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Homemade Jellies

4 Homemade Jellies

So this is the first time I’ve EVER made a homemade jam (or jelly?). I had been reading up on all kinds of different jams, jellies, and marmalade recipes, and saw some berries and grapes for pretty reasonable prices at Costco. I thought, now’s as good a time as any to get started.

Things to know for any jelly:

  • You have to wash your jars, lids, and rings in soapy water. You can also put them through the dishwasher. The jars and rings can be reused, but the lids must be new.
  • You have to boil them in hot water to seal the jars and kill any bacteria living in them. If not done properly, you can get seriously sick from bacteria that’ll grow while the jar is in storage. NOT ALL FOODS ARE SAFE TO PROCESS THROUGH WATER CANNING, but in general jellies and jams ARE safe through water canning. Do your research if you’re straying from a recipe.
  • There IS a difference between jam, jelly, and marmalade. But for this post, I’m using the terms jam and jelly interchangeably.
  • You can make jam with or without pectin. Pectin is a natural ingredient that comes from fruit and can be found in the baking isle of most grocery stores. Many of the recipes I looked at did not call to add pectin, but the cook times take MUCH longer when you don’t use it. The results can also vary greatly (later I’ll give you a tip on how to tell if your jelly is done). In the end, I preferred to use it since it sped up the process, but it’s nice to know you don’t have to if you don’t have any.

Necessities:

  1. Fruit. Certain fruits require extra steps, or extra time in the boiler. Make sure to do your research.
  2. Sugar. Usually lots of it, but I got by with less than most recipes called for.

If you plan to store it long term, you’ll also need:

3. Canning jar, lid, and ring.

4. Large pot with some sort of rack inside for the jars to sit on. Should be large enough that your jars can sit UNDER water on top of the rack.

5. Some sort of tool to place the jars in boiling water and pull them out. They have an official tool for this, but if you have something else that works without burning yourself or anything around you, use it!

Optional:

  • Pectin. As I already stated, this just helps the jelly get firm with less cooking time. I prefer to use the no-sugar pectin because then I can add as much or as little sugar as I like. Seems to give you more flexibility. See also sugar substitute options below.
  • Lemon juice or zest. While this isn’t required for many fruits, I HIGHLY recommend it if you’re planning on storing for long-term. It will help to insure your jelly has a high enough acidity that bacteria can’t grow after your boiling bath. Most recipes call for it.
  • Other spices. Many recipes call for cinnamon or nutmeg.
  • Food processor or blender. This helps if you want to thin out your jelly (no chunks) or need to strain out some part of the fruit (i.e. seeds).

Substitutions:

  • Sugar alternative. This could be something like Stevia, honey, or agave nectar. Be sure to use the no sugar pectin if you’re using a sugar alternative.
  • Juice instead of fruit. Typically you’ll want unsweetened juice. Most recipes calling for juice are for grape jelly.
  • Lemon juice versus lemon zest. Some recipes might say to use the zest and juice of a lemon. You can simply use lemon juice out of a bottle if you want. As long as you use about the same amount, you’re good.

Tutorials

Prep for Canning Any Jelly

Before you start making your jelly, if you’re planning on canning you’ll need to complete these steps first.

  1. Wash all your jars and lids with hot, soapy water. Rinse thoroughly. You can process in a dishwasher if preferred.
  2. Keep jars and lids hot until they’re filled. This can be done by keeping them in the dishwasher or by keeping them in a pot with hot water.
  3. If you’d like to read more about food safety when canning, check out the USDA’s website. TONS of great info there.

Blueberry Strawberry Jelly

Ingredients I used:

2 c Strawberries, cut up into smaller pieces

1 c blueberries

1 c sugar

3 Tbl lemon juice

1. Put a spoon or plate in the freezer for testing later. When you think your jelly is ready, put a little bit on your frozen plate or spoon and see how well it gels. This will tell you if you need to keep cooking it.

2. Mix your sugar and lemon juice together in a sauce pan.

sugar & lemon juice cooking

3. The recipe I followed said to cook on VERY low heat for about 10 minutes (until sugar is dissolved). I accidentally added the fruit in the beginning, then took it out, then got impatient and put it back early. Turned out fine.

4. Add your fruit.

straw blue berry cooking in sugar

 

5. Cook it a long while on low heat until the blueberries have popped and all the fruit has released its yummy juices.

straw blue berries cooking

6. I like to smash the fruit up to be sure it’s all mixed together. Potato masher worked fine for me. Blender or food processor would work too.

smashing strawblueberries

7. Use your frozen spoon or plate to test the jelly. If it gels to your liking, move on. If not, keep cooking until it passes the test.

Jelly test

8. Remove any foam on the top of the jelly that’s built up while it was boiling. Spread it on some bread, or a muffin, or something and eat it. I gave it to the kids on some homemade bread.

9. If you’re not planning on canning for long-term storage, you can simply bottle it up and put it in the fridge or freezer now. Otherwise, keep reading.

10. Fill your jelly into jars that have been kept hot. Remember to leave head room. I left some extra room in my first batch. Make sure to get out any air bubbles in the jelly before sealing. They make a special tool for this, but I got by with a wooden skewer.

blue straw berry jam in jars

11. Tighten the lids onto the jars. Hand-tight is ok because it’s the hot water bath that will seal them.

water bath jellies

I used this pot that I bought around Christmas time to make tamales. It was only about $13 at the local Mercado. It has a shelf for the jars to sit on so they’re not on the bottom of the pot.

tamale canning pot

12. Once the water starts boiling, leave the jars in for a minimum of 10 minutes. If you live in an area with high altitude, you’ll want to go longer. I did 15 minutes.

13. Set on the counter on a dry kitchen towel (folded in half) to cool. Should cool MINIMUM 12 hours, up to 24.

Cooling jam

14. Once they’ve cooled, check the lids to be sure they sealed. If you press down on the middle of the lid, you shouldn’t have a pop. If you do, it didn’t seal properly. Store those ones in the fridge and use immediately. Out of 4 different batches of 24 jars, I had 2 not seal. Not bad.

Blueberry Jelly

Ingredients I used:

3 c Blueberries

2 c sugar

1 c water

3-4 Tbl lemon juice

1 box pectin (regular kind)

1 slice butter (~1/4 Tbl)

 

  1. Put your spoon or plate back in the freezer to cool.
  2. Start with half your sugar (1 cup) and lemon juice again. I didn’t rinse my pan between batches, so I needed a little extra lemon juice this time; 4 tablespoons. You can see the red tint to the sugar from the strawberries in the previous batch.
  3. Once it’s cooked down, add the blueberries. I was a bit more impatient with this batch and cooked it on higher heat for a shorter time. I added the water to keep it from burning.

Blueberries in pan for jam

4. Cook until the blueberries pop. Again, I got impatient and turned up the heat. Smash them with the masher again.

5. Add the box of pectin and mix it up, avoiding clumping. Turn heat to high if it’s not already there.

** A neat trick I learned from Ree at The Pioneer Woman is to put a small slice of butter in the pan while cooking the pectin. This helps it from frothing so much.

Blueberry jam

6. Bring it to a vigorous boil and keep it there 1 minute, stirring constantly. I probably went longer than a minute because I always forget to look at the clock when it starts boiling how I want it.

7. Add the remaining sugar & cook over medium to high heat until it starts to thicken.

8. Use your frozen spoon to test it out. If it’s not ready, repeat the vigorous boil for 1 minute. You can also try adding more sugar or pectin, both of these will help it gel up.

frozen spoon jam test

9. Scoop all the foam off the top. You don’t want it going into the jars for canning.

10. Bottle it up, get the air bubbles out, and put it in the boiling canner for 10 minutes (or more if you’re at high altitude).

11. Let set 12-24 hrs to cool, then check the seal like before.

empty jars with funnels

blueberry jam to be canned

 

Strawberry Jam

Ingredients I used:

4 c Strawberries, cut up

2 c sugar

1 c water

3 Tbl lemon juice

3 Tbl pectin (no-sugar needed kind)

1 slice butter (~1/4 Tbl)

  1. This time I just put the strawberries in the pan right away with the first cup of sugar and lemon juice. I added the water gradually, as needed. Medium high heat.

strawberries sugar and lemon juice

strawberries & sugar cooking

2. Cook it till the strawberries have released most of their juices, then mash it up.

3. Add the pectin on high heat and aggressively boil it for 1 minute. Remember to add butter to keep the froth down.

4. Add the remaining sugar and keep cooking on medium to medium high heat until it’s dissolved and thickening up. Test it with your frozen spoon.

strawberry jam

5. Remove any foam from the top, pour it in some jars (leaving room at the top), and seal them up!

6. Boil in hot water canner for 10 minutes. Let cool on counter 12-24 hours, then check the seal.

Red Grape Jelly

Ingredients I used:

~2 lbs Grapes – I forgot to measure the grapes before boiling. After the boiling and straining (see below), it yielded 4+ cups grape juice. I used 4 cups for the jelly.

2 c sugar

Enough water to cover the grapes in your pot

3 Tbl lemon juice

4 Tbl pectin (no-sugar needed kind)

1 slice butter (~1/4 Tbl)

  1. For this, I used a pot instead of shallow pan. Boil the grapes in water until they’re mostly all popped. Add 1 c sugar to them while they’re boiling.

boiled grapes

2. Pour the grapes and water (now juice) in a blender or food processor and mix them up. If you don’t have one of these, you can mash them with the potato masher, then strain them out. I had to do 2 batches in my blender since not all of it would fit.

blender full of grapes and juice

3. If you prefer more chunky jelly like I do, you could put this mixture back into the pot and continue on without straining. I accidentally bought grapes with seeds, though, so I had to strain them first. To strain them, you put a cheesecloth in a sieve or colander and filter the mixture through it.

chessecloth sieve colander grapes

4. Measure the juice to 4c (ish) and put it back into the pot. Bring it to a hard boil and add the pectin, mixing well so it doesn’t clump. Don’t forget to add the butter to help keep the foam down.

grape juice for jelly

grape jelly pectin butter

5. Boil the pectin very hard for 1 minute. I initially put in 3 Tbl, but ended up having to add more and boil it again. I’m thinking the thin consistency and low sugar levels required more. I also added the other cup of sugar here.

6. Remove the froth, pour it into jars, and remove air bubbles from the jars. Here’s the bamboo skewer that I used.

Bamboo skewer to remove air bubbles

7. Seal them up and boil them 10+ minutes, depending on your altitude. Let cool on counter for 12-24 hours before checking the seal.

grape & berry jellies cooling counter

 

Whew! I’m glad I’m done with all that! Unless you’ve got a lot of time and energy, I don’t recommend doing this many batches in one day!

Feel free to check out some of the places where I got my inspiration:

If there’s something you’d like to see me post, or if you just have a question or comment please share in the comments section.

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