Jelly Update

strawberry jam pomonasI thought this morning I would sent this post to Debbie and a couple of others who left some questions about making strawberry jelly. Since it is berry & fruit season there are lots of other recipes to make as well. Here is the link to the Strawberry Jelly recipe.

Q:

I do not have any canning equipment, and would like to try your strawberry jam recipe (it looks and sounds easy and delicious). Since I can’t actually seal the jars I do have, I would like to make only one or two jars, which would go directly into the refrigerator to be used right away. So I have a few more questions that I hope you can help me with.

A:

So glad you are going to give this a try. For jelly you don’t really need any canning equipment, just large pots. Stainless steel or enamelcoated will work just fine for you. The cooking pot needs to be at least twice as deep at the ingredients you put into it. The jelly while cooking will bubble up and foam. If the pot isn’t deep enough it will go all over your stove.  Ask me how I know this? and no it isn’t fun to clean up the mess.

The USDA advises jams and jellies to be water bath canned. Again you do not need a canner for this, just a large pot deep enough to cover your jars with 2″ of water while they boil. Place a cooling rack ( a round one if you have it) or a folded towel on the bottom of the pan to keep the jars from banging on the bottom of the pot as this will crack the jars.

As far as jars goes, I often reuse jars with that same type of lid. Let me also say that the USDA do not advise reusing jars here in the us. So you will need to make that decision yourself. The jelly is put into the hot sterile jars while it is still boiling hot. The lids are placed on top after wiping down the top edge of the jars so they are clean. While cooling the jars will seal themselves, just as your iced tea bottle did. The lids usually havea raised section in the center of the lids, I call a button. When the jars are sealed that button will be concave and not bend up and down when you press on it. That means the jar is sealed. To be safe store them in the fridge. Any grocery store should have jelly jars, around here a case of 12 is about $7.00, well worth the investment. The jars and lids can be reused to store other food items such as left overs or dry baking goods. You can reuse the jars to make jelly again but you will need to use a new lid. Again you can purchase just lids at the grocery store, 12 are around $2.00 here.

strawberry plant

Q:

2 ½ lbs fresh strawberries: – after you hull them and chop them up (big, like you like to), approximately how many cups do you have?

What does it mean to hull strawberries? Is that just getting rid of the green top?

A:

2 1/2 pounds of prepared berries is approx. 4 cups. Hulling berries is easy and yes, it is removing the green leaves and stems from the berries. I like to use a small spoon to do this. You will want to wash with cold water the berries first and let them dry other wise the berries will absorb water and become soft.

Q:

Approximately how many of what size jars do you get out of 2 ½ lbs of strawberries?

A:

I used 4oz. jelly jars and one batch was 8 jars, so 8oz jars would give you 4 jars.

Q:

Can I double or reduce the size of the recipe?

ball jar

A:

I would not advise this using this recipe, the sugar and pectin ratio is the recipe might not work if it is reduced. I do know you can not double the size of the batch for the same reason. There is a pectin called Pomonas Pectin that works with calcium water. The box comes with detailed instructions for many recipes and sizes. I have used it in the past to make low sugar jellies with good success. I found the jelly made with the Pomonas to be a bit “chalky” tasting to me but no one else noticed it. The low sugar jelly was more like a fruit spread than sweet jelly. Very good.

Q:

Once you’ve opened a jar to eat, how long does it usually last for you? (I’m sure not very long, but since I’m the only one that eats it here, and not very often, I’m trying to see how long I can expect it to last before it goes bad (if I don’t eat it by then). )

A:

I can keep an open jar in the fridge about 2 months, but I am sure others keep it much longer. Fact is around here an open jar will not last the week. If you are worried about it use a small 4oz. jar so you can use it up quickly.

Q:

One more question, this time about jars: I have had experiences (accidental mostly) where I’ve used a store-bought tea bottle (Lipton or Snapple) to make tea at home. I put the lid on while it was still hot, and after it cooled, it was sealed again. The jars I have that I would use for the jelly have a similar lid, with the rubber seal in the lid. Should I put the lids on while the jelly is hot, or should I let it cool down before putting the lids on? If I put the lids on while the jelly is hot, would that cause the jar to seal, or explode? I did see that the jars themselves need to be hot to prevent temperature shock – should they be heated in boiling or not-quite-boiling water? J Sorry, that’s three questions.

A:

You are right this is the same principal. You use hot sterile jars and add boiling hot jelly or jam to the jars. Wipe the rims of the jars clean with a wet cloth the put on the lids. Screw the band just until it is snug, not twisted on as hard as you can. The water bath will do the rest. When you remove the jars from the water bath, you will notice the bands are loose again, don’t re tighten them. As the jars cool you will hear the lids make a “ping” or “pop” noise, that means the jar has sealed and the button in the center of the lid will be indented and you will not be able to push it down.

Here I often reuse jars with the same type of lid. Again the USDA advises not to reuse lids. I also do not water bath my jars for use here at the house. I simply screw on the lids and let them seal. I do use the water bath method and new lids for jars I intend to sell or give away.

Q:

Where do you store you jars of jelly, should I freeze mine to be sure they don’t spoil?

A:

After the jars have cooled to room temperature, usually overnight. I will push on the center button to see if the jar has sealed. Then remove the outer band and check the lid is indeed on the jar tight, it will not move. In fact a well sealed jar can be a trick to open when you want it use it. I use a butter knife to pry the lid off, with the blade wedged between the lid and last part of the screw section of the jar.

I wipe down the lids and outside of the jars with a clean damp cloth, label the jars and set them in my pantry. A cool dark place is all that is needed. I have a friend who will put them back into the box the jars came in and store them under her bed.

NO, DO NOT freeze sealed jars! There is no need to, and the jars will burst and crack in the freezer. There are recipes out there for freezer jams and jellies if you want to try that. Once you open a jar you need to keep it in the fridge.

Q:

I tried making a batch of jam without pectin, I thought I had it boiled to the jell stage but after it cooled in the sealed jars it is very runny. What can I do about that?

lemon juice

A:

Ah’ I know the problem and have had it happen to be before too. I have found that if making jelly or jam on humid day this happens more, is it my imagination, I don’t know. You have a couple of options so all is not lost.

1. use it like it is for cake topping, on pancakes or waffles. Add it to quick breads or cornbread for some of the liquid and sugar in the recipe. It would make a nice ice cream topping too.

2. open the jars and reboil it until it does jell, you may need to add more lemon juice to the batch.

3. Open the jars and add a commercial pectin to the batch, reboil, then put into clean sterile jars with new lids.

Q:

I can’t find jelly jars in my area. Do you have any suggestions for me?

A:

This can be a problem around here some years as well. I suggest you call the local co-op extension in your area and ask them. Check all the local hardware stores, feed stores, grocery stores and department stores. Often around here the stores place an order at the beginning of the season and when the jars are gone that is it for the year, and you are rowing without a paddle…. Check friends and neighbors, craigs list, yard sales, church rummage sales, bulletin boards at the feed store. I have seen jars for sale on line but it makes me shiver to think about the cost of the shipping.

Some years late in the season the jars and lids will go on clearance, this is the time to buy them for the next year.  Some will tell you the lids will not keep until the next season. I can’t advise on that, the USDA warns against using old lids. Personally I have never had a problem with it and actually use lids I know I have used before, they call it reusing lids. That is something you need to decide on for yourself and your family. Even if you decide not to use the lids, the jars will be good for many years. You will need to check them carefully each year before you do use them for crack and chips. Chips mostly happen around the rim of the jar and will cause the seals to fail. While these jars will not be good for canning any longer you still can use them for freezing and storing other items in them.

Q:

What about the old bail top jars, can I still use them, I was given cases of them.

A:

While the USDA again says that is a no, no. they still sell new ones and the rubber seals. Check where canning supplies are sold and they should have the rubber seals as well. If all else fails you can order them on line.

When using bail top jars you will need to check the wire bails are working properly before trying to can with them. When the rubber seal then the glass lid is placed on top of the jar the bail should slide up over the top snugly but not so tight you struggle with it. If needed use pliers to adjust the wire until you get the fit you need. What a nice gift that was!

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Posted on August 17, 2009, in Food Storage, Home Cooking Recipes and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Wow K,

    No wonder you have been so quiet up there, between cucumbers and writing this post, your whole day disappeared:)

    This was a very good post, I really enjoyed it.

    M

  2. Great, thank you so much! It won’t be right away, but I will definitely try this. 🙂

  3. I have enjoyed reading so much of this site tonight. But I have to get to bed. I can’t wait to read more. I copied some of those nice smelling lilacs. Those are my fav.

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