Did it get canned properly?
June 28, 2017 11:18 PM   Subscribe

I made some blueberry jam the other day (yum!), but things didn't go quite as expected during the boiling process. I'd like to understand what happened and whether it will be safe to keep in the cupboard and eat after a while.

A few days back, I made some blueberry jam from some fresh blueberries that we picked. I did the same thing last year with good success. I used this set of instructions, which seem like pretty typical fruit jam instructions.

In my first round, I ended up with less jam than expected (she says that you get about 5.5 cans and I got 4). I think I boiled the blueberry/lemon juice/pectin mix for longer than I should have before adding the sugar. After I added the sugar, I let it boil with constant stirring for a long time. The mixture never really significantly bubbled up like it had in previous times even though I had done it for a while. I remember that usually it kind of doubles in volume for a bit and gets really foamy. I assumed at the time that it was because I just heated up the blueberry mixture earlier than I should have. It did boil, and it boiled for quite a while.

The jam definitely solidified after pouring it into the jars and I processed it in the normal way. All of the lids sealed properly and by the looks of things the jam is OK.

I made a second batch that boiled "the right way" afterwards.

My question/worry: Is this thing going to make us sick or something because I did it wrong? Can anyone explain what might have happened? Is it safe to eat?
posted by montag2k to Food & Drink (6 answers total)
Okay, I cannot even watch a 13 minute video of how to make jam, but I'm going to assume it's a basic standard recipe.

Did you make your two batches on different days or at very different times of the day? The weather outside can change how long it takes to come to boil, what temperature it achieves, the set, the yield, etc. Also, batches of blueberries can have more or less liquid and a million other tiny factors which affect how it cooks up. Sometimes the fruit misbehaves enigmatically just to spite you.

The jam that cooked up differently is not going to make you sick, there's no jam bug that makes the jam jam wrong, jam is just a weirdo sometimes. The consistency may or may not be as nice as your other batch, but it's undoubtedly fine to eat, since your jars sealed properly.

That first batch may taste a little overcooked, however. If so and it bothers you, google "applesauce cake" recipes and sub the blueberries for applesauce. It will be delicious. (I have about 50 ways to use jam that didn't turn out great. As you may have guessed, I do a lot of jamming.)
posted by desuetude at 11:43 PM on June 28, 2017 [4 favorites]

You will save a lot of headache if you just go out and buy a candy thermometer. I have a probe thermometer that I use for meat and I hold it in my jams so I am certain I've got the right boiling temperature. I boil to 104C and them put straight into sterilised jars. I've been making jam for years and am completely self sufficient in jam and haven't got sick yet. The acid and the sugar are what really preserve the jam and both of those will be high enough to keep everything safe.

Seriously just get a candy or a probe thermometer. They're quite useful for cooking and certainly aren't unitaskers and will remove the guesswork of a lot of cooking.
posted by koolkat at 2:55 AM on June 29, 2017 [4 favorites]

The set of the jam won't make you sick - it'll just mean that your jam is more or less runny. Massively overcooked jam will be hard to spread, and may have a caramel taste. Undercooked (runny) jam can be reheated and re-canned if it doesn't go right the first time.

If the lids sealed properly, and your jam was hot, it's completely safe to eat. Get yourself a thermometer if you plan to make jam again. 105C / 220F is about right, and a sugar thermometer will help enormously. You can get an old-fashioned brass-backed jam thermometer, or use a probe-type electronic one, or even one of those infra-red gun-type things (provided you give the jam a good stir - otherwise you'll only get a surface temp.)
posted by pipeski at 3:15 AM on June 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

I viewed enough bits of the video to see that she is following the standard practices that are set out in my Ball
home preserving book (2006, out of print) so the jam should be safe. This method is more stringent than old methods and those used in other countries. Test the seal on each jar before putting it away. I highly recommend a book like this as it has explanations for the methods used. Different types of pectin need different methods which should be given inside the packet. They don't require raising the temperature to 220F but I have gone back to "old-fashioned" jam methods without pectin as the results are easier to control, using a thermometer and the cold spoon and plate method for testing the "set".
posted by Botanizer at 5:20 AM on June 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

Thanks all! I will eat the (possibly overcooked) jam happily and I'll invest in a candy thermometer. I should have been clearer that the recipe was in the video description and did not require a 13 minute viewing. I appreciate all of your time.
posted by montag2k at 7:19 AM on June 29, 2017

It's not the set that makes jam shelf stable, it's the canning couple with the harsh environment you create when you have that much sugar and acidity. Runny jam is fine. I am a shitty jam maker and I have had plenty of batches that did great on the shelf and were runny as hell.
posted by Foam Pants at 12:20 AM on June 30, 2017

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