Jam, Jellies, Preserves & Butters

Jams, Jellies, Preserves & Butters

The Basics of Making Jellied Products

Types of Sweet Spreads

Jelly – firm gel made from juice.

Jam – sweet spread that holds shape – crushed or chopped fruit.

Preserves – small whole fruits or uniform pieces in thick, slightly gelled syrup

Marmalades – soft fruit jellies containing fruit or fruit peel, often citrus

Fruit butters – fruit pulp, sugar and spices cooked to a consistency that mounds on a spoon

Basics of Jellied Products – Ingredients

Fruit – provides the flavor and color for the product.

Furnishes at least part of the pectin and acid needed to gel.

Should be good quality with no visible signs of spoilage.

Best to use ¼ slightly under-ripe and ¾ fully ripe.

Basics of Jellied Products

Sugar – is the preservative that prevents the growth of microorganisms.

Sugar must be present in the proper ratio with pectin and acid for a gel to form.

Never cut down on the amount of sugar called for in a recipe or it may not gel.**

Granulated white sugar is the type to use unless the recipe calls for some corn syrup or honey.

Brown sugar, sorghum and molasses are not recommended.

** If you want to make low or no sugar jellied products, then you must use a special pectin product or a special recipe for low sugar spreads.

Basics of Jellied Products

Pectin – the substance that causes the product to gel.

Some fruits contain enough natural pectin if not overripe (Apples, Crabapples, Eastern Concord grapes, Non-Italian plums).

Other fruits may need pectin or acid added (Ripe apples, Ripe Blackberries, Elderberries, California Grapes).

Still other fruits ALWAYS need pectin, acid or both added (Raspberries, Apricots, Figs, Western Concord Grapes, Pears, Italian Plums).

Commercially prepared pectin is available in food preservation section of grocery and discount department stores.

Basics of Jellied Products

Acid – needed for gel formation

Amounts vary in different fruits.

Typically higher in under-ripe fruits.

Lemon juice or citric acid may be added if more acid is needed.

Contributes to flavor and tartness.

What has to happen for gels to form?

For gels to form, you must have correct proportions of:

1) Acid

2) Pectin

Does My Juice Have Enough Natural Pectin to Make Jelly?

Tests for natural pectin

  1. Cooking Test

1/3 cup juice

1/4 cup sugar

Heat, stir, dissolve sugar.

Boil rapidly until it sheets from spoon.

Pour in bowl or jelly glass and cool.

If cooled mixture is jelly-like, it has enough natural pectin to gel.

Pectin Tests

  1. Alcohol Test

1 tsp. juice

1 T. rubbing alcohol

Gently stir or shake in closed container.

Solid jelly-like mass forms if enough pectin to gel – can pick up with fork.


Does My Fruit Have Enough Acid?

Test for acid:

1 tsp. lemon juice

3 T. water

1/2 tsp. sugar

Mix and taste.  Taste fruit juice.

If your juice is at least equal in tartness, then it has enough acid to make jelly.

If I don’t have enough pectin or if I just want to use commercial pectin, what do I do?

Look for commercial pectins in the food preservation aisle of your grocery store or discount department store.

If you are making a full sugar product, then choose regular pectin.

If you are making a low or no sugar product, then choose “lite” or “no sugar needed” pectin.

Is there any advantage or disadvantage to using the added pectin?

Without added pectin:

Long boiling time with fruit and sugar.

Less added sugar, but concentrated natural sugar.

Loss of flavor from long boiling.

With added pectin:

Greater yield from measure of fruit.

Fresher fruit flavor, but some flavor may be masked.

Better color.

Less chance of failure.

Commercial Pectins


Available in liquid and powder forms.

Higher yield per measure of juice.

Can use fully ripe fruit.

Use more sugar, flavor may be masked.

Do not have to cook fruit to extract juice.

Do not need to test for pectin or acid.

Commercial Pectin

Regular (continued)

Shorter cooking time

No doneness tests

Uniform results, quality

Store in cool, dry place

Use within 1 year or see expiration date

Powdered and liquid pectin are not interchangeable in recipes.

But I want a product with less sugar.  What should I do?

Purchase a special pectin product made to be used with less or no sugar.

Look for “lite” or “no sugar needed” on the package label.

Follow the recipe on the package insert for the type of jelly or jam you are making.


Measuring cups and spoons

Bowl for sugar

Heavy, metal pot – large!


Jar filler/funnel

Jars and lids

Boiling water canner and rack

Jar lifter

Other Possible Equipment


Sieve, food mill, fruit press

Jelly bag

Thermometer – jelly or candy

Preparing the Fruit

  1. Use fruit immediately. Do not refrigerate longer than one day.

  2. Discard over-ripe or rotten fruit.

  3. Use 1/4 under-ripe fruit and 3/4 just-ripe fruit, if no added pectin is used.

  4. Approximately 1 lb. prepared (washed, trimmed, cut) fruit = 1 cup juice.

Preparing the Fruit

  1. Wash fruit, lifting out of water.


  1. Remove stems and blossoms.

  2. Do NOT remove skins, cores, or pits.

high pectin concentration

  1. Cut into the size of pieces as recipe indicates.

Extracting Juice

  1. Place prepared fruit and cold water in saucepan (soft berries can be crushed and no water added).

  2. Bring to boil on high heat.

  3. Reduce heat.

Extracting Juice

  1. Cook until fruit is soft.

Grapes, berries: 10 minutes

Apples, hard fruits: 20-25 minutes

DO NOT overcook – destroys pectin, color and flavor.

Extracting Juice

  1. Dampen the jelly bag with water and strain the juice through damp jelly bag.

Can use fruit press before straining.

Cover jelly bag and bowl while dripping to prevent contamination.

Extracting Juice

Special situation

To make jelly from fresh grape juice:

Refrigerate juice overnight, then

Strain through 2 layers damp cheesecloth.

Remove tartrate crystals that have formed.

Jelly – No Added Pectin

  1. Bring extracted juice to boil (6 cups maximum).

  2. Add sugar immediately; stir until dissolved.

If no recipe is available, try 3/4 cup sugar per 1 cup of juice.

Jelly – No Added Pectin

  1. Cook rapidly. Long cooking destroys pectin.

  2. Test for doneness.

Tests For Doneness
with no added pectin

  1. Temperature

Cook to 220oF or 8oF above boiling point of water.

Test thermometer for accuracy with boiling water prior to cooking jelly.

Tests For Doneness
with no added pectin

  1. Sheet Test (Spoon Test)

Dip cold metal spoon into boiling jelly.

Hold spoon out of steam.

Drops should “sheet” together.

Tests For Doneness with no added pectin

  1. Refrigerator/Freezer Test

Place small amount on plate.

Place in freezer for a few minutes.

Check for gel.

With Added Pectin…

There is no testing for doneness.

Just follow the package directions for adding the pectin and for boiling the product.

For jams and preserves without added pectin and for butters and marmalades:

Doneness can be determined by


The refrigerator/freezer test

Preparing Jars
Best to use half-pint or pint jars.

Two options for “full-sugar” jams and jellies that are pectin-set:

Pre-sterilize jars and process 5 minutes in BWC.

Use clean, hot jars and process for 10 minutes in BWC.

Preparing Jars

To pre-sterilize jars:

Wash jars in hot, soapy water and rinse.

Cover jars with water, bring to a boil and boil 10 minutes.

The boiling water canner works well.

Keep the jars in the hot water until ready to fill.

If altitude>1,000 ft: add 1 min. of boiling time for each 1,000 ft.

Preparing Lids

Follow manufacturer’s directions — they vary.

Most: Cover with water, bring to simmer only, keep warm until ready to use.

Filling Jars

  1. Skim foam (quickly).

  2. Use a ladle and jar filler to fill hot, pre-sterilized half-pint jars with boiling product.

  3. Leave headspace of 1/4”.

  4. Wipe jar rims (top surface) with clean, dampened paper towel.

  5. Remove pre-treated lids from warm water and place on jars.

  6. Tighten ring bands over lids until “fingertip” tight.

  7. Process – to prevent mold growth.

Processing Jars

Carefully place jars on rack in canner filled w/ hot (simmering) water.

Use a jar lifter and keep the jars straight up.  Do not tilt them.

Water should be 1 to 2 inches above the tops of the jars when all jars are in the canner.

Place the lid on the canner.

Bring water to a full boil; boil for 5 min. if jars are pre-sterilized; 10 minutes if not.

At end, turn off heat.  Remove lid from canner, turning away from your face to avoid steam burns.

Wait 5 minutes before removing jars from canner.

Using the jar lifter, remove jars to protected surface.

Processing Jars

Cool away from drafts for at least 12 hours.

DO NOT DISTURB or move for at least 12 hours or gel may break.

NOTE: USDA and University of Georgia

DO NOT recommend inverting jars.


To avoid breaking gel, do not move for 12 hours.

Check seal.  If a vacuum seal has formed, prepare the jars for storage.**

Remove ring bands.

Gently wash the lid and threads of the jars, rinse and dry.

Label the jars with the product name and date.

Store without ring bands in cool, dry, dark place.

Short storage time is best for best quality.

**  Store unsealed jars in the refrigerator.

I want to make freezer jam.  What do I do?

Storing Freezer Jam

DO NOT store at room temp – will mold and/or ferment.

Freezer storage best for color and flavor retention.

Do not place in freezer until gel forms.

Must be stored in refrigerator or freezer.

May be stored refrigerator up to 3 weeks; in freezer, up to 1 year.

Refrigerate after opening and use within a few days-few weeks.


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