There is no catalyst like a large mature fruit tree to lure us back to the art of food preservation. The ability to can excess fruit means youíll enjoy it all winter long. If youíre a beginner, the easiest way to get started is by making fruit jam.
Jam is often confused with jelly, but the latter is more difficult because you must strain out the fruit to create a clear-colored sugary spread. With jam, you cook the entire fruit, including the peel, if you wish, which cuts out the more difficult steps so itís more fun to make. Later, after you have more experience, you can graduate to jellies and marmalades.
Pectin makes your jam gel into a solid mass. Fruit naturally contains pectin, but itís not enough to ensure a good set every time. Many homemakers have turned to Certo and Sure-Jell brand pectins you can buy at the supermarket. The website http://www.kraftbrands.com/surejell/ is a virtual encyclopedia of tips and recipes for making flawless jams with all sorts of summer produce.
Pectin products are packaged with step-by-step directions on how to make jam. These will tell you how much fruit, sugar and pectin youíll need for a recipe, which is then easily translated into the number of Mason jars youíll need.
Jam is easy to make in the small, pint-sized Mason jars. Select those with a wide mouth to make them easier to fill. Small jars also make lovely gifts that will be ready to share for the holidays. Use Mason jar lids and the corresponding bands to ensure a tight seal.
In the past, many homemakers sealed their jam jars with paraffin wax. It is sold with canning supplies. Paraffin was a cost-saving technique that allowed you to recycle pickle or jam jars from store-bought products. Itís done by filling the jar with hot jam, then pour the melted paraffin over the top to seal it. While this is commonly done for jams youíll eat right away, itís not as safe as banded lids for long-term storage. Lids allow you to process the full jam jars in a large canning kettle so the tops suck tightly to the rim of the jar, then, when theyíre cooled, you screw on the bands for safekeeping.
How itís done
The process of making jam is simple. It involves adding fruit to sugar and cooking until it boils, then adding pectin and pouring into sterile jars. Leave the skin in there if you wish. My cousins loved my plum jam because the sour-tart skins were included, unlike super-processed store-bought jams that are consistently sweet. You might want to invest in special canning tongs that allow you to securely grab the jars out of a hot water bath safely.
Even if youíve never tried it before, making fruit jam is fun and easy. However, check the website weíve listed above for further details. Making jam is a super-project to share with your sons and daughters for useful lessons in self-sufficiency. When itís all done, youíll enjoy perfect jars of brightly colored jam.
Maureen Gilmer is an author, horticulturist and landscape designer. Learn more at www.MoPlants.com. Contact her at email@example.com or P.O. Box 891, Morongo Valley, CA 92256.