How to Make Jams and Preserves

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Preserve your fruits. See how to make jams and preserves. Here are a few canning tips and recipes.

It's actually quite easy and you'll enjoy delicious results—free from additives and chemicals.

Tips on Making Jams and Preserves

Sweet and sticky, most people today lump strawberry jam and strawberry preserves together, thinking that they are the same thing. Well, almost, but not quite.

Jams use mashed up fruit, while preserves use whole or large pieces of fruit. Both of them, however, are easier and more economical to make than jelly, since they are made of entire fruits instead of just the juice, and can be good either thick or runny. Both are also delectable when homemade!

Here are some basic tips that you can follow to make your own jams and preserves.

  • Wash and remove the stems or cores, if any. Peel if necessary; cherries and berries do not require peeling; fruit like pears and peaches do. Remember: for jams, cut up or mash the fruit; for preserves, use whole or cut into large chunks.
  • Make jam or preserves in small batches because this way, the fruit will cook quickly and the color and flavor will be better preserved. 
  • For every cup of fruit you use, add 3/4 cup of sugar. For example, four cups of fruit makes a very manageable batch, so you would need 3 cups of sugar per batch—unless otherwise specified by the recipe.
  • If you are using ripe or particularly sweet fruit, add 1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice. The acid from the lemon juice will help the jam or preserve thicken. 
  • Scorching is more likely to happen to jams and preserves, so in order to avoid that dilemma, stir your mixture often for 15-40 minutes, depending on the fruit. Scorching can ruin a otherwise delicious jam or preserve, but is very easy to prevent. 
  • To test your jam or preserve  to see if it's done, take a spoonful out of your kettle, and if it holds its shape after about a minute, your jam or preserve is ready to jar. 

For help translating a pound of fruit to the number of cups needed, see our Measuring Fruits chart (in Related Articles above).

Recommended Processing Time

For hot-pack jams in half-pint or pint jars without added pectin in a boiling-water container:

Altitude

0-1,000 feet

1,001-6,000 feet

Above 6,000 feet

Processing Time

5 minutes

10 minutes

15 minutes

Give a homemade gift from your own kitchen. Cover the top with a circle of fabric that is 2 inches larger than the jar top. Secure it with several turns of a fine gold cord or ribbon.

Jam and Preserves Recipes

Now that you are a little bit more familiar with the art of jam and preserve-making, try your hand at these award-winning jam recipes from The 1983 Old Farmer's Almanac reader recipe contest.

To find more jam and preserve recipes, browse the Almanac recipe archives.

Related Articles

Comments

After 35 years of successful

By Judi klassen on August 26

After 35 years of successful caning, I have now become frustrated with my efforts. I find that my preserves don't last a year. The lids almost pop off (very little seal) and the top inch or so is discoloured. I have to throw it out. I follow the Ball or Kerr instructions very carefully and the seal remains 'tight' for a few months. I have noticed that the sealing compound on the lids is getting very thin. Is this my problem, or have I just lost my touch? Any advice you can give would be gratefully appreciated. Thank-you.

I'm having trouble with

By Judi klassen on August 26

I'm having trouble with keeping my preserves sealed. I follow the rules as I have done for 40 years (clean, no nicks, lids in boiled water etc.) but in less than a year, the lids just pop off (not a good seal) and the top inch or so of the preserve has turned brownish. What causes this ? I have noticed that the sealing compound on the lids is VERY thin - Ball and Kerr products. It's really annoying to have all that work and product go to waste. Can you help me please?

When doing the water bath

By Emogene Bass on August 11

When doing the water bath step, do you completely immerse the jars in the boiling water? Before I did that the juice was the perfect consistency, now it is sorta runny.

What causes the sugar to

By Vbrock on August 2

What causes the sugar to crystalize when making Jelly? (Red Pepper/Chili)

My mom has been canning for

By Bobbie M on August 1

My mom has been canning for years.I'm new at it.She tells me i have to cover my jelly with wax to preserve it.Is that true.
Thankyou

You don't need to use wax.

By Almanac Staff on August 1

You don't need to use wax. Canning jars that you buy come with lids that you can use. It's important to put the jars in a water bath after you fill them with jelly for a tight seal.

Really want to can pickles,

By TERRY TALLEY

Really want to can pickles, green beans, preserves, tomatoes (juice and whole tomatoes) ,Chow-Chow, squash relish, and vegetable soup for two.
We have two pressure cookers and two seives. We will be getting our fruits and vegetables from the local farmers market. Really excited!
We've picked ten quart bags of blackberries. So plan on preserves first.
Terry and Clairee Talley

I'm thinking about using some

By Jess Gibson

I'm thinking about using some brandy or rum in some plum jam, is there any special tricks with using alcohol in jam/jelly?

Hi, I made Strawberry jam for

By Lela Simmons

Hi, I made Strawberry jam for the first time today. I used the tall thin 12oz quilted Ball jars. I noticed that my strawberries all floated to the top, leaving the bottom half of the jar looking like jelly. What can I do to prevent this, or should I just use shorter jars?

We don't think the size of

By Almanac Staff

We don't think the size of your jars is the problem. Did you crush the strawberries before cooking? Chopped fruit can sometimes contain air, so you need to crush the fruit before cooking. Also, try gently stirring the jam every so often for 5 minutes after it is removed from the heat. We have even heard of people turning their jars upside down halfway through the gelling process, but sometimes this can affect the seal.

I've been canning for 40

By RNMary on August 2

I've been canning for 40 years and this is a trick I've used to get the fruit more well distributed.

Once removed from the water bath, allow the jam to cool to be able to handle, close to lukewarm. Then gently turn jam jars; be very careful. This will usually distribute the fruit more evenly.

With very juicy fruit, like fresh picked strawberries, we often buy store bought berries (from California) that aren't as juicy and include those with our fresh picked (very juicy) berries. We also drain off some of the juice from the picked berries, saving it for strawberry lemonade! :) And my jam regularly wins ribbons at the fair so I must be doing something right (1st prize at the State Fair for strawberry this year)!

I made strawberry jam two

By LucyGoBake

I made strawberry jam two weeks ago, brought it to a full boil (at 215 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes), but I never properly canned it in a water bath. Instead, I let it cool and put it in my fridge assuming that I would use it right away.

Is it too late to reheat and can my jam for longer, unrefrigerated shelf life?

Please let me know. Thanks so much!

Yes, it is too late to

By Almanac Staff

Yes, it is too late to process now. But you can eat the jam since it has been refrigerated. We see a lot of peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwiches in your future!

I tried making strawberry jam

By Lori Bailey

I tried making strawberry jam for the first time last night and canned it in a water bath. I didn't realize until after all was said and done there was a difference between liquid and powdered pectin (and that you were supposed to add liquid pectin after it was already boiling...thus it boiled away with the sugar and berries the whole time) and only used one pouch of liquid pectin. Is the jam still going to store well? It doesn't seem to be setting up very thick :( Not sure if my newbi-ness just ruined the whole batch.

just a quick question: does

By laura piascik

just a quick question: does the pectin/have to be added after a hard boil, when making a fruit jam? thanks.

Adding pectin will shorten

By Almanac Staff

Adding pectin will shorten the cooking time, but is not necessary.

first time attempting to can

By sany

first time attempting to can and I would like to make tomato preserves does anyone have a recipe for this, would love to have it

Here's what we have on our

By Almanac Staff

Here's what we have on our Web site. Go to the Cooking page to search for any recipes from our Almanac archives.

Tomato Jam: http://www.almanac.com/recipe/tomato-jam

Tomato-Basil Jam: http://www.almanac.com/recipe/tomato-basil-jam

Tomato Marmalade: http://www.almanac.com/recipe/tomato-marmalade

I just made a batch of orange

By Judy Brain

I just made a batch of orange marmalade and it did not set. Anybody have experience with returning finished jam to the pot, cooking it all again, and adding another package of pectin?

It is fine to reboil the

By Almanac Staff

It is fine to reboil the marmalade. You may not even have to add any more pectin or sugar. Marmalade needs a long slow simmer. Just boil it until a quick test (put a few drops of the marmalade on a plate to cool to see if it thickens) comes out OK.

Do you need special equipment

By Juanita Mickens

Do you need special equipment to put mason jars in a hot bath? How long can you keep homemade jams or preserves after this process?

You can buy a special canning

By Almanac Staff

You can buy a special canning kit that includes a jar lifter but you can also use a pair of good tongs.

For best quality, use home-canned jams and jellies within a year. Some jams and jellies may have a shorter shelf life.

I got some tangelos ant want

By Alicia Rousseau

I got some tangelos ant want tomake jelly or a jam can you help me do than need recipe ?? Thank you

Hi; I was wondering if anyone

By Laura Darragh

Hi; I was wondering if anyone has a recipe for pumpkin preserves..My mom use to make them every year. All I can remember is she used ginger and I think cloves..If anyone can help me I would be so happy..Thank you

So I plan to make pear

By Pamela Bradford

So I plan to make pear preserves..it says to boil fruit and sugar and water for 2 to 3 hrs, will I still need to hot water bath after jars are filled?

Yes, processing in a hot

By Almanac Staff

Yes, processing in a hot water bath is still recommended.

I am making my first ever

By Maria iasimone

I am making my first ever attempt at making peach jam . After looking at many recipes , i noticed that they all call for powder pectin. I have only been able to find liquid pectin. Is liquid ok to use? Is there a conversion chart for the amount of liquid vs powder pectin to be used ?

Hi Maria, The most common

By Almanac Staff

Hi Maria,

The most common conversion is 2 teaspoons of powdered pectin for every 1 tablespoon of liquid. Add the liquid pectin at the end of cooking. Powdered pectin is usually wisked into the sugar before it is added to the fruit.

Good luck with the jam!

 

I have heard that you cannot

By Dana B

I have heard that you cannot can Pumpkin butter. Is that true? Also, is it safe to can something with butter in the recipe?

Both the USDA and the

By Almanac Staff

Both the USDA and the National Center for Home Food Preservation say NOT to can pumpkin butter. It is also not recommended to can recipes that contain butter.

The chokecherry jelly did not

By Kevin C Kilgore

The chokecherry jelly did not set up. Can I reprocess the juice and just add more pectin to get it to gel? The juice is now 2 years old.

Did you make the jelly 2

By Almanac Staff

Did you make the jelly 2 years ago? If it has been sitting for that long we suggest that you start with fresh choke berry juice.

CanI combine three different

By lclair marshall

CanI combine three different kinds of berries to make my jam,such as blueberry,blackberry and raspberry.Also do I need pectin in it.

Yes, you can certainly mix

By Almanac Staff

Yes, you can certainly mix the berries. Here's an example of berry ratio:
8 ounces blueberries
4 ounces raspberries
8 ounces blackberries
No, you don't have to use pectin. It is natural gelling agent found in ripe fruit. Some fruits has more pectin than others. Blackberries have high pectin levels. Strawberries have low levels so lemon juice is also used help the set. Many people find it difficult to make pure strawberry jam without adding pectin (which you can purchase in a liquid extract or in powdered form). Try it both ways and see what you prefer!

I've never made jam, jellies,

By JAMIE waterhouse

I've never made jam, jellies, nothing, and a recipe I have calls for "powdered fruit pectin"... no other recipes on this page show that ingredient. Is this necessary or what purpose does this serve?

Hi Jamie, Pectin is used in

By Almanac Staff

Hi Jamie,
Pectin is used in jams and jellies as a gelling agent.

When a recipe for making jam,

By Sandy McD

When a recipe for making jam, says to do a water bath for 10 minutes, do you actually have to do that? Can you just fill the jars with the cooked jam and then just let them seal without doing the water bath?

I attended a jam making

By DebraLee on August 18

I attended a jam making workshop last weekend and we used pectin, boiled the fruit and jars (separately!), then filled the hot jars. We turned the jars upside down for 15 minutes or so, then right-side up. Tops were sealed and we never used a hot water bath. It was so easy!

It is highly recommended to

By Almanac Staff

It is highly recommended to process jams, jellies, and preserves in a hot water bath.

Do you have a recipe for ol'

By Jo Matthias

Do you have a recipe for ol' fashion Marmalade

Hi, Jo, Here is a simple

By Almanac Staff

Hi, Jo, Here is a simple recipe for Strawberry Marmalade: http://www.almanac.com/recipe/strawberry-marmalade

And here are a few more!

Zucchini Marmalade: http://www.almanac.com/recipe/zucchini-marmalade

Tomato Marmalade: http://www.almanac.com/recipe/tomato-marmalade

And an old-fashioned Marmalade Pudding:
http://www.almanac.com/recipe/marmalade-pudding

Does anyone have a recipe for

By wildfire949

Does anyone have a recipe for ChokeCherry jam or jelly? I have many choke cherry trees loaded with berries but have no clue if or how to use them. Help will be appreciated.

There is a recipe for

By Mary Lou Sumberg

There is a recipe for chokecherry jelly on the Pomona's Pectin website:

http://www.pomonapectin.com/recipes/chokecherry-jelly/

Hope this helps.

We do not have a recipe, but

By Almanac Staff

We do not have a recipe, but we came across these interesting ideas:  http://www.kiowacd.org/Tips_Links/chokecherry_recipes.htm  Hope this helps!

I was wondering if anyone

By sadac12

I was wondering if anyone know how to make jellies and jams with sugar substitutes that don't turn watery and the texture is different from suger made jellies, we are trying to go sugarless for we can garden foods every year. I would love to get a good sugarfree canning recipe. Sadac Israel
Manager:Garner NC City Guide

If you use Pomona's Universal

By Melody H

If you use Pomona's Universal Pectin your jams will set with any sugar substitute. Happy canning!

Why do peaches and pears need

By Darla Shannon

Why do peaches and pears need the peel removed?

If the skins are thin and the

By Almanac Staff

If the skins are thin and the fruit is organic and not treated you can leave them on. Just chop them fine and the peels actually add a nice color and texture to the jam.

Groan! So much sugar!! Is

By Angela's Garden

Groan! So much sugar!! Is it possible to make jam without it? Just using the natural sweetness of the fruit itself? Novice here!

The sugar in jam recipes

By Almanac Staff

The sugar in jam recipes helps the jam to gel and to not spoil. There are some low- and no-sugar alternatives. You can use specially modified pectins. These pectins are labeled as light, less sugar needed, or no sugar needed and come with special recipes. You can also search for low-sugar jam recipes that use regular pectin. These recipes often use sugar substitutes for additional sweetening. A long-boil method can also be used. The fruit is boiled until it thickens and resembles a jam. Sugar substitutes can be added to taste.

Use Pomona's Pectin-it only

By TeresaL

Use Pomona's Pectin-it only requires 1/4C sugar per cup or you can use alternates with this pectin as well.

is mixing different kinds of

By riverrunner25

is mixing different kinds of fruit to make freezer jam a good idea?

I make many fruit mixture

By RNMary on August 2

I make many fruit mixture jams. Our favorite is triple berry jam (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries). We also make cherry berry (sour cherries, strawberries, blackberries) and we combine peach with many kinds of berries. You just need to get your fruit ratios right.

I would think so. Something

By bcvanover81271

I would think so. Something like a three berry jam or apricot/apple,or what you like together.I know a lady that like apricot/pineapple. If it tastes/sounds good together, make a jam from it.

Very helpful canning tips. I

By Mare-Anne Jarvela

Very helpful canning tips.
I have blackberries coming in and wanted to make some jam.

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