Tips for success with jellies and jams

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				                                Photo courtesy of Janice Roberts
                                This picture shows the process of making blueberry jam.

Photo courtesy of Janice Roberts

This picture shows the process of making blueberry jam.

Jams and jellies are a canning favorite with summer time fruits. These sweet spreads preserve fruit or fruit juice in sugar. Because the sugar is what makes these pantry items safe for your shelves, deviations should not be made from research tested recipes. If concerned about sugar, look for low-sugar recipes that are tested and safe.

Jams are made by cooking crushed or chops fruits with sugar; jellies are made with fruit juice and sugar. Many people choosing to avoid seeds and pulp opt to make delicious jelly from the juice drained from fruit.

For successful jellied products, a proper ratio of fruit, pectin, acid and sugar is needed. Pectin is the substance that causes the fruit to gel. Fruit provides part of the pectin and acid needed for a gel. Best results come from just ripe fruit, since over-ripe and under-ripe fruit do not have enough pectin to form a gel. Frozen or canned fruit can also be used to make jelly with added pectin. Choose fruit canned in its own juice instead of sugar.

To test the pectin levels and avoid adding commercial pectin, add 1 tablespoon of cooked, cooled fruit juice + 1 tablespoon 70% rubbing alcohol. If it forms a gel, no added pectin is needed. Many consumers choose added pectin because it shortens cooking times and takes out the guess work. Commercial pectin can be found in liquid or powdered form. They are not interchangeable so be sure to follow manufacturer directions or a tested recipe.

For high-quality jams and jellies do one batch at a time to avoid over cooking or under cooking. Leave jars still for at least 12 hours to finish processing. Some fruits take up to 2 weeks to set up; plum jelly and jellies or jams made from bottled juices may take a longer time.

Please call the Extension office for any canning questions or for research tested recipes.

N.C. Cooperative Extension of Richmond County’s goal is to provide the residents of the community with research-based knowledge. For more information on food safety, health, wellness, and nutrition please contact the Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, Janice Roberts, MS at 910-997-8255.

Janice Roberts is the Family and Consumer Science Agent for the Richmond County Cooperative Extension.

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