Whenever I go to the farmer’s market, I am drawn to jam and jelly booth. Fruits of various kind, canned in different sizes of jar ,all neatly labeled and tagged, beg me to buy it.No surprise that I always come back home with couple of jars.
When I got my first jar of strawberry from my friend Donna,few Christmases ago, I was surprised, with a question, ‘Did you make this?.For some reason,the idea of making your own jam and jelly at home seemed too big of undertaking.As the time passed by and my love for homemade jam and jelly grew, the question I had for Donna was, “Can you please teach me how?”
So last Friday we finally got together for canning. She explained me each and every step of the process.So here it goes.
Tools of the trade
People are canning for a very long time, much before canning kits were neatly packed and marketed like today. I have learnt that canning have precise steps. Tools make these steps easier. However I would suggest, before you are sure about yourself whether you would be canning in a long run or not, borrow the tools from a friend who cans. I have no tools at present; Donna was gracious enough to let me use all of her canning kit. Donna’s canning kit included the following items:
Boiling water canner (big canning pot)
You dunk your canned jars in the big pot and let it boil.
Canning inserts rack
It helps keeps the jar in place. Contoured handles rest securely on the rim of a canning pot for easy loading and unloading.
Funnel helps to pour the jam into jar.
Jar lifter (canning tongs)
You never put hot jam in cold jar. It may crack.So jars needs to hot water boiled or bathed in hot water if it has cooled down after sterlizing. It is very useful tool to get the jar out from boiling water. As well as lifting the jar and transferring from one pot to another. For example to boiling water canner, since it is hot.
This nifty little tool has a round magnet disc in the end. It comes very handy to lift ring and lid from a pot, particularly when you are holding the lid with one of your finger and getting the ring out from other hand,in hot water.
Trapped air bubble is enemy of canned goods. This tool helps it remove. If you don’t have it, you can certainly use long plastic knife.
Different sizes of glass jars are available these days. Lesson learnt from Donna, if you are fascinated by colored jars (like tings of blue from French kitchen),be aware that your yellow jelly will look green against the blue jar and so on with different colors. It may not be a big deal for some but I want my peaches to look yellow not green and strawberries to look red and not brown or so on.
It is important because you can reuse the jar and ring. You just need to buy the seal everytime. So when you put new jam or jelly, you don’t have to scrub goo out of the glass.
Prepare your canning gear
a. Fill canner or stockpot half full with water. Place lid on canner and heat to a simmer. Keep the rack with lifter to the side until ready to use,if you want to.I let that in.
b. Wash jars, lids and bands(rings) in hot soapy water. Rinse well.
c. Pile jars into a pot and cover with hot water by at least 1-inch and bring to a boil. Maintain for 10 full minutes to sterilize.
d.Leave all hardware in the pot until you are ready to can. You can leave the seals(lid and rings) out and put them in after the you take the rest of the heat.
Done-ness of the jam-jelly
- Cook your jam/jelly as per your recipe.When jam comes to the rolling boil,2 minutes after that jam is done.
- You know jam is rolling boil,when you run the spatula through it and it is still boiling as you are running the spatula.
- For final check,my friend Donna keeps the spoon in cold water.When you think that jam is done,scoop little bit of jam from the pot and turn the spoon upside down,if most of jam is clinging to the spoon and not falling down easily,your jam is ready.
Fill Your Jars
- Ladle hot jam into hot jars, one at a time leaving ¼ inch headspace.
b. Force out any air bubbles by sliding bubble remover or a clean narrow nonmetallic spatula between the food and the sides of the jar.
c. Wipe the jar rims clean with a moist paper towel or clean damp cloth, checking for any cracks and irregularities.
d. Use the magnetic jar lifter to lift the seal..Place a finger on the seal from one hand and lift the rings from the hot water pot and put the rings on from other hand. Screw until finger tight. Twist until you feel resistance and go a quarter turn past.
Process the jars
a. Place the jars in the canning rack inside the canner. Make sure the jars are covered by 2 inches of water. Bring water to a gentle, steady boil.
b. Process the jars in boiling water for 10 minutes. Turn off heat, remove lid and let jars stand in the pot for 5 minutes.
c. Remove jars from water using the jar lifter.
d. Check the lids for seal after 12 to 24 hours.
e. Once the seals are checked you can remove the rings if desired. Wipe the jars clean and label with the contents and date.
Vacuum seal check:
- As the jars cool you can sometimes hear them pop/knock. This is normal and the vacuum is in action, which is a good sign!
- If you do not hear the pop, wait until 24 hrs. To check the seal. You check it by pressing the lid in the middle, if lid doesn’t presses down, it means it is sealed. If it does, then seal it again by putting it back in water bath, unless you are going to eat it within 3-4 weeks.
Words of advice
Canning process is very involved.So invite a friend or two.Not only to catch up with you but also to help you as switch gears from chopping the fruit,to mashing the fruits and most time intensive cooking the fruit.It is must,if you are going to can two different kind of jam or jelly at the same time or more then one pot of jam/jelly at the same time.Once fruit comes to boil,it needs to be constantly stirred until thickened.You will appreciate my advice then
Congratulations you just canned your first jam !
Happy Canning friends.