Jam On: The Universal Jam Recipe


Rhubarb Strawberry Jam 

It was spring of 2008, the strawberries were gorgeous and cheap at the farmers market, and I got carried away. When I came back to my senses, I was walking home with an entire flat — nearly 10 pounds — of strawberries. I realized there was no way to use them all before they spoiled, and I remembered my Tennessee grandmother’s strawberry jam. She was gone by then, and I didn’t have her recipe, but I was a confident cook. So I went into the kitchen with a box of powdered pectin and a bucket of sugar and finished hours later with...an inedible candied mess.

I spent the rest of that year learning the basics of how to preserve — not just jam, but also pickles, relishes, boozy fruit, sauces, canned tomatoes, and all the rest. The next year I became certified as a master food preserver through the University of California Cooperative Extension. I started a blog, Saving The Season, to document my ongoing experiments. And eventually I wrote a cookbook called Saving the Season: A Cook’s Guide to Home Canning, Pickling, and Preserving. Since then, I’ve taught preserving around the country, including regular stints at the Institute of Domestic Technology in Los Angeles and guest lectures at the Culinary Institute of America and the International Culinary Center.

Lessons Learned from Years of Canning

Seven years and nearly 4,000 jars later, my big takeaway is that home canning is easy, simple, cost effective, and deeply pleasurable. The prime goal of my book and teaching is to encourage people to add a little preserving to their kitchen life. Almost any home cook already has the skill and the equipment to start — home canning is just home cooking by another name.

When I was growing up in the South, households across the social spectrum would “put up” a few preserves every summer: canned tomatoes, bread-and-butter pickles, chow chow relish, peach preserves, wild blackberry jam. For most people, home canning had less to do with absolute necessity than with taste and tradition. I would compare it to baking a pie from scratch: you may not do it every day or every week, but for people who like to be in the kitchen, it’s a great way to spend an occasional Saturday afternoon. And unlike with a pie, you’ll enjoy the results of your home canning work for weeks and months to come.

In later posts for this series, Home Canning 101, I’ll explore single topics including: food safety and botulism, proper canning techniques, pickling, fermenting, the role of sugar in sweet preserves, pectin, preserving with alcohol, pressure canning, large-batch projects, marmalade, and much more.

2/25/2020 9:38:44 AM

Sheri, I have been making jams and jellies for decades, and yes processing in a hot water bath is absolutely doable. Room temp jars into cold water to an inch over the tops, bring to a boil, keep it for 15 minutes and you are done. I've never had a processed jar of jam or jelly go off, so I assume I am doing it right!

7/3/2018 10:25:08 AM

Essie Em, use ripe berries and as little liquid as possible. add the sugar to the fruit, let it dissolve naturally in the fruit (not necessarily all) and then boil and gently mash and stir every so often until it darkens and thickens, then it's done. It thickens more in the bottle as it cools. I sterilise afterwards in a pressure cooker for 10 minutes- and so far, no problems- but it normally doesn't last very long before it gets eaten up. I freeze excess strawberries and the last of the strawbs before winter, and that makes it even easier.

12/12/2017 9:18:38 PM

FINALLY! My Nana used to make jam without pectin (& sealed with wax!) and I've been trying to find a reliable recipe for years ... I look forward to giving this a try!! I buy & freeze fruit in peak season and I love making small batch jams - you can really have fun with flavor combinations! Thanks!

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