There's no denying that ripe summer fruit and little jars make a wonderful partnership allowing you to enjoy and extend the life of your favourite produce. Here are my best tips for making the perfect jar of jam or jelly - but first decide which one you want the most!
The difference between jam and jelly
Jam contains pieces of partially broken-down fruit cooked with sugar. Meant to taste very fresh, they should be cooked just long enough for the fruit to begin to break down and release flavour. Overcooked jams will have a stewed flavour – which is the opposite of a jam characteristic.
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Cook fruit in stainless steel or copper pots only. Other metals can react with the acid in the fruit and leave a lingering metallic taste. Blanch fruits that are overly sour or bitter. Sometimes sugar alone is not enough to balance the sour to sweet ratio. Blanching fruit before the cooking process will leach out some of the bitterness. Combat overly sweet fruits by adding a second fruit. Although lemon juice is often recommended to balance sweetness, it doesn’t always do the trick. Try adding in a less sweet fruit - think strawberry rhubarb. Have paper towel on hand. Despite how clean your kitchen is dishtowels are sponges for germs and bacteria. Always use a funnel to pour your mixture into the jar. Wipe any spills on jar rims with a clean paper towel. Leave adequate head space (between ¼ to ½ inch depending on recipe). Improper head space is one of the main reasons preserves are not properly sealed. It is not safe to store away your preserves (unrefrigerated) if the lids haven’t “popped.” However, they can be enjoyed for two to three weeks if stored in the refrigerator. Canning tools
Be prepared. Although canning is intrinsically satisfying – having a few key tools will make the process much easier, and safer! Always have a wide-mouth funnel so the preserve can be poured into jars cleanly - ensuring a proper seal. Have canning tongs on hand. Canning tongs are long, with rubber-coated grips that make grasping jars in hot water slip-free. Canning racks are also a must, allowing you to submerge and remove your jars from boiling water in a safe manner. Jelly bags are a great alternative to making your own with cheesecloth – much easier to pour the cooked fruit into and also to hang. Finally, have a few over-sized liquid measuring cups with a pourable spout – they are handy in every way. Five jam and jelly recipes:
Spicy strawberry jelly
Concord grape jelly
Tangy spiced plum jam
Raspberry freezer jam
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