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Home Canning

Jams, Preserves, Conserves, Marmalades, and Butters

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Here you will learn some basics for making jams, preserves, conserves, marmalades, and butters. Be sure to check our Global Gourmet Recipes to make some delicious homemade treats for your family.


Made from fruit that has been left whole, cut up or crushed. The fruit is cooked to soften the skin and cell structure, and to extract the pectin. It is then boiled with sugar to form a gel and used as a spread.


Made from small whole fruit or larger fruit, cut into equal-size pieces and cooked in a syrup solution. When fruit is cut, care should be taken to retain the natural shape of the fruit. It is often recommended that cooked fruit be allowed to sit overnight to provide time for syrup to penetrate the fruit. The fruit is then packed in jars and the syrup is boiled to the desired density. A soft gel results. Preserves are used as toppings for ice cream, cake, dessert, or as spreads.


Made from a combination of fruits to which nuts and raisins may be added. They are usually less sweet than jams. The nuts should be dipped in boiling water and added during the last five minutes of cooking. Conserves are used as toppings, spreads, and cake fillings.


Made from a mixture of fruits, one of which is usually a citrus fruit. They are delicious server for breakfast with bread, rolls, or sweet rolls.


Made from cooked fruit pulp. Sweet or spicy, they make fine spreads.

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General Procedures

[ Making Jam | Making Marmalades | Making Jelly ]
[ Jam or Gel Stage | Testing for Pectin | Pectin and Acid Content | Jelly Table ]

Procedures for Making Marmalades

Wash and slice fruit very thin. Remove seeds. Measure fruit and for each cup of fruit add 1 1/2 cups water. Cover and set aside overnight. Next morning measure fruit and liquid. For each cup measure 3/4 cup sugar and set aside. Place fruit and liquid in kettle and boil, uncovered, 20 minutes. Add sugar and stir to dissolve. Boil, uncovered, until gel stage is reached. Remove form heat and allow to cool slightly. Stir to distribute fruit. Pour into hot sterilized glasses and seal immediately.

Suggested fruit combinations for marmalades:

  • 2 oranges and 1 lemon
  • 4 grapefruit, 1 lemon, 1 bitter orange
  • 4 bitter oranges, 8 sweet oranges, 2 lemons
  • 1 grapefruit, 1 orange, 1 lemon
  • 4 limes and 2 lemons
  • 2 pineapples and 3 lemons

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Procedures for Making Jam

  1. Read through recipe and make sure all ingredients and equipment are on hand.

  2. Check jars for nicks and cracks, wash in hot suds, and sterilize in boiling water for 20 minutes.

  3. Select fruit. Use a mixture of approximately half ripe and half slightly under ripe fruit. Wash fruit. Cut away bruised spots.

  4. Prepare recipe. Don't double recipes. Best results are obtained when small batches (approx. 3 to 4 quarts of fruit) are prepared at a time.

  5. Stir mixture occasionally, especially during final cooking stages, to prevent sticking and scorching.

  6. As mixture begins to thicken, test for jam or gel stage. Remember to remove kettle from heat during each test or the correct jam stage may be missed.

  7. Fruit rich in pectin, such as gooseberries, black currants and some plums, thicken more as they cool. Therefore, care should be taken not to cook these fruits to a consistency that is too thick (approx. 218o F is adequate).

  8. Skim mixture carefully. Pour into hot sterilized jars. Seal immediately if using preserving jars.

  9. If using jelly glasses, allow to cool slightly before sealing with paraffin.

  10. Fit on protective metal cap.

  11. Label, indicating contents and date.

  12. Store in cool, dry place.

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Procedures for Making Jelly

  1. Read through recipe and make sure all ingredients and equipment are on hand.

  2. Select fruit. Use approximately half ripe fruit and half under ripe fruit. Never use overripe fruit.

  3. Wash fruit thoroughly and cut away bruised or damaged spots.

  4. Prepare and cook fruit as recipe directs.

  5. Pour the hot fuit into a moistened jelly bag or several thicknesses of cheesecloth.

  6. Hang jelly bag over bowl to drip. Don't squeeze ag; it will make jelly cloudy.

  7. Prepare jelly glasses. Check for nicks, chips and scratches. Wash in hot suds. Sterilize 20 minutes in boiling water. Boil lids five minutes. Allow jars and lids to remain in water until needed.

  8. Measure extracted juice. (Approx. 8 cups of juice is the most satisfactory amount to work with for each batch of jelly).

  9. Bring juice to a boil and test for pectin.

  10. Add sugar and stir to dissolve.

  11. Bring to a boil and boil rapidly about 10 minutes or until the gel stage is reached.

  12. Remove from heat. Skim off foam.

  13. Pour into hot sterilized jelly glasses.

  14. Cool slightly and seal with paraffin or seal immediately if using metal lids.

  15. Cap with protective metal cover.

  16. Label, indicating contents and date.

  17. Store in cool, dry place.

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Jam or Gel Stage:
From what I have read it seems there is no accurate method of using the temperature to determine the gel stage. To be certain gel stage is not missed, remove jam or jelly from heat during testing.

  • Sheeting Test
    The usual way to determine when jelly point is reached is to use the sheeting test. Dip up some of the boiling jelly with a metal spoon, then let it pour off the spoon back into the kettle. Jelly point is reached when the last two drops on the spoon cling together, form a sheet, and are very slow dropping off; or when they cling to the edge of the spoon in a sheet; or when drops run together. Carefully remove scum and pour jelly into hot, sterilized glasses.

  • Drop Test
    The gel stage is difficult to determine when the mixture is hot. Therefore, the jam must be removed from the heat for each test. Dip a chilled metal spoon into the jam and allow it to drip from the spoon. When two drops run together to form one, the gel stage has been reached.
  • Plate Test
    Drop a little jam onto a chilled plate and cool quickly. When the gel stage has been reached, jam should crinkle slightly when pushed.

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Testing for Pectin:
A test can be made to determine the pectin content of fruit cooked in water. Mix 1 teaspoon of cooked fruit juice with 1 tablespoon of grain alcohol (nonpoisonous denatured) and stir slowly. The alcohol precipitates the pectin and forms a clot. The type of clot formed indicates the quantity of pectin.

Those fruits that have low pectin content should have pectin added. Many recipes combine fruits high in pectin with those low in pectin to obtain interesting flavor combinations and still provide a good gel.

Pectin and Acid Content of Fruit:

  • Fruit High in Pectin and High in Acid:
    Sour apples, red and black currants, gooseberries, crab apples, cranberries, grapefruit, lemons, limes, grapes, blackberries, sour cherries, sour guavas, loganberries, sour oranges, and most varieties of plums.

  • Fruit High in Pectin and Low in Acid:
    Sweet apples, sweet guavas, quinces, melons, bananas, sweet cherries, and unripe figs.

  • Fruit Low in Pectin and High in Acid:
    Apricots, rhubarb, strawberries, pineapples, pomegranates, and sweet cherries.

  • Fruit Low in Pectin and Low in Acid:
    Pears, peaches, ripe figs, raspberries, elderberries, and overripe fruit.

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Jelly Table
Fruit Juices and CombinationsAmount of Sugar
to One Cup Juice
Apple2/3 to 3/4 cup
Blueberry, Blackberry, or Loganberry3/4 to 1 cup
Crabapple2/3 to 3/4 cup
Cranberry1 cup
Currant3/4 to 1 cup
Gooseberry3/4 cup
Grape3/4 to 1 cup
Blackberry 1/4, Apple 3/42/3 cup
Black Raspberry 1/2, Apple 1/22/3 cup
Black Raspberry 2/3, Currant 1/33/4 cup
Cherry 1/2, Apple 1/22/3 cup
Elderberry 1/2, Apple 1/23/4 to 1 cup
Gooseberry 3/4, Currant 1/41 cup
Peach 1/2, Apple 1/22/3 cup
Plum 1/4, Crabapple 3/41 cup
Quince 1/3, Cranberry 1/3, Apple 1/33/4 cup
Quince 1/2, Apple 1/22/3 cup
Red Raspberry 1/3, Currant 2/31 cup
Rhubarb 1/2, Apple 1/22/3 cup

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