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Question: When we were small, my stepmother canned spaghetti sauce and when we used it we all got sick. This was in 1960, I\’m a little afraid of canning because of this. Are things with tomatoes in them more likely to go bad or maybe get contaminated easier?
Answer: Tomatoes can be water bath canned but they must have added acid in either concentrated lemon juice or vinegar. They’re safe to can when acid is added to each jar.
Reasons to make your own jams and jellies is you can control how much sugar. Traditional jams and jelly recipes use huge amounts of sugar for the set. You don’t have to use more sugar or even equal amounts of sugar to get a good set on your jam or jelly.
Store bought jams and jellies have food dye and high fructose corn syrup. Not something I want in my food or body. Most corn products in the USA, unless it says organic of verified Non-GMO, it’s GMO. Learn why we don’t use GMO’s and how to avoid them here.
We haven’t purchased jams or jelly from the store in over 10 years. We make enough jam and jelly to last us a full year.
Jams and jellies can be made from frozen fruit, unlike most other canning. Our summer has been super hot so heating up my kitchen isn’t high on my list. Freezing fruits for jams, jellies, and syrups doesn’t effect the set and is often preferred for making pie filling, like cherry. Frozen berries once thawed juice much easier.
Jam is made from the whole fruit and contains pureed or chunks of fruit. Jelly is made with just the juice of the fruit. Jelly is good for berries with large seeds. We make jelly and syrup from blackberries due to their large seeds.
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I prefer raspberry jamly. Never heard of it? It’s a cross between jam and jelly. I put the raspberries through my great-grandmothers sieve. This is a similar sieve to my grandmother’s from our affiliate partner Amazon Mirror Sieve. The fruit is pushed through with the small seeds, leaving the large seeds behind.
We make jam when possible to use the most of the fruit.
Store bough pectin (liquid pectin has some questionable ingredients linked to carcinogens) and powdered pectin uses high amounts of sugar for it’s set. We prefer to use no store bought pectin when possible to keep costs low and in the event of not being able to get to the store, knowing how to make jam and jelly without store bought pectin is crucial.
Natural sources of pectin occurs in fruit. The highest fruits with pectin is citrus like lemons, lime, and green or crab apples. Grapes have a high level of pectin on their own and don’t need any added.
The concentration of pectin in lemons and limes is the peel. The white part or pith is bitter, so you just want to zest or grate off the color of the peel for the pectin. Apples should be slightly under ripe for the highest part of pectin. Crab apples are a great pollinator tree and using them for pectin stops the apples from going to waist. You want to grate the apple (including the skin) into your jam or jelly recipe.
You need to make sure the acid level is high enough when using low sugar recipes. Berries that don’t require extra acid is strawberries, currants, gooseberries, sour cherry, sour blackberry, sour plum, kiwi, currant, raspberry, and pineapple.
Fruits that require added acid are blueberry, sweet blackberry, pear, apricot, mango, guava, sweet cherry, sweet plum, sweet grape, mulberry, elderberry, ripe quince, and apple. Added acid is lemon or lime juice and is 1/4 cup juice to 4 cups mashed or simmer fruit.
Freezer jam or jelly doesn’t require the extra acid because it’s not intended to be shelf stable.
Jams and jellies won’t set when made in large batches, even with store bought pectin, but especially with no store bought pectin. Stick with smaller batches and follow recipes.
The only store bought pectin we use is Pomona’s Pectin. I can only find it locally from our local co-op or online from our affiliate partner Amazon here Pomona’s Pectin.
Pomona’s pectin uses calcium water for the set and has no artificial chemicals. You can use honey or sugar and double or triple the batches.
When using honey in jam or jelly, use less than the called for amount of sugar as honey is sweeter.
Jams and jellies need a 1/4 inch head space. If you don’t have enough to fill a jar, store it in the fridge or freezer.
Our new favorite low sugar no pectin Blueberry jam recipe!
Use the sheeting method to check your set. A metal spoon dipped into the cooking jam and jelly. If jam drips off it’s not set. If it comes in globs, it’s close. When the jam drips off in a sheet, instead of individual globs, it’s set and ready to be bottled.
All of our homemade jam and jelly recipes here!
This post is featured on The Homestead Barn Hop.
Melissa K. Norris inspires people's faith and pioneer roots with her books, podcast, and blog. Melissa lives with her husband and two children in their own little house in the big woods in the foothills of the North Cascade Mountains. When she's not wrangling chickens and cattle, you can find her stuffing Mason jars with homegrown food and playing with flour and sugar in the kitchen.