When it comes to home canning, nothing stirs emotions more for me, than when I think back to all the jam making my mother and grandmother did. We spent countless weekends in the kitchen, creating some amazing fruit jams that totally made taste buds implode with excitement.
It was the time I spent watching them and learning the processes that helped me understand several important factors that need employing.
When home canning, there needs to be a couple of simple rules followed, ones which will save you a lot of problems further down the track. Because if you don’t follow these simple rules, the consequences can be disastrous. Food poisoning is a common reality of badly followed food preparation procedures.
Botulism and other nasty bacteria will thrive in the finished jars unless you follow the necessary steps needed to kill them.
There, they will continue to grow, turning your precious work toxic enough to harm you and your family. Food poisoning is not something to take lightly, hence the reason for this article.
The Jam Making Canning Process
There’s not a lot of equipment needed and for many, a water bath system isn’t necessary, if you have a large enough pot.
The items you’ll need for jam making are-
- A large saucepan
- A wire rack for inside the saucepan
- A ladle
- A jar lifter
- Jars with 2-piece lids
There is an assortment of other items you might wish to include, like a lid caddy, specially-designed canning rack and a kettle. But for the basics, those items will see you through. One note to make though, is that the lids you’ll use are a one-time item. Reuse the jars and the rings but dispose of the lids once the jar is emptied.
6 Steps to Canning Your Jams
Step #1: Set the rack
Begin with sitting the rack inside the saucepan. This rack is crucial as it keeps the glass jars off the bottom, elevating it and allowing the boiling water to properly heat the jar’s contents.
It also allows the boiling water to escape around the sides of the jars, which would otherwise rattle against each other, causing them to break.
Make sure to add enough water to cover the tallest jar by at least an inch, if not more. The water tends to evaporate and may boil away faster than the time you need to sterilize your jams.
If packing your jars with raw ingredients, bring the water to at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius), or if filling them with hot foods, like ready-to-go jam, heat the water to 180 degrees Fahrenheit (82 degrees Celsius).
Step #2: Thorough check
Before starting to fill your jars, make sure to give them a thorough once-over check. Look for any chips or cracks and if you find one, discard the jar immediately. Make sure to check with your jar manufacturer’s instructions as some advise you to heat the jars and lids separately in hot water.
Use the ladle to scoop the jam into the jars. Try to be fast enough before the jars cool down too much. Don’t overfill. You want around a one-inch gap between the lid and the top of the food. Next, run a spatula or chopstick around the inside of the jar to release any trapped air. Make sure you remove any traces of jams from the rim of the jars.
Step #3: Lids and Rings
Now apply the lids and the rings to your jars. Be sure not to over-tighten the lids as you still need any trapped air to escape. Tightening them to just finger tight is normally more than sufficient.
Step #4: Bring to boil
Depending on what type of rack you have, either lower the jars in one at a time, or load the entire rack with handles into the saucepan.
The crucial point here is to make sure the jars remain vertical the entire time. Food must not come in contact with the lids or rims of the jars. There should be at least a half inch of space between the jars so the water has good flow.
Turn the heat up and bring the water to a boil. It doesn’t need to be a ferocious boil, but rather a rolling boil. The timing of the next step is crucial and must be followed.
Start the timer from the moment the water begins to boil and not before. Your recipe will have a minimum amount of time which it needs to effectively kill bacteria and create the jars.
If you find that the water stops boiling at any point, repeat the step and restart the time from the beginning.
Step #5: Let the jar rest and remove
Once the timer finishes, turn off the heat and let the jars rest for 5 minutes. Once ready, remove them from the water, taking care not to tip them, or else the food will interfere with the proper sealing of the lids.
Move the jars either onto a cooling rack or dish towel, spreading them at least an inch apart from each other. Make sure there’s no draft that may shock the jars, creating breakages.
Step #6: Test the jars
After allowing the jars to cool thoroughly for 12 to 14 hours, test the jars by pressing down on the lids.
Properly sealed lids won’t wiggle and should feel nice and solid. If any jars failed to seal, place them in the fridge and use them first. The others will be ok to store on shelves in a cool dry place.