We’ll talk more about putting up later this summer, but for now, I will focus on jellies, jams, and preserves. I cannot remember the last time I bought a jar of jelly off a grocery store shelf. I enjoy making jam out of whatever fruit I can get my hands on! Fortunately for me, my father-in-law grows blueberries, blackberries, and muscadines, my mother has a huge pear tree, and there are plenty of pick-your-own strawberry patches and peach orchards within driving distance.
- Go ahead and buy the canning kit with the widemouth funnel, jar tongs, and lid lifter. For years, I didn’t use a funnel and spilled a good bit of that precious jam, and I used regular tongs for lifting the jars and lids out of boiling water. You can make jelly without buying the tools, and it will taste just as good, but I promise the canning kit just makes things easier!
- Grandma Tucker never used a water bath to process her jellies. She just turned the jars upside down to get them to seal. I have done that myself and never had any problems, but since I give away a lot of jars as gifts, I just want to be safe. For that reason, I have started to process my jars in a boiling water bath for about 5 minutes.
- I like to use juice to make jellies and fresh fruit to make jams and preserves. I hate the process of separating the juice from the fruit, so I don’t do it. It is much easier to make jams after simply crushing the fruit instead of waiting for the juice to drain through layers of cheesecloth. If you are a hardcore jelly-lover who hates the thought of any bits of fruit in the jar, you may be able to find a local source for some types of juice. Do some research to find a local grower, and he or she may be able to help you out.
- Do follow the recipe, but don’t be afraid to experiment! Once, I made blackberry jam and peach jam in the same week. I had a little of each fruit leftover, so I combined them - and turned out one of the best jams I’ve ever made! I’ve also mixed herbs and vanilla extracts in some of my jams to create unique flavor combinations that are delicious. Blackberry-Vanilla-Basil, Blackberry-Mint, and Strawberry-Jalapeño happen to be some of my family’s favorites.
- Share the love - and the jam! My boys (including my husband) love any flavor of my homemade jam. They feel special that I made it for them, and I feel so appreciated by them with all the “Mama, you make the best jelly ever!” compliments that flood the air. Why would I not want to share my jam with everyone? I try to always put some up in the 4-oz. jelly jars because they make great teacher gifts.
Purchase The Southern Mercantile Canning Kit HERE to dress up your jams!