Jul 072009

I didn’t know that there was a different way of making jam until I started reading American blogs and all I heard was “botulism” and “canning equipment”. Oh, and “sterilizing”.

Then the lovely Brenda Dayne talked about her quest for self-made jam on her podcast, and I thought I’d rather post this on my blog than jam up her comment-section. I was sure I already had written a post about how we make jam but all I could find were a few pictures of jam-making in a post about my yoga bag. So, this time I hired my husband as a photographer and set out to document our jam making process. It is, by the way, really easy.

The first step, the one that might be a stumbling block for a newbie, is to collect jars. Every time we buy jam, or mustard, or tomato sauce or anything I put the jar and the lid into the dishwasher, and then it goes into a big cardboard box in the basement. We go through a lot of jars here because my mother-in-law makes jam to sell for charity each year. Otherwise we’d have enough jars to store several years worth of jam. If you’re fancy and wading in money you might go and buy jam jars though I can’t tell you where to find some, I only once heard of somebody who did.

Then you pick the berries. In this case we picked almost two pounds of sour cherries that had been quite decimated and damaged by the rain (but this year there weren’t any worms – hurray!), and about three pounds of Josta-berries, a special kind of berry that’s a cross between black currant and gooseberry, excellent for jam. Here is a picture to prove that I actually ventured out in the garden in person:


And these are all of the Jostas that we picked:


We were lucky enough to make it indoors again before the next rain. Also, I have to add that since my mother-in-law is the champion of jam makers we only picked the remnants. After my son had gone to bed I washed and cleaned the fruit. And I borrowed a machine for pitting the cherries. About two hours later I put the cherries (now mostly without stones) in one pot after weighing them, of course, the berries in the other, measured the canning sugar (that’s the important part, you know that sugar with, um, sugar and pectin), stirred everything and went to bed. (Imagine a picture of sugarcoated berries in post here. It was dark, it was ten in the evening and I didn’t take a picture.) The pots are our usual cooking pots, it’s only helpful when they are big so that the jam only fills about half of the pot. But you can do it in a smaller pot if you are careful. Only it’s harder not to spill boiling jam on your stove.

Note that I didn’t cut or mash the fruit in any way, we like our jam with lots of pieces of fruit. Also, traditionally you’d use only the berries juice for jam but my husband likes to have the whole berries in.

The next time you have a bit of time you go down into the basement and fetch the box of jars and the pots of sugary fruit. Then you wash the jars, you rinse the jars (you don’t want to have detergent in your jam, don’t you?), and then you put them into very hot water. That helps with them not exploding when you put the jam in, they are already very warm.


You also need a clean dish towel or two, a wooden spoon, a timer is helpful, and these things (but not the water kettle):


The wooden thing is what we use to mash food; if we had a real masher we’d use that. You bring the fruit and sugar mixture to a boil. When it starts boiling you mash the fruit (see, that saves time in preparation because you don’t have to sit there cutting fruit into pieces for hours). After mashing you let it boil for about four minutes. Then you set up you glasses in a neat row on a towel. You can wet the towel but since our jars just sat in a sink full of water, and we don’t dry them everything’s wet enough. Make sure that you know which lid belongs to which jar. That is essential. Also it’s good to leave a bit of room between the glasses so you don’t knock them over while filling them. There’s no picture of me actually filling the jam in because that’s the very hot phase of jam making. You don’t want it to cool down too much, and so nobody has time to take a picture. But here’s one of the cherries getting warmer (and blurry):


Ladle the hot jam into the bowl (that’s the bowl I use to whip cream. It’s narrow and has a beak (I hope that’s the right word) the bowl you saw in the picture before last, I mean.). Pour the jam into the glasses with the help of a wooden spoon, making sure that there is fruit as well as juice in every jar, and that the tops stay clean because otherwise they won’t close properly. Make them quite full. Then close the lids firmly, and turn them upside down for about ten minutes. (Not much longer because otherwise the jam will be stuck to the lid forever, and forever, and they will be very hard to open later. Ask me how I know this.)


Make your husband clean all utensils, and the kitchen (I had to go and teach a student, I swear), and there it is:


See, easy peasy.

  2 Responses to “How we make jam”

  1. I was determined to make strawberry jam this year, but it rained during the entire month of June, which is when strawberries ripen here, so there was no picking. Yesterday I came home with about seven pounds of blueberries, but I love to eat them so much I have a hard time committing any of those to a jar, even though i will regret it some January day when i have nothing for my toast.

  2. Ha! Wir haben letzten Freitag Marmelade (oder eher Gelee, ich weiß nie den Unterschied) gemacht. Schwarze, weiße und rote Johannisbeeren, Stachelbeeren und ein paar verirrte, wilde Himbeeren. Sehr lecker.

    Oh, und falls du jemals in die Verlegenheit kommen solltest, Gläser zu kaufen: Dehner und Obi zur Erntezeit! 🙂 (Viel schwieriger ist es, Weinflaschen zu finden…)

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