On Friday, my 9-year old and I made jam using strawberries and rhubarb (with a little mint thrown in) from the garden. We got seven pints of delicious jam! He took the lead, hulling strawberries, sterilizing the jars, cooking the jam and preparing the pot for the canning. I made green soup at the same time. It was fun and all came out great.
Here’s our basic jam recipe which seems to work pretty well with the different fruits we’ve picked (strawberries, rhubarb, plums, cherries, blueberries, raspberries, and tomatoes!).
2 c. fruit
1 c. sugar
1 t. Pomona’s Universal Pectin*
1 t. Pomona’s calcium water (come with the Pomona’s packet and you mix it up)
Thai or italian basil or mint to taste, finely chopped (we like basil in blueberries, mint in strawberries and rhubarb, ginger/clove/cinnamon in tomatoes).
Some people also add a bit of fresh lemon or lime juice but I haven’t bothered with this as of late.
(normally I do 6 – 8 c. of fruit in a 3 quart pan, but these — above — are the base proportions).
1) In a large pot, boil water and sterilize jars and lids (this is the same pot that you’ll boil the jam in after it’s ready).
2) Heat fruit and calcium water at low heat until they get mushy and star to break down and bubble.
3) Add sugar (with pectin mixed in) to fruit and cook at a medium boil for at least 3 minutes. If you’re adding basil or other flavoring, add it with the fruit. Stir only as necessary so jam doesn’t settle on the bottom.
4) Take a bit of your jam and stick it in the freezer for a few minutes and test to make sure it sets up. (It usually does, but better test up front then have to redo your jam later). If it has not set, boil longer and/or add pectin to your mixture. You can also sense whether your jam is setting by observing the extent to which the jam from your stirring spoon (once it’s sitting for a minute or two while you’re not stirring firms up).
5) spoon the jam into jars (with a sterile implement and clean hands), leaving 1/4” of space at the top. If there’s jam on the rim, outside, or in that 1/4” space, wipe it off with a super-clean cloth in hot water or with a super-clean finger.
6) close lids firmly and boil (with 1” of water at least over the tops) in your large pot for 10 minutes. (I use a vegetable strainer at the bottom of my large pot to support the jar and boil 4-5 jars at a time).
7) remove your jars and let them cool — you’ll hear the tops pop.
This method has worked quite well across a variety of fruits. I have never had spoilage. I have had batches that didn’t take (or didn’t take very well) but the testing in the freezer seems to eliminate this. I tried making all sorts of jams without pectin (in this case, I usually add lemon or lime juice and have tried making natural pectin from citrus seeds, as I recall) and it worked sometimes and sometimes not. In any case, requires more boiling and I guess I like my fruit not to be overdone (though it is thoroughly cooked). You can always try a little less pectin for fruits that naturally have more pectin. Enjoy!
* I use Pomona’s pectin — it’s supposed to be a natural, low-sugar pectin, though my recipes are not really low sugar. You can also use Ball pectin but I find I have to use more to get a batch to thicken.