Confused About Jam

by moderndomestic on August 20, 2009

Jam Making - Peach Jam

Jam. So mysterious.

I’m confused about jam.

I’m confused about how you cook it – if you’re supposed to let it come to a boil for a couple minutes, or if you’re supposed to cook it for longer.

I’m confused about how much the jam should jell before you let it cool.

I’m confused about whether or not it actually has to come to 220 degrees before it will jell.

I’m confused about the difference between freezer jam pectin and regular pectin.

Jam Making - Peach and Blackberry Jam

Jam. So curious.

I’m confused as to why I thought I could use freezer jam pectin for my cooked blackberry jam.

I’m confused about the sterilized jars – can you touch them with your bare hands after they’re sterilized, or if that will somehow make them un-sterile?

I’m confused about how boiling the jars creates a vacuum.

I’m confused about the boiling water – can you sterilize the canning jars in the same boiling water as you use to seal the jars, or do you need a fresh pot?

I’m confused about when the tops of the jars should pop.

I’m confused as to why this entire process had to take five hours for each batch.

I’m confused about why it took me two weeks before I finally cleaned all the sticky jam byproduct off my stove.

I’m confused about why my peach ginger jam doesn’t taste gingery enough.

The only thing I am sure about is that the jam tastes delicious. It tastes like real fruit.

Jam Making - Jam and Toast

Jam. So delicious.

But, given my confusion, I’m leaving you in better hands than my own:

For all things canning and jam-related:

To learn about canning, visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation.
For an honest blueberry jam recipe, see The Arugula Files
For a freezer jam recipe, see The Bitten Word
For a delicious-looking stone fruit and ginger jam recipe, see The Kitchn.
For a blackberry bay-leaf jam recipe, see Martha Stewart.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

mary August 20, 2009 at 2:54 pm

Hilarious. I’m often confused about many of these things. This is a perfect discussion for happy hour. Or is that too boring?

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moderndomestic August 20, 2009 at 4:55 pm

Of course not! I mean, if you can’t discuss such things at a food blogger happy hour, then when can you?

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Bonnie August 20, 2009 at 3:03 pm

It must be genetic! I stopped trying to make jams a long time ago because I got so turned off by how much sugar was required. I would try to get by with less than the recipe called for and got thin, watery jam in return. Since we live in “jam heaven” here in the NW, I buy locally produced jams and don’t think about how much sugar is in it because I don’t see it go in. No, I don’t like unsweetened fruit butters. I do, however, love the sweet little Ball canning jars you used.

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Holly August 25, 2009 at 12:49 pm

Hey – I have recently started canning (or more accurately, jarring) myself and while I am nervous about/haven’t gotten to the pectin stage yet (have been doing salsas and tomato sauces thus far), I also have wondered particularly about the touching with hands after sterilizing thing.

But about the popping, someone very wise and experienced told me that once you take them out of the boil, they will pop within a half hour. If they don’t, you can reboil them that night or in the morning and that it will be fine as long as it at some point pops.

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moderndomestic August 27, 2009 at 11:19 am

Okay – glad to know I am not the only one confused about the sterilization thing. I guess this is why some people take canning classes . . .

Okay – so, when you say “the tops popped” does that mean that the center of the lid is up or down? Because I thought the center was supposed to pop only after you opened it. So much to know!

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Robin August 26, 2009 at 9:01 pm

My advice (obviously) would be to forget the whole home jam-making process and just buy it from Stonewall Kitchen. :) Every single one of their jammy jams is amazing, as is everything else they make. But of course, I am biased. Jenna, I love the blog!

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moderndomestic August 27, 2009 at 11:21 am

Oooh, that is good to know. I bet they’d also be good to check out for my own jam flavor ideas. Thanks Robin!

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kaydee September 5, 2009 at 9:32 pm

I have been wanting to make jam for ages! One year for Xmas I asked my grandma for jam, she made really tasty strawberry jam- I can’t remember having any since as good as hers! I wish my desire to learn to preserve came when she was still around! My plan is to ask my aunt who cans a lot, or one of my professors who does. My main issue was that I’d be purchasing all fresh fruit, rather than picking it from my own garden which leads me to ask about the cost effectiveness… Plus, it’s so hard not to eat all the fresh fruit! There is a book out pickle it, jam it, preserve it, freeze it… or something like that. I flipped through it at teh grocery store the other day and I want it, and a jar kit! But I will wait until next summer when I plan to hunt down U-pick places up here in Ithaca!

I still love your blog and am so impressed at how you keep it up, it’s difficult! Like a child, or plant! (My plants are not doing so hot, and now I’m in landscape architecture!! haha)

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moderndomestic September 5, 2009 at 11:14 pm

Picking your own fruit definitely makes it more cost effective – although I think that using fresh fruit means that you’ll make a jam that is cheaper than “gourmet” jam at the grocery store (but probably not cheaper than the store brand stuff).

I keep up with my blog because it keeps me going – I’ve made it a huge priority. But it seems like you have TONs of stuff going on – like learning to be a landscape architect, or making your own clothes, or starting a chocolate business. And I wish I had more stuff going on like that outside the blog, that could maybe develop into a business some day.

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