Posted July 30, 2011

The pantry in my grandmother’s tiny kitchen was a favorite place for me to visit in the wintertime; it always meant I would be putting my hands on something she’d created in the summer. I can close my eyes now, decades later, and still see the arrangement of canned goods she put up. Big quarts of pickles and beans and corn relish took up a lot of room, but her sweet tooth made sure there was even more space for rows of strawberry and peach jams, grape jelly and berry preserves.

During the summer she would stand for hours next to the stove arranging jars in the water bath, setting the timer, then going back out to the enclosed porch where we had room to sort the fruit. I would go home with my fingers stained red and purple.

As an adult, I tried my hand at canning using a water bath, but found that it just took too much time and heated up my kitchen. I stopped putting up food for a long time because of that. Then, I rediscovered it using the freezer instead. I don’t do all that my grandmother did, but jams and preserves last so well in the refrigerator and freezer that now I look forward every summer to creating sparkling jars of the fruit concoctions.

One of the great things about freezing is that you don’t need any special equipment– a good-sized soup pot, jars and a wide-mouth funnel are about it.

Pint and half-pint jars are best to use because some fruit jams and preserves don’t set up well in large containers. You’ll find canning jars in Big Lots, Rural King and Walmart, as well as places like dollar stores and supermarkets.

One note: I’ve found that any jam or preserve recipe meant to be processed through a water bath can just as easily be frozen instead. I have no experience with jellies, though, so the recipes here exclude them.

I’m including the water-bath method for cooks who prefer it, where it applies. No matter which method you use, if you need more information, I highly recommend you go to, an excellent source with easy-to-understand advice and tips on picking, canning and freezing. Or,, the Ball Blue Book website with recipes, glossary, product guide, advice and more.

Peach Raspberry Jam

2 cups seedless raspberry puree (from about 4 to 4 1/2 cups raspberries)

2 cups finely chopped peaches

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon Fruit Fresh or ascorbic acid

1 box (1.75 ounces) powdered fruit pectin

6 cups granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon butter

Put the berries in a large bowl and mash with a potato masher to make a puree.

Combine the puree and chopped peaches in a large, deep stainless steel or enamel-lined (with no chips) kettle. Stir in the lemon juice, Fruit Fresh and powdered pectin. Stir to blend and let stand for 10 minutes.

Bring the fruit mixture to a full rolling boil over high heat. Let the mixture boil for 1 minute. Add the sugar all at once, then the butter. Stir to blend and bring back to a full rolling boil. Continue boiling for 1 minute. Remove from heat, skim off foam, and stir for 1 minute.

Remove jars from the hot water and fill, leaving 1/2-inch head space. Wipe the rims with a hot damp paper towel and fit jars with lids. Screw on bands just to fingertip tightness.

Freezer method: Allow to cool, then put in refrigerator for a couple weeks or freezer for up to a year.

Water-bath method: Lift jars into the hot canning water and lower the rack. Add more hot water, if necessary, to bring water to at least 1 inch over the tops of the jars. Cover the canner and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a gentle but steady boil and continue boiling for 10 minutes.

Turn off heat, remove cover, and let jars stand in the water for 5 minutes. Remove the jars to cool. Do not tip or turn the jars.

Makes 6 (8-ounce) jars.


Peach Cobbler Preserves

5 cups diced ripe firm peaches (8 to 12 peaches, depending on size)

4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

4 cups granulated sugar, divided

1 scant teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon unsalted butter

1 pouch liquid fruit pectin

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a large deep kettle, combine the peaches with the lemon juice and 2 cups of the sugar; cover and let stand for 1 hour.

To the peaches add the remaining sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and butter, if using. Heat uncovered over medium heat, stirring often, until sugar is dissolved. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Increase the heat to medium-high. Stirring constantly, bring the mixture to a full rolling boil. Add the pectin and bring once again to a full rolling boil. Boil for exactly 1 minute longer. Remove from heat and skim excess foam from the mixture. Stir in vanilla and let the fruit mixture cool for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Fill jars with hot fruit mixture, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Wipe rims clean with a dampened cloth or paper towel and fit seals on tops of jars. Screw on the lids firmly.

Freezer method: Allow to cool and freezer or refrigerate.

Water-bath method: Lower the jars into the water and add more very hot or boiling water so the water is 1 to 2 inches above the jars. Bring to a boil. Cover and boil gently for 10 minutes. Remove jars from the hot water and let cool on a rack. Do not invert the hot jars.

Makes about 5 half-pint (8-ounce) jars.

Note: If using 1-pint (16-ounce) jars, process/boil the full jars for 15 minutes.

It’s wonderful on bread or crackers or scones, alone or with butter or cream cheese, and is perfect on plain yogurt or vanilla ice cream.


Berry Jelly or jam

1 pound plus about 2 ounces berries, any or all of the following: Raspberries, blackberries, red currants

1 pound granulated sugar

1 teaspoon pectin (see notes)

Wash and sort the berries. If you are using red currants, carefully pick off all the stems.

Put the berries and sugar into the pan. Mix and let it macerate for about half an hour.

In the meantime, put a small plate into the refrigerator or freezer to make it very cold.

Mix in the pectin. Turn on the heat, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to low, and cook for at least 45 minutes, stirring up the bottom periodically to keep from burning. Scoop off the scum that forms on the top.

Drop a bit of the jam onto the cold plate. If it forms a skin almost immediately, it’s done.

Pass the jam a ladleful at a time through a time through a sieve or strainer, taking out all the seeds.

Can using your favorite canning method or store jars in the refrigerator for a couple weeks or freeze for up to a year.

Notes: Berries in general don’t have much pectin, and it’s needed in this case to make it gel enough. If you prefer a firmer jelly, you will need more pectin. Follow the package directions.

If you don’t mind the seeds, especially if you don’t use red currants, you can skip the straining step. In that case you will have a jam rather than a jelly.

— adapted from is a wonderfully written, photographed and interesting food website and blog. The author, Laura, has some amazing recipes and I recommend you visit often. This is her recipe and while it takes a bit longer than the others here, I think it’s worth the work. Check with a friend who has an herb garden for lemon verbena if you don’t’ have any of your own. The recipe also could be made without it.

Here is some of Laura’s comments while making the jam:

“Yesterday it was a beastly hot day here, but somehow I couldn’t resist making jam. We cranked up the air conditioning for a couple of hours and made a big batch. In truth, it’s one of the few days it has really felt like summer here this year, so making jam felt like a long overdue ritual. We skipped the hot canning process and just made a refrigerator jam. It will keep for a couple of weeks, but it will be long gone by then at our house. The best part of this recipe is the candied lemon slices. I love candied fruit and make it quite often, but I was quite surprised by it in this jam: Not a trace of bittersweetness, just summer sweetness and light. I think it’s cooking with the strawberries and all that sugar. It’s brilliant, really.”

This is one of those recipes that needs to be put in larger jars so you can see the candied lemon slices.

Strawberry Lemon Verbena Refrigerator Jam with Candied Lemon Slices

3 lemons, sliced as thinly as possible (lop off and discard the ends)

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

3 pounds strawberries, washed, hulled, and sliced

1 cup loosely packed lemon verbena leaves tied with string into a cheesecloth bundle

3 cups sugar

In a small saucepan, stir together the lemon slices, 1 cup sugar, water and lemon juice.

Bring it to a simmer over high heat. Then lower the heat and simmer gently until the lemon slices are soft and translucent, about 10 minutes.

Place the strawberries, lemon verbena, 3 cups sugar, the candied lemon slices and all of their cooking liquid in a large pan.

Bring it to a simmer over high heat. Lower the heat and simmer gently, giving the lemon verbena pouch a good bashing with a wooden spoon. Skim the foam from the top and discard it.

Cook the jam until the fruit is soft, the liquid syrupy, and a small amount placed a cool saucer gels nicely, about 30 minutes.

Fish out and discard the pouch of lemon verbena. Using a funnel, ladle the jam into clean quart jars and top them tightly with lids.

Allow the jam to come to room temperature. Then store it in the refrigerator. It will keep for a couple of weeks. Or, freeze. Yield: 2 quarts.

Here is another beautiful website and blog from Erika Penzer Kerekes. In Erika’s Kitchen site is another example of intelligent writing and gathering of great recipes with lovely photographs.

Erika accidentally made this recipe, so go to her site to read all about how it happened; it’s pretty funny.

She comments that “even absent-minded cooks can make good jam. It’s not burned. It’s caramelized.”

Caramelized apricot jam

1 pound fresh apricots, pitted and chopped

2 cups granulated sugar

In a heavy saucepan, combine the apricots and the sugar, and stir to combine. Let the fruit sit an hour at room temperature, stirring once or twice to redistribute the sugar. The sugar will draw the juices out of the fruit and create a syrup.

Put the pot over medium heat and bring the apricot mixture to a boil. Turn down the heat and continue to cook at a simmer about 1 hour, or until the jam has turned a deep rust color and you can feel some burned bits sticking to the bottom of the pan when you draw a spoon through it.

Let the jam cool a bit, then transfer it to a clean jar or plastic container. Store in the refrigerator and use within 1 month (or freeze). As soon as you remove the jam from the saucepan, soak the pan in hot water. You may have to soak it for a few days. You’ll definitely need some steel wool to get rid of all the burned-on bits. Yield: 2 pints


To see more of the Belleville News-Democrat, Ill., or to subscribe, visit .

Copyright © 2011, Belleville News-Democrat, Ill.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This