While the best jams and jellies are made from fresh fruit, you can use canned fruit juice in a pinch. You can also make cooked or freezer jams and jellies. Regardless of which type you make, the biggest key is following the instructions to a ‘T’ so the final product isn’t too hard or loose. Canned jams and jellies can last up to a couple of years if they are stored properly and you get a good seal during water bathing them.
Using Canned Fruit Juice
If you can’t get the fruit to make jellies and jams, you can use fruit juices. Be sure to choose all-natural juices – you won’t get good results with the flavored type. You should also use unsweetened juices, as you add quite a bit of sugar when making jams and jellies. Some recipes will adjust for the sugar in canned juices, but it’s not an exact science since different manufacturers use different amounts of sugar and other ingredients. You will always get a better flavor with fresh fruit.
Preparation is Key
Pick through the fruit to remove stems and any rotten pieces of fruit. You can cut out badly bruised sections of fruit – you don’t have to throw the whole piece away. You can use slightly bruised fruit.
You have to constantly watch and stir jams and jellies. You’ll have more success if you get all the ingredients ready. Measure everything and put it in separate bowls. Some recipes take as much as 6 to 8 cups of sugar. It’s easy to lose count of how many cups you scooped out. And, it’s easy to burn the fruit while you are taking the time to measure the sugar.
Because you have to bring the mixture to a rolling boil, it is very easy to let it stick or burn. Even if you stop stirring for a few seconds, the mixture sticks to the pan. If the fruit starts to stick and burn, the whole batch will have a burnt flavor to it. Always use a wooden spoon or a metal spoon. The pan gets hot enough so that you’ll melt a plastic spoon.
While stirring the fruit is important, it is even more likely to burn once you add the sugar. It is imperative that you continue stirring.
Know What a Rolling Boil Is
If you don’t bring the mixture to a rolling boil, it won’t set properly. Some recipes require you to boil the mixture at a rolling boil for a certain amount of time. Don’t guess on this part – use a timer, so you are sure to keep it at the right temperature for the correct amount of time.
Prepare the Jars
Make sure you prepare the jars ahead of time. You won’t have time to do it once you start cooking the jelly or jam. You can sterilize the jars in the dishwasher – and they must be sterilized, or bacteria could start growing.
After filling the jars, be sure to wipe the rims clean. Any little bit that gets between the lid and the jar allows air into the jar and increases the risk of having an improper seal or having bacteria build up inside and breaking the seal over time.