The art of jam and jelly making is an important part of your self-reliance journey. It is important for preppers or anyone else practicing self-reliance to learn this skill because it is a superb way to preserve fruit. While there is a lot of sugar in jam and jelly, there are also lots of vitamins and nutrients that are preserved too. In hard times, sugar can be a good thing! It’s a source of energy and its a morale lifter. Canned jam and jelly does not require refrigeration and will last for years and years. In a long term emergency situation, this would give you a great option for flavoring otherwise bland survival food. You can put it on bread, rice, oatmeal, or heck – eat it with a spoon!
At first, jam and jelly making may seem a little daunting, but that’s just because its been so long since we’ve made it or watched someone make it, I promise you it’s really quite an easy task. I would go so far as to say, that once you make your own jam, you’ll find the fact you’ve been buying it at the store all these years – horrifying.
Frozen or Fresh Fruit?
In the process of making room in our freezer for beef this fall, I made some jam and jelly out of fruit I had stashed away since this last summer, which is how I came up with the Four Berry Jam recipe. It’s all fruit we grew and picked, if I don’t make wine or ice cream out of it, this is what I usually do with it. While fresh fruit is always lovely, there is nothing wrong with using frozen fruit either, in fact it helps because as the fruit freezes it expands and breaks down a little, make it easier for you to mash up!
Why Recipes Always Call for Smaller Batches
I took out all my berries, thawed them, then I measured what I ended up with and broke that amount up into “batches.” Most batches will fill 4-6 half pint canning jars. They don’t recommend doubling or tripling most jam and jelly recipes because you can run into trouble getting it to gel up, even if you add extra pectin. Personally I double batches all the time and have never had trouble getting a batch to gel, but it’s your call as to what you would want to do. Remember a batch of jelly that doesn’t gel up makes GREAT syrup (no seeds), a batch of jam that doesn’t set up may need to be re-batched.
I know you can use a “freezer jam” recipe with “freezer jam pectin” that doesn’t require cooking…. but I prefer using “Classic Jam Recipes” that require cooking. They usually turn out better, store longer, and if you are going to ‘can’ your finished product you need to cook the jam. I feel this way like I have a little more control over the finished product. Don’t be afraid of cooking your jam, its REALLY not that much more work.
This recipe is the Four Berry Jam I use basically to clear out the freezer – you can sub in different fruits if you’d like or you can use just one fruit. My only recommendation is that if you change it – to look up how much pectin you should add as different fruits will require different amounts of pectin. Some naturally contain more, other fruit naturally contains less pectin and therefore to get it to “set-up” you may have to add more pectin than what is listed in my recipe (click here to use Ball’s Pectin Calculator). I can’t even begin to tell you how good this stuff is. When I used to make jam and jelly with my grandma, I can remember it being so good that I would’ve sat down and eaten it with a spoon if it weren’t considered rude. As it is now, I constantly make biscuits as an excuse to eat jam.
Four Berry Jam
- 5 Tbsp Ball Classic Pectin or you can use homemade pectin click here to learn how to make your own pectin.
- 1-1/2 cups sugar
- 1 cup crushed huckleberries
- 1 cup crushed blueberries
- 1 cup crushed raspberries
- 1 cup crushed strawberries
- 1 TBS Lemon Juice
- 1 Tsp of butter
If you are making jam, first (using a potato masher) mash the thawed berries up over med-low heat on your stove and add a little lemon juice. If you want to do jelly, you will either have to get one of those strainer bags (click here to find one online) where you add your mashed up fruit to the bag, let it sit over night to drain, or you can use a steam juicer to get the job done. Either way, what you are after for jelly is clear, pretty, seedless, fruit juice.
After you have mashed the berries really well in a large sauce pan, heat it up even more and add your sugar first. Then, when it is completely dissolved in what they call a “boil that cannot be stirred down”, (usually in the midst of adding the sugar I will add a little butter – this just keeps the foam down, there is nothing wrong with the foam it just doesn’t look as pretty) you add the pectin. You’ll want to simmer it for about a minute longer, until you are sure your pectin is absorbed, but be careful not to scorch the liquid fruit. Next, click the heat off and skim any foam off the top – put it in a small bowl, it will gel up and you can eat it later.
At this point you can either stick it in containers to cool for the freezer, thereby making freezer jam… if you want….
You can water bath can it!! What a great first canning project this could be!
- While it is still nice and warm, ladle the jam into warm sanitized jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace (space between the rim and liquid jam).
- Wipe the jar rim.
- Fish your lids out of the boiling water and center lid on jar.
- Apply a clean band until fit is “finger” tight.
- Place your jars into the water bath canner and rack so that the water covers up the jars by at least an inch.
- PROCESS (boil) jars in your water canner for 10 minutes (don’t start your timer until the water has come to a full boil), adjusting the processing time for your altitude (see the Ball Blue Book for an altitude chart).
- When your timer goes off, remove the canner from heat, remove the jars and allowed to cool to room temperature undisturbed.
- Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.
For the raspberry jelly (pictured above). I first juiced my berries with my steam juicer (click here to find on online). Therefore I cheated. I didn’t mash them up and let them sit in a strainer bag overnight (although there is nothing wrong with that method) – I just cleaned them, put them in the juicer for an hour with water and ended up with beautiful, effortless, clear red juice. The chickens cleaned up the berry pulp, as there is no reason to throw it in the trash. If you don’t have chickens, cow, pigs, or goats to feed it to, then compost it. Next, I added the lemon juice directly to the berry juice.
I so LOVE the steam juicer! Perfect for jellies, juice, and in some applications of homemade wine. It works different than a centrifuge juicer, as the juice you get out of it is super clear and the naturally occurring pectin in the fruit is already activated (pectin is derived from fruit and most fruit contains some naturally).
- 6 Cups of Raspberry Juice
- 5 cups sugar
- 8 TBS of Ball Classic Pectin or you can use homemade pectin click here to learn how to make your own pectin.
- 1 TBS Lemon Juice
- 1/2 Tsp of butter – to remove foam
The lemon juice is added to jams and jellies to help preserve the color, clarity, and it helps activate pectin with its citric acid. Lots of recipes don’t call for it any more. I sill like adding it anyways. This also gives your jam and jelly a good dose of vitamin C. Once I have the juice either from straining the fruit with a bag or from a juicer, then I basically reuse the same cooking process from above. Adding the sugar, dissolving it in a boil that you can’t stir down then adding the pectin and allowing it to dissolve as well.
Next use the same water bathing process as the jam to can it (listed above) to can it. Jelly must be canned, if you don’t, you have to stick it in the fridge and either use it until its gone. The only other alternative is covering the “headspace” in the jars with melted paraffin wax. The wax method is NOT recommended for long term storage, because it does not create a vacuum like canning does. Also, the wax can slip out of place exposing your jam or jelly to the air. That being said, my grandmother used this method all the time and never suffered any ill effects over it. While my recommendation is to always ‘can’ it, do your own research to make up your own mind as to what method you want to use to preserve fruit jelly.