Monday, June 7, 2010

Canning Extravaganza Part One: Blackberry Jam

I couldn’t even wait one day. I just had to make something out of those delicious blackberries we picked on Friday. I did a little online hunting, and I found a recipe for blackberry jam. I spent Friday evening making it.

5 cups blackberries
7 cups sugar
1 package Sure-Jell (1 3/4 ounces in the package)

Everything else you need:
Jars (with the coordinating rings and lids, of course)– the recipe calls for seven 8-ounce jars. I used four 16-ounce jars.

2 large stock pots (one for cooking the jam, and one for your hot water bath)

1 small plate
a couple of small bowls and medium mixing bowls
potato masher
wooden spoon
slotted spoon
dish towel and washcloth
jar lifter (tongs will work, just be careful!)
rubber spatula or some other non-metallic item, like a chopstick, that you can use to remove air bubbles from the jars
ladle or large spoon
canning funnel (not absolutely necessary, but it prevents a lot of mess)
apron (again, not required, but it’s a good idea if you don’t want to be wearing blackberry juice on your white t-shirt, like me)


  1. Sterilize your jars. Your dishwasher may have a cycle that can do this step for you. If not, first wash your jars, lids and rings in hot, soapy water. Dry the rings, and place the lids in a small bowl of super hot water. Drop the jars down into one of your stock pots, fill it with water, and set it on the stove to boil. Leave the jars in there until you’re ready to fill them up. Those babies need to stay hot.
  1. Put that small plate in the freezer. Don’t ask questions. Just stick it in there. J
  1. Measure the 7 cups of sugar into a medium-sized bowl.
  1. Using the potato masher, mash 5 cups of blackberries. Get some elbow grease in there. It takes a few minutes to get ‘em good and soupy.
  1. Set up your canning area. I like to lay out a towel, to put the jars on when I get them out of that hot water to fill them. I keep my lids and rings right by the towel. You’ll also want your jar lifter or tongs nearby, along with your canning funnel, spatula, and ladle.
  1. Set up your jamming area, too. I put all my ingredients (blackberries, Sure-Jell, sugar) within arm’s reach of my jam pot, because you’ll be stirring it constantly.
  1. Dump those soupy blackberries into a large pot. Turn the heat on high. Slowly add Sure-Jell, and stir constantly until the mixture boils.
  1. Add the sugar. Yes, all of it. Just dump it in there. And stir, by the way. Stir, stir, stir. Keep stirring until this mixture boils. Once it boils, turn it down to low.
  1. Using a slotted spoon, skim any foam off the top of the mixture.
  1. Get that plate out of the freezer. Scoop about a teaspoon of the jam mixture onto the plate, and put it back in the freezer. Set a timer for two minutes. At the end of two minutes, check to see if your jam has gelled correctly. If it has, the surface of the jam will wrinkle when you push your finger into it from the edge. If it doesn’t wrinkle, crank the pot back up, boil the jam for five more minutes, then try the test again. (And if you’re me, take this opportunity to lick the teaspoon and taste your delicious jam!)

  1. Using tongs or jar lifter, remove jars from the hot water bath and place on a towel.

  1. Fill the jars with jam. As I said before, a canning funnel comes in really handy here. This was actually the first time I’ve done any canning with one, and I loved it. Anyway, leave 1/4 inch headspace between the top of the jam and where the underside of the lid will be.

  1. Using a clean, damp cloth, wipe any stray jam from the rim of each jar and from the threads where the ring will screw on.

  1. Place lids on top of jars, then screw rings onto the jars. They only need to be fingertip tight. You can tighten them more later, when they’re not so hot.

  1. Put the jars back into the canner, making sure that there is about an inch of water covering the jars.

  1. Boil for 10 minutes.

  1. Remove jars and place back on towel to cool for at least 12 hours. You should start hearing those lids pop after just a few minutes. If ten minutes goes by and they haven’t all sucked down like they’re supposed to, put those jars back in the hot water bath for a few minutes and try again.

  1. Once they’ve cooled, you should be able to keep unopened jam in a cool, dark place for up to a year. I’m afraid mine will probably be eaten long before a year is up.

I hope that wasn’t too confusing. It’s so easy! If I can make my own jam, so can you. The book I referenced earlier, Canning & Preserving with Ashley English, is a great resource for beginner canners. It doesn’t contain a whole lot of recipes, but the information and canning tips are invaluable.

It’s also not hard to find some of the canning tools I used, now that summer is here and it’s canning season. I purchased this kit for about $7 at Wal-Mart on the same aisle as my jars.

Making your own jam is just one more way to know exactly where your food is coming from and what goes into it. My blackberries went from the farm to the jar in less than 24 hours.

If anyone has any questions, I will do my best to answer them. If there are seasoned canners reading this and you see somewhere that I am totally leading people astray, please correct me! 

Over the course of the week, I'll be posting two more recipes I used to put the five pounds of blueberries that we picked to work.

1 comment:

  1. I'm catching up on my blog reading...yum, yum. Maybe smaller jars would have meant you'd have some for giveaways!