Beginner Jam Makers Guide

by Charlotte Walker
Simple Techniques for Creating Artisan Jams & Jellies

Homemade jam is special. At first glance it can seem a bit complicated and expensive to get into (all that fancy equipment) BUT I am here to show you just how easy, inexpensive and enjoyable it is to make your own preserves! This Beginner Jam Makers Guide will help you make jam for the first time. Aside from a package of canning jars and a few hours set aside, you’ll likely have all of the equipment needed already in your kitchen.

Why Bother With Homemade Jam ?

Homemade Jam is FAR more flavourful and bright than the commercial varieties. When I eat jam, the flavours should burst in my mouth and dance on my tongue. A good jar of jam captures and bottles up the flavours of the season. In addition to superior flavour, you can also indulge in artisan flavour combinations that will delight and surprise everyone.  Classic Strawberry jam is lovely but how about trying  Strawberry Rose or Strawberry Mint Jam?

In this guide we’ll break down the basics so you can give it a try and see for yourself how empowering and fun it is to make your own jam. I want to help you enjoy and succeed with your first batch of jam so this guide is written for the beginner in mind.

Let’s get started.

Supplies

First off, you are going to need a few supplies. Depending on how well equipped your kitchen is, the only thing you must purchase for this project are canning jars. You can find these at department stores or on-line and sometimes even at flea markets, consignment stores and buy & sell trader type sites. To ensure you have plenty of options, I’ve listed the canning supplies that we use, as well as alternatives you can work with.

  • Canning Jars. A package of 8oz / Half Pint sized Canning Jars with lids and bands. These jars come in a number of different formats, the most common being tall regular mouth jars. I prefer the shorter wide mouth style of jar and these speciality elite jars are also lovely for gift giving.
  • Large Stock Pot or Steam/Waterbath Canner. A  large stock pot and dish towel or heat safe silicone trivet is an excellent make shift water bath canner. You can also purchase a  steam canner or water bath canner. 
  • Jar Lifter or Modified Tongues. A jar lifter is a very helpful canning tool, and they don’t cost a lot. You can use kitchen tongues as an alternative, you’ll just need to be a bit more careful. If you happen to have a set with silicone ends (like this one) they will do the trick. Metal tongues can also be modified by wrapping the ends with some thick rubber bands to help give them some grip.
  • Clean dish towels. You’ll want several clean dish towels and a damp clean dishcloth or paper towel for wiping the jar rims.
  • Oven Gloves- for handling warm jars or trays.
  • Funnel (this is a really handy tool!) but you can make do without one.  A funnel makes filling the jars much easier because there is less chance for spills and less necessity to wash/wipe the rims and jars (essential for both sanitation and correct sealing).
  • Ladle. A ladle is really useful for scooping up the jam and filling the jars. If you don’t have one you can get away with using a measuring cup.
  • Non reactive pot and wooden spoon. Certain pots will react with acidic ingredients such as fruit. Stainless steel, ceramic, glass and enameled cookware are all nonreactive and suitable for making jam.  Aluminum, non enameled cast iron are considered reactive and not ideal for jam making.

The Basics of Canning

We’ve got plenty of recipes here on the website that include the step by step instructions, including how to process your jars. We’ll list some of those recipes at the bottom of this article. The following information will give you a bit more understanding of the whys and how’s of jam making.

we’re going to break jam making down into 5 simple steps.

Get Organized.

Select your recipe, read through it and gather up all of the ingredients and supplies you will need.

Clean Everything.

Good sanitation is key to successful canning. Wash all of the items that you will be using (ladles, spoons etc.) with hot soapy water, wipe down your counter, cutting boards etc.. Having a clean, orderly work area before you begin will make everything go more smoothly for you.

Wash & warm your jars.

Wash your jars in hot soapy water (Even if they are brand new). Keeping the jars warm will help to ensure they do not crack when you place them in the canner. To do this, place a dish towel on a cookie sheet and preheat your oven to 250.  Put your washed jars on the tray and set them in the oven until you are ready to fill them.

Follow your recipe.

Each recipe is different and will direct you on how to proceed, but generally you are going to cook the ingredients in a pot until they have reached their desired consistency.

Fill warm jars with hot jam.

Remove your jars from the oven. Set the cookie sheet on a cutting board or other heat safe surface. Place a funnel over the top of your jars and carefully ladle the jam into the jars. If you don’t have a funnel just ladle the jam carefully and try to avoid spilling.  You’ll notice that the jars have three lines near the top. Fill your jars to the middle line. Too much and the jam can spill over and break the seal.

Close the jars and process them in a water bath.

Get your pot going and bring the water to a low boil. This can be started while you are filling your jars. Wipe the rims of the jars carefully. This is important so that the lid will seal properly. Add the lid and screw on the band (not too tight!)

Process them in the Water Bath.

Carefully  lower your jars into the pot without tilting them. This is where the jar lifter or tongues comes in handy. You don’t want to burn yourself.  You’ll need at least 2″ of water above the top of the lids. Once the water returns to a low boil you can start timing. A lot of recipes call for ten minutes but this can vary depending on your recipe and the altitude you live in. For high altitudes the time is always longer.

Remember if you are using a make shift stock pot as your canner, you’ll want a heat proof trivet, or a dish towel folded up in the bottom of the pot. The glass jars bumping the bottom of the pot can break. Just make sure there is something between the jars and the bas of the pot and you are set. (I use the dish towel trick often).

Note: Steam canners are really amazing and you don’t have to deal with big pots of boiling water when you use them. We don’t use our water bath canners anymore because they save a lot of time and are more convenient to use. You can read about why we love steam canners here.

Cool & Store.

When the processing time is done turn off the heat and let the pot cool for five minutes. Gently remove the jars from the water without tilting. Place the jars on a tea towel that is resting on a heat proof surface (such as a thick wood cutting board). Wait for the sweet sounds of popping & pinging lids – the sounds of success! Allow the jars to cool for 24 hours and then store them in a cool dark location such as a cupboard.

Recipes

We make a lot of jams, jellies and preserves on our homestead. This website is packed with recipes for you to browse through but here are some of our favourites for you to pursue. We really hope you’ll give canning a try – be sure to let us know if you have any questions and please share your canning story with us, we’d love to hear about it!

Simple Techniques for Creating Artisan Jams & Jellies

Chocolate Raspberry Jam (With Canning Instructions)

6 Beautiful Recipes for Jams, Jellies & Syrups!

Home Canning: Strawberry Rose Jam

Strawberry Mint Jam Recipe

Raspberry Jam with Kirsch Recipe

Supplies

You can find all the items and supplies that we use and recommend for canning in the Walkerland Marketplace!


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