Help me get my jam on! (Because I can-can-can!)
November 17, 2013 11:59 AM   Subscribe

This year for Christmas, I want to make jam, specifically this strawberry-grapefruit marmalade. But I've never canned anything in my life! Specific questions inside.

First of all, I'm in Phoenix, so grapefruits are in season in December. Should I use whatever fresh strawberries I can get, keeping in mind that they won't be at their best in December, or should I just use frozen strawberries? (And I'm assuming I'd thaw them first to cut them up, or do frozen strawberries already come cut up?)

The recipe specifically calls for using the inversion technique for the canning process, but the internets elsewhere say to never do the inversion process because it might not give you a good seal. I want to do the "immerse the whole filled jars in boiling water for ten minutes to seal them" method. Will this extra ten minutes of heat exposure change the flavor/consistency of my marmalade? Everyone says to not change the recipe at all when making jam, but I'll need to ship these across the country, so I need them to be sealed properly. The last thing I want is to send people a jar of moldy Christmas cheer!

Thanks in advance, canners of Metafilter!
posted by Weeping_angel to Food & Drink (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Generally you cook the fruit you are going to can so the 10 min hot water bath will not have an effect of taste as it's already been heated pretty significantly.

I've not used frozen berries before, but they likely will be ok, especially since, as mentioned, you will be cooking it anyways. If you have a potato masher I'd just mash them up real well while cooking rather then taking the time to cut the berries too much (maybe cut them in half?)

1 - Hot water canning is pretty easy, just have everything you need laid out before hand.
2 - Don't be afraid to use extra pectin to ensure a good jell process
3 - Even if the jars didn't seal using the inversion method they are not going to go moldy in the time it takes to ship them.
posted by edgeways at 12:52 PM on November 17, 2013


Agree with edgeways' #1 & #3. I made plum jam back in August and used the inversion method. Almost all is gone but 3 jars, and they are still fine (on a shelf, not even in the fridge). I used this type of jars, they seal really well and make a "plop" sound when first opened.

I have always used fresh fruit and sometimes the immersion blender. If you have one you'd not need to thaw and cut the strawberries. Just warm them up a bit and blend them smooth.

Do you know how to test for the jell point? For a quick test: I like to use a small cooled plate and drop one drop of hot jam on it. Turn the plate to check if the jam is runny. If the drop stays in place, the jam is good. Continue to boil if not ready or if you prefer a thicker consistency. I like this resource, about doneness.

I have never added extra pectin, so I have no recommendation there. But I would be not bothered by changes in the recipe - I often add lemon juice and reduce sugar. Pure preference. And it still works.

Good luck for your first time and have fun!

Edit: Forgot to mention: I always boil the jars and lids to make sure they are clean.
posted by travelwithcats at 2:46 PM on November 17, 2013


Frozen strawberries are prooooobably better than out of season fresh, but I have to say that I haven't found frozen berries to be as high quality as peak season fresh berries. But I just might not be buying the right ones. Not to say that it won't be fine in this recipe. Most frozen strawberries I've seen have been whole. Chopping them will be impossible when frozen and annoying when thawed and squishy, I would just do as edgeways suggests and mash them up well.

I don't usually mess around with this stuff, so if it was me I would do a boiling water bath (as you are planning). It won't make any difference to the consistency or jam, and will ensure that it stays nice even if your recipients leave it on the shelf for a few weeks because their fridge was too full of holiday cheer.

I am not an expert, but I have to say that this recipe looks a little strange. I'm not sure I trust its very specific "boil for exactly one minute after adding the sugar" advice. That said, I don't usually use pectin, so maybe it's a pectin thing?

Last piece of advice is to take a browse through the Canning 101 section of the food in jars blog. There is a lot of good advice there.

Canning isn't hard, but it can be stressful the first time or two you do it, because there is a lot going on at once and giant pots of boiling water and oh god is it going to work?? Having all your stuff ready to go and enough clear counter space to set things on will help a lot.

Good luck! That recipe looks super tasty, and I love grapefruit. Maybe I will try making some this winter :)
posted by quaking fajita at 2:48 PM on November 17, 2013


I make strawberry jam from frozen strawberries all the time, and it's fine. I wouldn't bother chopping them--use a potato masher a bit when you're cooking, and you're good to go. (I wouldn't go full-on immersion blender, though--the chunks look like a nice part of the finished marmalade.)

The "boil one minute" kind of deal after adding pectin is pretty normal for this sort of thing. I don't usually use pectin, but will say that for a recipe like this--relatively low sugar, and frozen strawberries--you'll probably want it, especially if this is your first time making jam. If you're going to do the low-sugar pectin, as suggested, I would recommend not changing the recipe if you can avoid it. Low-sugar pectin can be a finicky thing.

I'm a lazy canner and frequently inversion seal, and in fifteen years of yearly canning (and inversion sealing jam probably 75% of the time), I've only ever had one jar go questionable, which I assume was a lid issue. That said, if you want to boiling water can them, it won't hurt the jam at all. Be aware that after being canned, jam (and marmalade especially, in my experience) can take from a few hours to a few days to actually set--if they're still liquid the next morning, don't panic! (If they're still liquid in a week, pop the tops off and toss them back into the jam pot with a bit more pectin, wash the jars, and re-can it.)
posted by MeghanC at 3:29 PM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd say buy whatever fresh strawberries you can find. If they taste good fresh, use them. If not, frozen strawberries are the next best thing. Since they'll be cooked, the thawed texture won't be an issue. I'm pretty sure I've seen sliced, frozen strawberries. A note on Sure Jell's FAQ says
"As long as your frozen fruit is not sugared, you can substitute it for equal amounts of fresh fruit. Be sure the fruit is thoroughly thawed to room temperature. Do not drain off excess juice."

Since you've never canned before, you might consider doing a test run of canning something inexpensive and in season in your area just to get a hang of the process.

I'm not sure about the baking soda. Acidity is what makes fruit able to be canned using the boiling water bath instead of pressure canned. I wouldn't want to reduce the acidity.

And also, have you priced shipping costs? A couple of years ago, I shipped apple butter to various locations around the country and it wasn't cheap. I didn't mind since the gifts were well-received but I wouldn't do it every year. I'm not saying don't do it, just be aware of the cost factor.
posted by Beti at 4:40 PM on November 17, 2013


*pulls up chair and sits down*

I've made a crapton of jams and jellies, both using pectin and not using pectin. Here's my advice.

Should I use whatever fresh strawberries I can get, keeping in mind that they won't be at their best in December, or should I just use frozen strawberries? (And I'm assuming I'd thaw them first to cut them up, or do frozen strawberries already come cut up?)

I've seen people advise not to use frozen strawberries, but they've not really explained why. It may be because the frozen strawberries tend to be really watery, and that may not be a good thing (not "it will rot and give you botulism" not-good, more like "your jam will be kind of meh" not-good). Using fresh strawberries, even if they're only "meh" strawberries, should be fine.

The recipe specifically calls for using the inversion technique for the canning process, but the internets elsewhere say to never do the inversion process because it might not give you a good seal. I want to do the "immerse the whole filled jars in boiling water for ten minutes to seal them" method. Will this extra ten minutes of heat exposure change the flavor/consistency of my marmalade?

Not at all. There are plenty of marmelade recipes that use the water-bath method (that's the technical name) and that extra ten minutes isn't going to affect the taste or consistency any more than the original boiling you already gave it will.

In fact, lemme lay some science on you - there are two reasons why you're boiling the marmelade BEFORE it goes in the jar: first, you're heating things to a point where any bad bacteria get killed off, and second, you're trying to evaporate off enough water so that the marmelade will gel. Now, the reason why you're boiling the jars AFTER you put the marmelade in and seal it is that you're driving the excess air out of the jar to create a vacuum that seals the jar. You're also holding things at that heat to make sure that the bacteria are gone. However, the water can't continue to evaporate out of the jar, because a) you're boiling the jar, and b) the jar is sealed. So the extra ten minutes in the water bath shouldn't affect the flavor of the marmelade any more than that initial cooking would do itself.

I'd definitely use the water-bath canning process instead of the inversion one - yeah, the odds may be in your favor when it comes to you getting away with it, but when you consider the outcome if you DO happen to lose that gamble, it's safer to just go ahead and water-bath it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:50 PM on November 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


The thing is, I might risk the inversion method if the jam were just for me, but I really wouldn't feel right about giving those jars to someone else as a gift. Considering the little extra hassle you have to put in to get that peace of mind, I would definitely do the water bath on this. It won't hurt and it may very well help.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 10:59 PM on November 17, 2013


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