How to Make Jams and Preserves

Canning Tips and Recipes

May 15, 2017
Jar of Jam

Preserve your fruit! See how to make jams and preserves with these canning tips and recipes.

It is quite easy to make homemade jams and preserves and you’ll enjoy delicious results—free from additives and chemicals.

Tips for 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 fruits or cut them into large chunks.
  • Make jam or preserves in small batches. This way, the fruit will cook quickly and the color and flavor will be better preserved. 
  • For every cup of fruit you use, add ¾ 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 an 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.

Recommended Processing Time

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


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.

Homemade Jam and Preserves Recipes

Now that you are a little bit more familiar with the art of making jams and preserves, try your hand at these delicious recipes:

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


The Forgotten Arts, 1977

Reader Comments

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Raspberry Jam

May I ask a question instead of commenting? For whatever reason, this year my raspberry crop is gigantic. I have successfully made 3 batches of jam and have at least enough berries for 4 more batches. I would like to freeze the berries and make more jam later, but here’s my issue. In the past when the berries are thawed I end up with almost equal amounts of berries AND juice. Do I stir the juice back into the berries and then measure the combination for the jam? Or just measure the berries and use the separated juice for something else? I do sieve a portion of the berries to cut down on the seeds and then measure. Am I careless in freezing the berries and that’s why I get all the juice/berry separation? When I use freshly picked berries I don’t have this issue, Help!

making jam from frozen berries

The Editors's picture

Here’s what we suggest for making jam from frozen berries: drain most of the juice, use pectin, and cook it after sugar is added for at least 4 minutes.

Jams on the windowsill

I've always found pyramids of colorful jams and preserves beautiful on the windowsill, but most articles advise to keep your homemade jams in a dark place. What's wrong with keeping your homemade jams and preserves on the windowsill, why can't they be exposed to sunlight?

Jams on the Windowsill

The Editors's picture

The heat from sunlight and outside temperatures causes canned goods to spoil more quickly, so instead of lasting years, they may last months or even weeks. Keeping them in a cool, dark place slows down the process and discourages anything unwanted from growing.

Making freezer jams

Does the weather affect making freezer jams, ie: strawberry. Will it set up on a rainy day?

Fresh Lemons; Pounds to Cups

You noted on your website that you have fresh fruit measurements of pounds to cups. However, not so with your lemons listed. You give about of juice p/lemon and amt of zest p/lemon. Would appreciate knowing the pound to cup ratio for fresh lemons. Thank you

They don't have pectin at the stores nearby.

They don't have pectin at the stores nearby. Is it possible to use non-flavored jello mix instead of using pectin in jams and jellies or would that hurt the flavor and shelf life?

pectin substitute

The Editors's picture

Try substituting cornstarch for the pectin.

Cooking info

Is it just me or does this article not have any mention of how that actual cooking/boiling/cooling/sealing etc happens?

how to make jam

The Editors's picture

No, Keith, it’s not just you. This is a general information article, or some would call it a primer. For specific information, click on one of the recipes. Enjoy!

peach jam

my peach tree produced an abundance of very small peaches. Could I wash, remove the pit then cook without peeling, then put them thru a food mill to remove the peeling. I'd like to make jam, but peeling hundreds of little peaches isn't going to be a good thing!!!

how to peel peaches

The Editors's picture

There’s an easy way to peel peaches: Peel a peach by scoring the bottom, placing it in boiling water for 5 seconds, and then plunging it into ice-cold water for 3 to 5 seconds. The skin will peel away easily.


Is it possible to make a spreads of peanut butter and strawberry jam in one container?

how to tell if your canning is sucessful

after a hot bath,and the lids pop , do the lids pop out or do the stay in.out of 10 jars i have 4 that pop out and 6 jars that didnt

Remove the jar rings and test

The Editors's picture

Remove the jar rings and test the seals by trying to lift the lids with your finger or a knife. If the lid stays put, it has a good seal. Also, the lids should not flex up and down when pressed in the center.

Grape Vine

I have a grape vine which I have manages to grow in a pot, it's now on it's third year, it looks healthy and has lots of grapes starting to form. How do I manage the size i.e how to prune and where and when to pinch out?

Question two Can you sugest ways of using apart from making wine, as I am the only one that eats them. I can only eat so much before they start to go off. They are I believe a wine grape, I have lost the label, they are plum in colour and lovely and sweet to eat.

Any sugestion would be welcome as I hate to waste food of any kind.

Grape Vine Maintenance and Grape Ideas

The Editors's picture

You can learn how to prune your grape vine at our grape page

As far as using them goes, remember that grapes can be stored for up to 6 weeks in a cellar. This means that you have a long time to get them eaten. You can also follow the advice on this page to make jams or preserves or try out some of our many recipes that incorporate grapes. Also consider giving some fresh grapes to neighbors and friends if others in your household won’t eat them!

The Traditional Piece of Fabric on a Jar of Jam

Hi, I have been looking for the history of the traditional piece of fabric placed on the top of a jar of home canned products. I was told by someone that this tradition was old and the piece of fabric was given on the top of the jar to friends to be used for quilting. Does anyone know where to find an article regarding this tradition?

Creating your own recipes & pH levels.

Florida Cottage Food Laws allow for the sale of jams made in your home kitchen. I have been making jams based on recipes, but have been adjusting them for taste and texture. My question is how can I be sure I am within safe pH levels when customizing my recipes? Also, is shelf life affected by pH levels? For example could I use my own custom recipes and simply recommend a sooner use by date? Or if the pH levels are too high to begin with, is the shelf life irrelevant?

Chokecherry syrup

Some bottles of syrup crystallized how can I fix the syrup

Hi, Sandra. What kind of

The Editors's picture

Hi, Sandra. What kind of syrup?

Jams and jelly

What kind of jam or jelly is best to make this time of year?

I have always been afraid of

I have always been afraid of canning. It seems so difficult.


Should the marmalade jam or any jam be refrigerated.kept on a shelf .what is the shelf life using just the fruit and sugar when making

Your jam can be kept on the

The Editors's picture

Your jam can be kept on the shelf for up to 1 year. Once opened, they need to be kept in the refrigerator.

Would you have the recipies

Would you have the recipies for hot pepper jelly, blueberry jam, and almond butter?

Hi Frances, We have a large

The Editors's picture

Hi Frances, We have a large recipe archive. Just go to our cooking page and type in what you're looking for.  Here are the jelly recipes you asked about:
For almond butter, you just take 3 cups dry roasted almonds (unsalted) and pulse them in a food processor until it's ground and gets creamy (about 12 minutes). Every once in a while, stop and scrape the almond butter off the sides. If it's not creamy enough for you, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil. Another option is to finish with a drizzle of honey. The homemade almond butter should keep 3 weeks.
Hope this helps!

I cooked my apricots with

I cooked my apricots with sugar I let it sit in my refrigerator for a week I then placed the mixture in sterile jars and processed them is that ok?

It's better to put the hot

The Editors's picture

It's better to put the hot jam mixture into the jars right away and not keep it in the refrigerator. If using the mixture from the refrigerator make sure there is no mold and heat it up before pouring into the jars and then processing.

I'm not having any luck

I'm not having any luck finding a jelly recipe for Israel melons. Do you have one?