Many visitors to WellPreserved start by looking for how to make jam. Clicking on the Preserving tab will lead you to some quick articles on this topic as well as further articles in this case study.
Time to fill the jars and seal! Your jam is hot, jars are boiling away in hot water, seals and rings are mulling in hot water (it shouldn’t be boiling – you only needed to boil it for a minute), you have the pressure cooker boiling with a few inches of water (2 or 3 will do), you have some clean counter space, your tongs are out and food funnel clean. Let’s go!
Your jam will likely have a bit of foam on the top from the cooking process – skim this off before jarring. It’s easy to separate it from the rest – I scoop it in to a bowl that I clean immediately. Cleaning as you go is a big help when making jam – cleaning cold jam is kind of like chipping dried concrete splatters off a new car – it’s a lot of work and just not fun.
I remove a few jars at a time from the water. Use care not to touch the lip of the jar and empty as much water as you can. Place empty jars on your cooling rack and place the funnel in the top. Fill the jar leaving about 3/4 of a cm headspace (a third of an inch of air) at the top. The funnel makes this so much easier and practically eliminates the need of cleaning the rims (a must if you spill jam on them as this can interfere with the seal).
Use care not to crowd your surface – a lot of jars mean that you are more likely to drip jam on other jars and have to clean more rims – not the end of the world but it’s a pain.
Once you have the hot jam in hot jars, remove seals from their hot water bath and place on the jars. Take care not to touch the seal – it wont ruin it but doesn’t help. I have a special technique that I use for placing seals in the water. These lids have two separate sides – the “outside” which is where many will place their label and the “inside” which has the physical seal and sterile liner that will face the jam. Place them in a pile with alternating sides contacting the next seal (top to bottom to top to bottom etc). This will save frustration – failure to do so will result in the odd seal temporarily getting stuck to another through suction caused by small amounts of water between the two. If you forget, you may need to use your hands to separate and immerse in the water again.
Place the lids on the jars, turn the rings hand tight. You may need oven mitts for this as it can be awfully hot. By the time I’ve done 5 or 6 batches of jam I’ve usually par boiled my hands enough for the rest of jarring season that I can do this comfortably without the use of gloves.
Place all of your sealed jars back in to the pressure cooker. As mentioned previously, a rack on the bottom is important to help avoid broken jars and a sticky mess. Place your jars in the pressure cooker, seal with the lid and bring to a boil. Let the pressure cooker boil for 10 minutes with the lid on before adding a 10-pound regulator for 10 minutes and you are complete. Release pressure, wait patiently and the lid will be able to open in 15-20 minutes.
Place your sealed jars on cooling racks. The racks are very important – failure to use racks can result in further breakage – dangerous and messy! The racks allow any excess water from the jars to drip below as opposed to pooling around your hot jars. The water will cool faster than the jars and as this happens the possibility of breakage increases – hot glass with cool liquid can create shock.
The jars will cool – 6 to 12 hours is often needed. During this time you should hear some lovely pops – this is the jars sealing and is one of the best sounds in the world. You should check the seals once cool – undo the rings and ensure they don’t fall off. Many will store the jars with the seals removed. I have to use a bottle opener to open many of my jars because the seals are that tight (I use it just to pry the seal off). Unsealed jam should be stored in the fridge.
Your jam may still appear to be liquid – don’t panic (I often do!). It can take several days to complete the final set.
Many people don’t use a pressure cooker to seal jam. They simply boil the jars in a hot water bath. I am not a scientist – I have read and researched a lot and while I will eat jam that hasn’t been made with a pressure cooker, I insist it’s very important to use the pressure cooker method. The sealing process essentially pulls the air out of your jars – boiling water does not get how enough to do this consistently. I’ll add more posts about this (and the science behind it) in the future.
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