Sunday, August 31, 2014

Jammin'! A Tasty Tradition

By Jeff Burns

Summertime means an abundance of fruits and vegetables, and while we gorge ourselves on the freshness as long as possible, we’ve always searched for ways to prolong that goodness as much as possible.  Hundreds of years ago in the Middle East, people developed jams, jellies and preserves to do just that.  (There are lots of names for preserved fruit creations from cultures around the world.  See the Wikipedia page below for good definitions of each.)  It is thought that Crusaders developed a fondness for them during the Crusades and brought them back to Europe where they quickly spread.  (Pun intended!)

When I grew up, I spent many afternoons accompanying my mother to various fields to pick fresh vegetables.  We not only went to fields, but we crisscrossed dirt roads looking for wild blackberries and plums that grew alongside them.  That meant being careful and always on the lookout for thorns, poison ivy, and snakes.  Fortunately, pick-your-own farms are now everywhere, with thornless bushes and nice neat rows. 

My wife and I have continued that tradition, making jams, jellies, preserves, pickles, and relishes to enjoy, share and sell at local farmers markets.  When we recently visited my wife’s parents, my mother-in-law asked that we demonstrate canning with her, because it’s something she had never done, so we packed up our supplies and some freshly picked blackberries and headed down.

Canning is really easy.  There are many books and websites with step by step directions. We chose a simple blackberry jam recipe with three ingredients:  berries, sugar, pectin.

The fruit, about 5 cups.  Crush.


The supplies:  empty jars and lids, funnel, jar grabber or tongs, measuring cup(s), spoon, ladle, masher, cooking pot, and big canning pot with rack for processing.  Also pictured are Ball’s Complete Book of Home Preserving, sugar, and pectin.  Pectin provides the gelling factor.  Some recipes call for powdered pectin, some call for liquid pectin.

Meanwhile, the jars have to be sterilized.  Put the jars in the rack in the canner and bring it to a boil.  It’ll take a while because of the volume.  Once boiling, let jars boil for 10-15 minutes, then remove.  Leave canner boiling.


For this recipe, I’m using 6 cups of sugar.  The lids (but not the rings) also need to be sterilized. You can put them in a small pot of boiling water for a few minutes or pour boiling water over them in a bowl.


Now mix the blackberries and pectin together and bring to a boil for a couple of minutes.  Add the sugar and bring it back to a rolling boil that can’t be stirred down.  Then remove from heat.


Ladle jam into jars, making sure to leave headroom, and then use a damp paper towel to wipe the tops clean and put on the lids.


Then, the jars have to be processed. Put the rings and twist till you meet resistance.  Using the jar tongs, arrange the jars around the ring and submerge.  Cover the canner and boil for 10-15 minutes.


And you’re done.  Bake some biscuits and enjoy!



Fruit preserves. (2014, July 5). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 18:27, July 12, 2014, from

International Jelly and Preserve Association: A Brief History of Jams, Jellies and Preserves. (n.d.). International Jelly and Preserve Association: A Brief History of Jams, Jellies and Preserves. Retrieved July 12, 2014, from

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