As berries and other fruit come into season in Canada, many people make their own fruit preserves so they can enjoy them all year long. Even more appealing is the control you have over what goes into each jar, allowing for creativity, healthy choices, and the omission of chemicals.
One of the most popular ways to preserve fruit is as jellies, jams or sauces. We’ve brought together the best tips and recipes to ensure your success, regardless of your experience level. All you need is a canner and canning jars.
Jelly or Jam?
The basic process for making your own jellies and jams involves combining the ripe fruit and sugar to turn it into a fruit spread or preserve that won’t spoil. The sugar and heat work together to preserve food.
There is, however, a difference between jelly and jam. Jelly is a spread made from just the juice of the fruit, while both flesh and juice are used to make jam. The process is very much the same. To make jelly, you simply add one step that involves straining out the juice.
The basics of jam or jelly making involve cooking the fresh fruit with sugar and, if needed, a little acid like lemon juice. Once everything is cooked down (and the juice is strained if needed), a gelling agent like gelatin is added. The hot mixture is then added to jars and allowed to cool.
A fun place to start your jam making adventure is with freezer jam. Most recipes call for nothing more difficult than fresh fruit and sugar. You cook them to make a jam that’s then frozen until you’re ready to use it. It’s a quick and easy way to preserve fresh berries. Keep one container of jam in the fridge to use right away and store the rest in the freezer. These types of jam are quick and easy to make. Perfect when you don’t have a bunch of fruit to put up and you have the freezer space available. While you can use glass jars, there’s always a risk of the glass busting when it is frozen. It’s safer and easier to use plastic jars when making freezer jam.
Strawberry Freezer Jam
Mash up the strawberries until slightly chunky to make 2 cups crushed strawberries. Mix strawberries and sugar in large bowl. Let stand at room temperature 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Mix the water and pectin in a 1-quart saucepan. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir for 1 minute. Pour hot pectin mixture over strawberry mixture; stir constantly for 3 minutes.
Immediately spoon mixture into freezer containers, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Wipe rims of containers; seal. Let stand at room temperature about 24 hours or until set.
You can store the freezer jam in the freezer up to 6 months or in refrigerator up to 3 weeks. Thaw frozen jam and stir before serving.
Canning Jellies and Jams
Traditional jellies and jams are “canned” for long term storage. Since there is only so much jelly you can consume at once, it makes sense to choose a preservation method that allows you to keep the fruits of your labor for a year or longer. You will make a batch of jelly or jam, ladle the hot fruit mix into canning jars and then process them in a hot water batch. Follow your canner’s directions for processing the finished jellies and jams.
Pick your favorite fruit, find a jam or jelly recipe and give it a try. You need a large pot, canner, some half pint glass jars, and tongs that will allow you to grab hot jars out of boiling water. Follow the recipes and directions and you’ll do fine.
Note: Any jars that don’t seal properly should go in the fridge and be used right away.
No Pectin Citrus Marmalade
¾ cup grapefruit peel
¾ cup orange peel
1/3 cup lemon peel
1 quart cold water
pulp of 1 grapefruit
pulp of 4 medium-sized oranges
2 cups boiling water
3 cups sugar
Wash and peel the fruit. Cut the fruit peels into thin strips and add to a saucepan. Add cold water and simmer, covered, about 30 minutes or until tender. Drain the pot. Remove the seeds and membrane from peeled fruit pulp. Cut into small pieces.
Combine the fruit peel and fruit pieces in a saucepan, add 2 cups of boiling water and sugar. Boil rapidly over high heat, stirring frequently, until the temperature measures 8°F above the boiling point of water (220°F at sea level) for about 20 minutes.
Remove from heat and skim the top for impurities. Pour hot marmalade into hot, sterile jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace.
Make sure the rims of the jars are clean then add lids and process in a boiling water canner.
You’ll get about 3 or 4 half-pint jars.
Note: Leave some of the white membrane because that’s where most of the pectin is located.
While you’re making fruit preserves, you can switch it up with a novelty like coffee jelly!
4 cups coffee, strongly brewed
¼ cup lemon juice
5½ cups granulated sugar
1 box pectin
Boil the coffee and lemon juice over high heat in a medium saucepan. In a bowl, mix together the sugar and pectin. Add the sugar & pectin mixture to the boiling coffee and whisk continuously until pectin & sugar are fully dissolved.
Return to a full boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and ladle mixture into jars. Wipe the rims clean and place the lids on the jars, tightening until finger-tight. Don’t over-tighten.
Process using the boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Set on a cooling rack or counter overnight. Store in a cool, dark place. Use within 1 year.
5½ cups crushed strawberries (about 3 quart boxes strawberries)
1 package powdered pectin
8 cups sugar
Wash strawberries then remove stems and caps. Crush the berries. Use a blender or food processor if you prefer a less chunky jam.
Add the crushed strawberries into a pot, adding the pectin and stir well. Place on high heat and, stirring constantly, bring to a full boil. Add all the sugar and continue stirring. Heat again to a full boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and skim off the impurities.
Immediately add hot jam into sterile jars leaving ¼ inch headspace. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened paper towel. Adjust two-piece metal canning lids. Process in a boiling water canner. Makes about 9 – 10 half-pint jars.
Other Fruit Preserves
There are other ways to make fruit preserves, including apples or even figs. Try the recipes below and scour the Internet for other ideas.
12 lbs apples, peeled, cored & quartered (about 36 medium)
3 cups granulated sugar, optional
4 Tbsp lemon juice
In a large stainless steel saucepan, cover the prepared apples with just enough water to prevent sticking.
Bring the apples and water to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring occasionally until apples are tender (time will depend upon the variety of apple and their maturity). Remove from heat and let cool slightly, about 5 minutes.
In small batches, puree the apples until smooth with a food mill or food processor.
Add the apple purée back to the saucepan and add sugar & lemon juice. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. Maintain a gentle boil over low heat while filling jars.
Add the hot applesauce into jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band until fit is fingertip tight. Using a boiling water canner – process for 20 minutes. Makes about 8 (16 oz) pint jars.
Pour 3 quarts of boiling water over figs and let stand 15 minutes then drain and discard the liquid. Rinse the figs in cold water and drain.
Mix the sugar, 1½ quarts water and lemon, boiling rapidly for 10 minutes. Skim impurities off syrup, then remove and discard lemon slices.
Add the figs carefully into the boiling hot syrup, a few at a time. Cook rapidly until figs are transparent. Remove figs and place in shallow pan. Boil syrup until thick, pour over figs and let stand 6 to 8 hours.
Reheat the figs and syrup to boiling and add to sterilized jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened paper towel. Adjust two-piece metal canning lids. Process in a boiling water canner. Makes about 10 half-pint jars.
1½ cups sugar
2½ cups water
6 medium cored, pealed, hard, ripe pears, cut in halves or quarters (about 2 lbs)
1½ cups sugar
1 thinly sliced lemon
Combine 1½ cups sugar and water over medium-high heat and cook rapidly for 2 minutes. Add pears and boil gently for 15 minutes. Add remaining sugar and lemon stirring until sugar dissolves. Cook rapidly until fruit is clear, about 25 minutes. Cover and let stand 12 to 24 hours in refrigerator.
Reheat the pears and syrup to boiling and add to sterilized jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened paper towel. Adjust two-piece metal canning lids. Process in a boiling water canner. Makes about 5 half-pint jars.
Your hard work will be rewarded when you enjoy the “fruit” of your labour all Winter long. Enjoy!
✔ You may also be interested in reading:
Food Preservation Guide – Getting Started
Food Preservation Guide II – Canning and Pickling Tips and Recipes
What are the Health Benefits of Maple Syrup?
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