It’s that season when berries of all shapes and flavors – blackberry, strawberry, raspberry, blueberry – start appearing in the garden or at the farmer’s market like delectable treasures of every color. Toddler candy, the food loudly proclaiming spring is here… and time to get your jam on.
I (Rachel) have been teaching jams and jellies classes throughout the winter and spring… Two classes to train new groups of master food preservers. One class for my MOPS group. Two more classes that we donated as auction items for our church and preschool.
The call to preserve the sweet jewels of spring into homemade jams and jellies has an allure even to those not really interested in tending garden or battling your local blackberry bramble. Sometimes you can find a deal at the last hour of a farmer’s market when the vendor has flats of strawberries that he can’t sell….
But before you start throwing fruit into a mason jar, there’s a lot to know – even beyond just following the directions on the pectin package. Here’s just a taste…
- The freshest and most flavorful fruit makes the best jam. But even frozen fruit purchased from the grocery store makes darn good jam.
- Take special care to measure accurately when making jams and jellies. Don’t alter the sugar from what’s specified by the pectin you use - sugar is required for proper gel formation. If you want to use less sugar, purchase a low or no-sugar pectin such as Pomona Pectin or Ball No Sugar Needed Fruit Pectin.
- In addition to regular powdered pectin and low-sugar pectin, there’s also liquid pectin, freezer pectin and recipes for making jams using no commercial pectin. There are pros and cons to using each. Always follow the directions for the pectin you’re using for best results.
- Don’t double jam recipes unless the pectin directions specifically allow it. The jam won’t gel correctly and you’ll end up with a more carmelized or cooked flavor.
- You can reduce the amount of foaming in jams and jellies by adding 1/4 tsp of butter or margarine while the jam is cooking.
- To prevent fruit from floating in your jam (especially an issue with strawberry jam), after removing the pot from the heat, continue to stir the pot slowly for 5+ minutes. Then ladle into jars.
- Jams and jellies can be safely processed in either a water bath canner or a steam canner.
If you do all this, you’re bound to be as happy as this guy…
Low-Sugar Triple Berry Jam
A note on sugar: This jam is made using Ball No Sugar Needed Fruit Pectin, which gives you the flexibility to decide how much sugar to use. I use 1 1/2 cups of sugar when I make this recipe. If you’re making it for yourself and don’t mind a tart jam, consider using less sugar. We often give our jam away as gifts, so we try to keep the sugar low, but without making it too tart.
A note on pectin: There are several types of low and/or no-sugar pectin on the market. It’s important to use the recipe that’s provided with the pectin you purchase. Regardless of the pectin you buy, you should be able to do a version of triple berry jam. Just read the directions carefully, and if you have questions, leave me a note and I’ll be happy to help you figure it out.
A note on the fruit: Use any combination of strawberries, raspberries and blackberries for this recipe. You can alter the relative quantities of berries, or even omit one and just have a double berry jam. Also frozen (and thawed) fruit is perfectly acceptable. Importantly, the total quantity of thawed crushed berries should equal exactly 4 cups. Note that if you use a bag of frozen mixed berries that includes blueberries, pick the blueberries out. They have a lower acid content which will result is a softer (though still delicious) spread.
A note on water bath canning: If you’re new to canning, consider attending a class put on by the Sacramento County Master Food Preservers. The intro to water bath canning class is free, and the next one is on Saturday, June 8th from 10 am - noon.
- 4 cups crushed berries. Use a combination of strawberries, blackberries and raspberries (see note above).
- 1 cup unsweetened apple juice
- 1 1/2 cups sugar (follow directions on pectin container if you want to alter the sugar or use a sugar substitute)
- 4 1/2 Tbsp Ball No Sugar Needed Fruit Pectin
- Prepare boiling water canner, jars and lids.
- Measure juice and other ingredients.
- Put fruit and juice in 6 or 8 quart saucepan. Gradually stir in pectin. Add 1/2 tsp of butter or margarine to reduce foaming if desired.
- Bring mixture to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down, over high heat, stirring constantly.
- Add sugar or sugar substitute. Return mixture to full rolling boil. Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, skim foam if necessary.
- Ladle hot jelly into hot jars, one at a time, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Clean rim and threads of jars using a clean damp cloth to remove any residue.
- Center hot lids on jars, allowing sealing compound to come in contact with the jar rim. Apply bands and adjust until fit is fingertip tight.
- Place filled jars in canner. Be sure water covers tops of jars by 1 or 2 inches. Add hot water if necessary. Bring water to a gentle, steady boil.
- Process jars for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude if necessary.
- After processing is complete, turn off heat and remove jars from canner and set upright on a towel to cool, undisturbed for 12 to 24 hours. Bands should not be retightened as this may interfere with the sealing process. If a jar doesn’t seal, refrigerate and use within 3 weeks.
- Clean sealed jars. Remove bands. Wipe jars and lids with a clean, damp cloth. Label and store in a cool, dry, dark place. Quality will be best if used within 1 year.