Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Lessons learned

Some things are harder than they look. Some things are just as hard as they look. Canning is a bit deceptive. It seems very up front- make product, put product in jars, boil jars, store product. Right? Well, here are some lessons I learned from this weekend's first adventure in canning.

1- It will take much longer for the water in the canner to boil than you think.

2- It will take much less time to prepare the fruit and make the jam than you think.

3- The jam recipe is a lot less delicate than the directions on the box of pectin will lead you to believe.

Let's take this one bit at a time. The canner is big. The directions make very clear that the jars must be covered by at least 1-2 inches of water so, I filled it up accordingly. It took over an hour and 15 minutes to finally come to a boil. An hour and 15 minutes of waiting and watching and peeking under the lid and thinking about how this was a really dumb idea to begin with.

Secondly, I started the jam recipe at the same time I put the canner on to boil thinking that making jam must be complicated and time consuming. After all, they charge so much for the real fruit jams in the store. It must be difficult. So, I think that by the time this difficult product is ready for the canner, the water should be ready.

Last, the recipe has a few steps and you are given exact numbers of minutes to let the pectin boil with the fruit before the sugar is added and the exact number of minutes to let the sugar boil with the fruit/pectin mixture before the mixture has to be IMMEDIATELY deposited into hot jars and then into the canner. Or suffer the pain of death, I assumed.

Because I had started the jam so early (as I came to find out) I had to hold the fruit with the pectin boiled into it for over an hour. I turned off the burner and kept stirring until it stopped boiling and then just waited. When the canner was ready to go, I brought the fruit/pectin mixture back to a boil (and added about 1/4 cup of water to make up for the extra evaporation) and added the sugar and just continued with the recipe.

At one point, Husband was hovering over me asking if the recipe was going to fail. The directions also advise of the dire consequence of the jam not jelling if you don't adhere to the instructions word for word.

So, we just figured that it would be an exercise in practicing using the canner to see if I could even get the jars to seal. I put the hot jam into hot jars, put the hot lid on top and screwed on the ring. 6 jars into the canner for 10 minutes.

They all came out and I set them aside to be undisturbed for 8 hours like the directions say. And, a magical thing happened- I heard POP POP POP! The lids of the jars were being sucked in from the vacuum I created with my successful canning! They sealed!

I did another batch since it was obvious that the most time consuming part was heating the canner.

In the morning, I opened the jar where I had put the extra from the first batch. It was cool and ready to go in the fridge so, I tasted it to see how big a failure the batch turned into due to my flagrant misuse of the power of jam making.

It was delicious! Perfectly jelled, tart, sweet, raspberry jam! I had done it.

Of course, I have to come up with some solution to the glacial pace of the water canner boiling. It could be the canner or the burner I had to buy to use instead of my glass top stove. Husband has offered the use of the outdoor turkey fryer gas burner. I just might try that. So, stay tuned for more adventures of this Modern Housewife.

I am officially a canner!

Here is what I did (you know, the second time when I didn't screw it up):

Buy 2.5lbs of raspberries and one box of no sugar needed pectin. On hand, have 3 cups of sugar.

Heat canner with enough water to cover jars by 1-2 inches.

Wash jars and 2 piece caps.

Place lids in a small pot of water which you will bring to a simmer.

Place jars into a cold oven and heat to 190 degrees and hold until ready to put jam into jars.

While the canner heats up (and give it an hour or so before you even bother to start the jam) crush your 2.5lbs of raspberries with a potato masher. Put in a 6qt saucepan and add pectin.

Bring to a boil that you cannot stir down. Boil while stirring 3 minutes.

Add 3 cups of sugar and return to a boil. Boil hard for 3 minutes.

Remove from heat and add to jars.

Put lid (straight from simmering water) on top of the jar, put the ring on and finger tighten.

Add jars to canner and process 10 minutes.

Remove from canner and place where the jars can remain undisturbed for 8 hours.

Then, as they cool, listen for the statisfying POP from each one that means your vacuum has formed!!

Next week, I think I will try making strawberry pineapple jam. Maybe I should start heating the water now....


  1. Look at you go momma!! Maybe next year I'll give this a shot-too much going on right now. Mmm...strawberry pineapple jam? You are making me hungry!

  2. Yay you! Such a success! Not sure if I'll ever attempt canning or homemade jam making, you are brave!

  3. yum!!! I totally need to see if my friend will do this with me this year :D

  4. Lisa- if you try it, let me know how it goes!

  5. Mailed my friend to see if she wanted to... yay! we'll be making both salsa and jam! Splitting the batches so we get some of each :)