour over your lids)
Big pot full of boiling water (this takes a bit of time, so start this step before you do anything else)
All fruit chopped
Sugar measured out
Pectin ready

Why do you need the sugar measures, the jars cleaned, etc? Why can you not measure while something is cooking?
Well, most of the time you should be stirring what it cooking so that it does not burn. And sometimes is boils faster and then your jam is ready but your jars are not. Trust me – you want to have everything ready!
Following the recipe on the pectin box is the easiest. They tell you the order of pectin, sugar, etc.
I do process all my jars - this means when you get it in your jars, wipe your rims to ensure a good seal (make sure they are dry too), put your lids & rims on, I put them in my boiling water bath and boil for 10 minutes. I then take them out, put them on a dish towel on the counter and let them cool. You will start to hear them pop, this is the lid sealing. if they do not seal, you need to re-process or put them in the fridge and eat them. You cannot leave an unsealed jar out - it will spoil and get you sick. If the pop, they are sealed and good for up to a year in a cool, dark dry place. Hearing them pop is my favorite part - like music to my ears!!

Our family favorites are:
Holiday Sparkling Jam
Dilly Beans - note: I use dried hot peppers instead of cayenne - just drop one in with a slice of garlic in the jar, add beans then pour the brine over
Pepper Jelly (I use the pectin recipe for this, but I leave the seeds in for heat)
Texas Blackberry Jelly
Plum Jelly

** Walmart does sell canning pots and these are what you should get – they are very handy to have to use.
*you cannot reuse jar covers. You can reuse the rings

Anyway, hope you enjoy, if you have questions, let me know!!

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