Homemade jam is a rural secret, but may be the easiest and most inexpensive way to impress all your neighbors, co-workers and friends, no matter whether you live in the middle of a city or the middle of nowhere. (My sister even made it in her tiny apartment in Boston!) With blueberries, raspberries and strawberries all in season, now is the time to strike! In two hours, you can make enough jam to last you and your neighbors through the winter.
Step 1: Visit your local farmers market and ask which berries are ripe and were picked that morning. The fresher the berries, the more brightly colored the jam. (In other words, don’t shop in the bargain bins.) You’ll also need jars and lids from any grocery store. This recipe makes about nine half-pint mason jars, but you can safely double it instead of making two separate batches.
Step 2: Boil the lids and rings and keep them hot on the stove while you boil five cups of crushed, clean berries. Add one 6 oz box of Sure-Jell, or any other fruit pectin. Stir constantly for 5 minutes on high heat.
Step 3: When the berries come to a boil, add 7 cups of sugar and a teaspoon of butter. Continue to boil for 1 minute.
Step 4: Turn off the burner and skim off any heavy foam with a spoon. (Raspberry and blueberry jams don’t tend to foam as much as strawberry jams, making them easier to can.) Ladle the jam into the mason jars. We use a funnel with a large opening made for canning, but it’s not necessary. Put the hot lids on the jars quickly, leaving 1/4 inch of air between the jam and the lid.
Expert’s note: Be sure to wipe the jars clean before putting the lids on. Any seeds stuck between the jar and the lid can keep it from sealing. Unsealed jars (or leftover jam you pour into a tupperware container when you’ve run out of jars) must be stored in the refrigerator and eaten within a month. Jars that are sealed properly can be stored in cupboards unopened for a year. For more information on storing homemade jam, visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation website.
Step 5: Once the jar is sealed, turn it upside down on a dishtowel. After 15 minutes, turn upright, careful not to touch the lids. Within 6 hours, the seal on each of the jars should have “popped” or sucked down into the jar (like any unopened jar at the grocery store). If the jar hasn’t popped, it hasn’t sealed properly and must be placed in the refrigerator.
Although jars can be reused, lids must be thrown out after a single use. Save your empty jam jars for the next year, and start your own annual canning tradition!
–Tara for TKGO
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