To Jam or Jelly that is the question? For me (Meg) it personally came down to two arguments; convenience and preference. Similar to yogurt with fruit chunks, jams tend to include pieces of the fruit instead of a more blended texture. Since jelly is made from extracting fruit juices, most people prefer making jelly with seed based fruits, like blackberries, to ensure there are no seeds in their jelly.
Personally, I happen to like fruit chunks (call me weird) and my Grandma thinks it’s a little easier to boil down the fruit and sift through a food strainer/sauce maker instead of extracting the fruit juice with cheesecloth. In other words, we went for the plum jam.
STAGE 1: Pick the Fruit
Following Grandpa’s strict instructions we collected nearly 40-60 small plums.
STAGE 2: Make the Jam Juice
Leaving about 1/2 cup of water at the bottom of a large pot, place all plums in the pot. Cook on medium heat for about 30-45 minutes, or until pot is full of fruit juice. I would check my plums by squeezing them between a wooden spoon and the pot to see if there was a lot of juice still coming out of them. If they seemed completely soggy then they are probably done. Check several at one time as some will be soggier than others. If that is the case I would leave the plums in the pot longer. Your juice should fill up close to the same height as when you first put the fruit in the pot.
Using a food strainer/sauce maker (new or old like the one my Grandma has) pour the boiled fruit into the center. You may have to do pour in a little at a time as the food strainer will get full with fruit pieces. With my Grandma’s strainer I used the wooden pestle to churn around the metal strainer and push out the fruit juice. You do not have to push very hard on this, what doesn’t come out naturally through the strainer you can get rid of. Continue in this same pattern until all the boiled fruit juices have been strained through the food strainer. You’ll need up to 6 cups of fruit juice to make plum jam.
Once you’ve extracted all that you can place the pan of fruit juice in the fridge until you are ready to preserve the jam. You’ll want to make jam in the next 2-3 days or freeze the juice until you have enough to make 1 batch. Our Great Aunt saves her fruit juice to can during the winter instead of standing over the hot stove during the summer months.
I wish I could tell you that we have some deep family secret with special jelly making ingredient BUT…the truth is you’ll just need 1 box of Sure Jell Fruit Pectin to make the magic happen!
STAGE 3: Presterilize the jars
Time to make those purchased jars sanitary. Rinse the jars in hot soapy water or run through the dishwasher (i.e. meg). Using a tall pot boil enough water to cover the jars by 1-2 inches between the jar top and the surface of the water. Once boiling, slowly lower the jars one at a time with a canning rack (or with grilling tongs) and let boil for 10 minutes. Jars should remain in hot water until they are ready to be filled with jam.
While you are presterilizing your jars boil your jar lids, excluding the rims, in a sauce pan. Fill with enough water to cover the lids and let boil for 10 minutes. Keep lids in the hot water until they are ready to be used.
*Plan to fill 5 pint jars and 10, half-pint jars with 1 batch of jam. I prefer to buy the half-pint size simply because the jam goes farther and tiny jars are just plain cute! (It must be that baby fever coming back up again!).
STAGE 4: Make the fruit juice into jam
Prep the space: Spread out newspaper and a cake cooling rack or cookie sheet as an extra layer of protection and easy clean up for pouring the hot jam juice into the jars. Once you start the following step you’ll want all hands on deck!
Follow the instructions in your pectin box to the “T”! I used the same pot that I strained the fruit juice in. Pull it out of the fridge and place on stovetop. Once fruit juice boils for 1 minute while stirring continuously pour 1 package of fruit pectin and 1/2 tablespoon of butter. Continue stirring continuously until the fruit juice comes to boil and remains boiling for 1 minute. Stir in 8 cups of sugar (incase you didn’t know what made jam so good) and bring to a final boil for 1 minute while stirring continuously.
* Follow exact directions on your pectin box. Instructions may vary.
STAGE 5: Preserve the jam
Once fruit juices, pectin, butter, and sugar, have been boiling for 1 minute turn the heat off. Using your tongs pull out heated jars in the other pot dumping all water out of each jar and back into the pot. Drain the water from the sauce pan so that your lids are ready for easy access. Using a funnel and a liquid measuring cup transfer jam from pot to jars one at a time leaving 1/4 inch headspace at the top. The jars and liquid will be very hot. Have a wet rag ready as jam will spill and will need to be wiped off of the jars once lids are in place.
One at a time fill the jars with jam, place lids and tighten rims on jars, and transfer into the water pot. Jars should be standing up with 1-2 inches between the jar tops and the water surface. Once the pot is full with as many jars as possible, bring to a boil and let sit for 10 minutes. The jars will be noisy as they will hit the bottom of the pan due to the heat. Don’t panic.
After 10 minutes pull the jars out with the tongs and set aside. Depending on how many jars you have you may have to repeat stage 5 as there are only so many jars that can fit into the pot at one time. You should only have to do this twice.
STAGE 6: Cool and store the jam.
Place hot jars onto a cake cooling rack and leave them undisturbed. Jars will need to sit upright for 12-24 hours while the jam sets up. Do not press down the middle of the jar during this process. If everything sets correctly you will hear the tops seal with a pop one at a time as they cool.
Label and seal in a cool dark place. If a jar lid still pops up and down when you press on it, after the cooling stage, the jar did not seal properly. Simply place this jar in the fridge and use first.
Enjoy! It takes time but it’s worth it. You’ll be eating homemade jam all winter and you’re family will think you’re the greatest mom ever!
• 5 pint size jars or 10 half-pint jars
• cake cooling rack (old cookie sheet)
• fruit strainer/sauce maker (My Grandma’s is old school, look for it at thrift stores!)
• 40-60 small plums (needs to make 6 cups of jam juice)
• 2 large pots
• 1-box of Sure Jell Fruit Pectin
• 1/2 teaspoon of butter
• 8 cups of sugar
*There are many unique and different types of canning tools but I wanted to use materials available in most households demonstrating how easy it is to can. I wish you all the best of luck in all your canning adventures! Let me know how it turns out. – Meg
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