How To Make Jam — A Beginner Tutorial

Strawberry, blueberry, currant, raspberry, blackberry,boysenberry, loganberry, gooseberry, ad infinitum. This is the basic any-berry method.

Simple jam made without store bought pectin requires only three ingredients: fruit, sugar, lemon juice. Simple and inexpensive, particularly if you are growing your own fruit.

Making your own preserves is one of those projects that you end up saying, ” Wow! I didn’t know it was that simple.” It is.

You could use store bought pectin like Certo or Sure-jell, but here are a few reason not to.

1. Using store-bought pectin drive up the cost per serving. Alot.

2. Contrary to a what a popular jam site says, using store bought pectin requires more sugar than basic country jam. More sugar, more expensive, less healthy.

Do let’s dive in.

Strawberry jam, blueberry jam, raspberry jam, any berry jam.

Ingredients:

1 cup of crushed fruit

1 cup sugar

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

Procedure:

1. Crush the fruit.

Some recipes will try to encourage you to throw the fruit in a blender or food processor. Don’t. The resulting jam ends up with a very hollow flavor.

Crush the fruit with a potato masher or even a super clean soup can to extract all that fresh berry flavor.

2. Stir all the ingredients together in a ridiculously large non-aluminum (non-reactive) pot.

These days most modern pots are not aluminum.

For this particular recipe, I would use the deepest sauce pot I own. Not quite a stock pot, but nice and deep.

Why such a big pot?

Well, as you bring the jam to a boil, it will froth up like crazy. Even as much as 3 times its original volume.

3. Bring it to a boil over medium high heat, stirring frequently.

Watch it. If the jam is going to boil over, this is the time. Some people add a teaspoon of butter to reduce foaming, but I have a use for the foam so I never add butter. Your choice.

4. Reduce heat to maintain a gentle boil. Stop stirring.

Reduce the heat so the the bubbles keep coming up, but nothing too furious.

Some people stir through the whole process. I don’t. You want to occasionally draw the spoon through to be sure your not burning the bottom. But if you stir the whole time, you are reducing the temperature and increasing the cooking time. I am just to busy for that silliness.

However, if you are terrified of burning it and this is your first time, there is a comfort to stirring constantly. Your choice.

4. As the jam starts to thicken, test for sheeting.

“Test for what?!”

All right, now settle down.

Sheeting is simply the name for how the jam appears as it drips off the spoon.

I use a non-slotted metal spoon. Scoop up some of the boiling jam and slowly dump it back in. It is the last little bit that you are going to watch.

As the jam is just starting out, you will notice that it drips off the spoon in several places.

When the jam is ready it will “sheet.” The drips will pull towards one another to make a more gloppy big drop. As the drops pull towards one another that gooey bit of jam between them is the “sheet.”

I will try to capture a picture of in the next couple of weeks as strawberries come into season here.

6. Remove from heat and skim off the foam.

Using a large metal stirring spoon skim the foam off the top of the jam. Most people dump it, but I reserve it for another goodie.

Time to make a decision.

Are you going to eat it in the next couple if weeks or would you like to can it for much later?

Today, I will assume you are going to eat this first delicious attempt. A post on processing will follow.

If you are going to eat it relatively soon or you are testing the sugar content (more on this later,) simply pour it into any clean glass or pottery container. Not plastic, ’cause it just might melt. If you let the jam cool in the pot a bit, a clean sour cream container would work fine. Pop it in the frig. You are done.

Now, who is going to do the dishes?

Troubleshooting:

Too sweet or too tart– everyone has different tastes plus every year the berries are slightly different. Try this recipe then increase or decrease the sugar from there. I usually find this a bit sweet for my strawberries, but better with strawberry-rhubarb or blueberry. Don’t be afraid to play with it. That is how you learn to make the best jam.

Yes, the more little batches you make the better you will get.

Too runny — it wasn’t cooked long enough. Call it a “sauce” and use it on waffles or over ice cream. My first jam experience resulted in 6 pints of blueberry sauce. It was delicious.

What to do with the skimmed off foam:

Fold it into whipped cream to ice a cake.

Mix it with cream cheese to make a delicious fruit dip.

Fling it at your enemies. It sticks!

Smear it onto waffles immediately and invite me over.

Frugal Berry sources:

Inexpensive jam doesn’t come from store bought berries. Here are some other ideas.

Your garden

Farmers’ Market — especially just at closing time. You just might be able to strike a good deal, because the farmer wants to unload them and not take them back to the farm

Pick-your-own — check for local U-pick places by calling your county extension agent or try these links:

Pick Your Own.org

or

Local Harvest.org

Other beginning canning tutorials:

How To Make Jam — The Canning Supplies

How To Make Jam — The Easy Canning Process

Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam — without added pectin

How to Raw Pack Fruit With Simple Syrup

Strawberry Lemonade

Blubarb Jam — Blueberry Rhubarb Jam without added pectin

What are you going to try?

Any problems or questions?

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25 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. it worked for me an i am only 11

  2. I absolutely LOVE your site! I just so happened to find it. I made the strawberry jam this morning, and it is so good! I had my family do a taste test with yours and some I made with store bought pectin. Yours won hands down! I am a total newbie to the world of jam making, and I was scared to try it, But it was so easy I will be making a big batch to store for winter! Thank You!

  3. I love it! Thank you!
    I’m doing an end-of-the-semester final project on Jam’s history, and how to make it, and this is helping me a ton!
    So once again,
    thank you!

  4. I love this! First I made Poha Jam and it was delicious (though I boiled it a little long, so its a bit thick!)! Then I got gutsy and made strawberry banana jam. This one I had to boil 3 times as long and its more the co0nsistency of apple butter (strawberry banana butter!), but DELICIOUS! Thank you for this great recipe and blog!

  5. I just stumbled across your blog and I’m really enjoying the recipes. Just a couple of tips – if you’re out of lemon juice apple cider vinegar seems to work – found that out making a late night batch of jam. It works fine and doesn’t change the flavor with strongly flavored jams such as blackberry, mullberry, and strawberry, but might be noticeable if you’re making a lightly flavored jelly (such as a flower based jelly).

    Speaking of blackberries and mullberries – the local mullberries don’t seem to have a lot of pectin and are very sweet. The blackberries (which conviently are growing underneath the mullberry trees) are on the tart side and have loads of pectin. I’ve been making mullberry-blackberry jam. So far my informal experimentation suggests that you want to have at least 1/2 of the mix be blackberries. I also pick a handful or two of under-ripe blackberries – those that are red and just turning black (not bright red and definitely not white). These seem to have more pectin and help the jam set. I’ve been using equal weights of sugar and berries (rather than equal volume), it’s a bit sweet for my taste so I may drop back and use less sugar for the next batch.

    Easy and cheap to make. One last tip – I use an enameled cast iron dutch oven for making the jam. It heats evenly (no scorching!), cleans up easily (hot water and a drop of soap), and is non-reactive. You don’t want to use a bare cast-iron pan though.

    I’m pretty much a novice myself, but hopefully these tips will help someone else!

  6. Can I make this using splenda? My mother is requesting that I make a sugar free version. Think it’ll work?

    -Destiny

  7. [...] Adapted from this basic jam how to. [...]

  8. [...] Nancy presents How To Make Jam — A Beginner Tutorial posted at Recession Depression Therapy. From garden gleanings, you pick or farmers’ market [...]

  9. Forgive me, but I am completely unfamiliar with coconut sugar. I have no idea if there is any kind of chemical…crystalization issue with coconut sugar…might be a temperature thing. Try lowering your heat a little…longer process, but easier to catch.

    I am very capable of turning regular sugar into a hard gooey mess. I don’t think I have ever reached candy hardness though…giggle…hang in there. Personally I would use it to flavor ice cream or something yummy like that.
    Most likely, it was simply overcooked.
    My first ever batch…. I watched and watched…”is that sheeting?” I kept wondering. By the time it did what I imagined “sheeting” was, I had such a firm jam that I needed to run warm water in the jar to remove the knife.

    What you are really looking for is a thickness…a shininess. The drops move more slowly and pull towards each other. This is best seen on the biggest flattest spoon you have.

    Good luck. You might try searching “jam sheeting” at youtube.com to see an actual video of the process

  10. hi! i am brand new to the world of jam making and i tried your recipe yesterday…i ended up with a candy like consistancy…and this morning when i took it out of the fridge…it was harder than a rock…what in the world did i do wrong? the only thing i changed in the recipe is that i used coconut sugar instead of traditional sugar…please help! thanks so much! :)

  11. im sorry i just hadn’t looked hard enough. found the canning post!

    thanks again!

  12. Hi!
    This post was so helpful, but I was wondering if you could post instructions on canning and freezing. We are going to give homemade jam as the gift to everyone at our wedding in August, but want to get a head start.
    What is the process for freezing the cans after the jam is made?

    Thanks!
    H&M

  13. nan,
    i’m making canning grape jelly as i type & thinking of you… what happened to you my friend? i haven’t heard a peep out of you in quite some time! i saw that you are now on facebook, but with no activity! oh how i miss my new friend! – jen

  14. I’m thrilled you stopped by. Have a lemonade on the back porch and make yourself comfortable. I love a good chat while I fight the weeds here by the steps.

  15. to jeff neff
    Dont reduce the sugar for the mulberries.They do need the sugar and could use pectin as well.I know from first hand experience.[I tried jam,not jelly]
    You also might discover that the seeds are too numerous and also oddly very sour.I added some that were just starting to ripen.Hoping to increase the pectin level.It didnt work and those flavors were what I was stuck with.Fortunately, we actually learned to like it.Just ate it later in the day rather than breakfast.[I used it as a marinade ingredient for pork and beef as well]
    Neigbor nancy
    Thank you I had been looking for a trial recipe for jam and jelly.[Cant find mine]I just made false gooseberry jam with this recipe.Ill let you know how it turns out in a few days
    False gooseberrys actually are known as ground cherries or husk tomatoes.They taste like fruit rather than tomatoes.I have the version that tastes alot like pineapples.Love em raw lets hope that I like them jammed.Made four pints.

  16. okay there you go. A big lovely post about raw packing. It’s not jam, but at least your preserving the harvest.
    Another though: Do you have a dehydrator. I bet they would be wonderful reconstituted in oatmeal some horrendously cold winter morning.

  17. hang in there. I’ll be back in a bit. I have to pick up my husband from work.
    In the meantime, hang on to your ” juice.” Either use it to flavor ice tea or lemonade. Never a waste. Just a learning experience.

  18. [...] WordPress has actually automatically generated an appropriate link below this post. The link for How to Make Jam – A Beginner Tutorial expertly outlines the process, albeit for a much smaller batch. Check it out! Possibly related [...]

  19. Well, Nan, I made some Mulberry Jam(Jelly?) today… I had 2 cups of Mulberries (without them having been crushed yet) and I only used 1/2 cup of sugar & almost a whole tablespoon of lemon juice (I ran out). Anyway, there was no foaming at all. Is that because I cut the sugar so much? Also, there was no sheeting, actually it wasn’t very liquid at all whenever I was done, just lumpy sugary spoonfuls of crushed berries. Maybe I didn’t crush them enough, but actually I took your advice & mashed them all up first, but then later I used my immersion blender because Mulberries have stems still attached that are fine to eat, but I thought it would be more appetizing to chop them into bits. ANYWAY… it tastes great, but there was no frothing/foaming or sheeting & it is not liquidy at ALL. I don’t know what I would change next time for it to be more like a jam… but it does really taste great. So, what do you think?

  20. I never do, but only because of the cost. If your not pinching every penny, go ahead and use lovely fresh squeezed lemon if you like. I imagine it would taste better, but it does add a step to the process also.
    Over the next week, I will post about larger batches and sealing them (canning).
    Feel free to ship all your questions and concerns.

    With jam, you may want to think through where you will place things. Mashing station, skimming station, jar filing etc. Once you get a little assembly line going for yourself, you can really preserve alot.

    I don’t recommend large scale picking and canning on the same day, unless you have help or loads and loads of energy.
    Have fun and good luck. Let us know how your 1st adventure turns out.

  21. neighbor nancy-
    just curious, do you use fresh lemon juice?
    i’m going to give this a go (first time!) next week when we get our strawberries from a local farm.

  22. Have a muffin.
    I just love a big juicy comment embedded with questions. That and caffeine are what keep this blog going. ;-)

  23. That’s what happens when you live in the same hardiness zone as the blogger. I must always be late for everyone South of us.

    Hang in there, kiddo. I have a post coming just for you. Somebody has to have more info than I on these two topics.

  24. sorry about the big post! I’m such a blabbermouth!

  25. Oh Neighbor Nancy, you are always so timely! This is exactly what I have been furrowing my brow over the last couple of days… I have a big old mulberry tree & the birds are having a hey day over it already. Are you familiar with mulberries (some people are not)? Well, they are very sweet, so I assume that I will probably be able to half the sugar content for the jelly… I don’t know. My big problem is harvesting them. It is a BIG tree. So, one year I put down like 6 full size sheets all around the tree & they drop down onto the sheet throughout the day & I went out to get them that night. I could just do that again, but I’m wondering in all of your expertise if you have any advise for me about collecting those berries. As I said, it is an OLD tree & I don’t want to be banging around the branches because they could just go flying off if I’m not careful… What do you think about making a rhubarb jam or jelly? ever heard of such a thing (without anything else added like strawberries?)


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