Preserving Basics: It’s Not That Hard!

After the last post, I remembered that there are quite a lot of people who believe that putting up jelly and jam is hard.

Well, I’m here to dispel that myth: It’s not hard! In fact, some varieties can be pretty easy.

Honestly, the hardest part of making jelly and jam is picking the fruit (assuming you pick it yourself instead of buying it from a store or farmer’s market). Remember yesterday when I mentioned about blackberry picking means being bitten by chiggers and scratched by briars? That’s not a lie. And while some other fruits are kinder to pick (like blueberries), there are some options that don’t require any picking, such as jelly made from purchased apple cider or wine or even a flower or herbal infusion (mint jelly is an old-school favorite).

You don’t even need a lot of special equipment (no pressure cooker required). The absolute basics include:

  • Jars with lids and rims – When you buy jars, you get lids and rims with them, and can buy replacements if you reuse the jars the next year. Most jelly recipes call for the 8 oz. size, though you can use a 4 oz. jar and sometimes a pint-sized jar (though that takes longer to cool, which affects how the pectin sets up).
  • A large stockpot or water bath canner – The pot needs to be a couple inches deeper than the height of the jars you are using.
  • A large saucepan
Canning pots

I used the stockpot on the left for years before buying the water bath canner with the rack insert on the right.

  • Jar tongs (aka: the Grabber) – this is really the only specialized tool you need for jellying/canning. For safety’s sake, don’t try to remove hot jars fromJar grabber boiling water in a stockpot without one. I have an inexpensive one, but there are fancier ones out there.
  • Funnel – A large-mouth canning funnel works best.
  • Pectin – OK, this isn’t equipment, but it’s seriously important. There are dry and liquid options; this helps the jelly or jam thicken and set up.
  • Ingredients that the recipe calls for.

You can find recipes online or in recipe books, but all basic fruit jams and jellies are covered in the instructions that come with the pectin. And it’s usually a simple process:

  1. Process fruit (if needed)
  2. Sterilize jars and lids
  3. Mix juice, pectin, sugar and other ingredients together as directed in the recipe, boiling as suggested.
  4. Ladle prepared jelly into jars. Wipe jar mouths clean and place lids and tighten rims.
  5. Place in water bath and boil as long as directed. Remove from water and watch to ensure all the lids pull down with a popping noise.

Easy peasy! So next time you see some fresh fruit or fresh-pressed cider available, give making preserves a try.


2 thoughts on “Preserving Basics: It’s Not That Hard!

  1. I made jelly and salsa once with a friend of mine. Last year actually. I enjoyed it.. and especially enjoyed eating what had been done later on. I really really want to make salsa again and pepper jelly.

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