hot water canning

Low Sugar Jam

Posted on July 2, 2016 at 6:04 pm

Here in Alabama, u-pick is really coming into its own. Today we picked nearly 2 gallons of blueberries at an awesome local farm (Bear Mountain) that grows its berries according to organic principles (that means, they haven’t paid the federal government for the privilege of the “certified organic” label!)

But you only really get the benefit of the full awesome flavour and colour of fresh, seasonal fruit if you avoid cooking them into oblivion, which you will with conventional pectin.

This is why I always, and only, recommend Pomona’s Universal Pectin (Amazon link). Unlike conventional pectin you can make jam with NO added sugar, or with alternative sweeteners such as honey or maple syrup.

Once you go Pomona’s you will never go back to adding more sugar than fruit to your preserves!

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Reduced Sugar Cherry Jam

Posted on July 28, 2012 at 7:17 pm

I am loving the results I get with Pomona’s Pectin. The jam tastes like fruit gently stewed in honey. Wonderful.

4 cups, mashed or chopped, pitted cherries
1/4 cup lemon or lime juice
4 tsp calcium water

Place these ingredients in a large saucepan and start to gently heat.

1 cup honey (or, if you must, 3/4 to 2 cups sugar)
3 tsp Pomona’s pectin mixed thoroughly into the honey (or, yuck, sugar)

Bring the fruit/juice/calcium water to a BOIL. Pour the honey/pectin mix into the saucepan and stir while bringing the mix back to the boil. Pour cherry jam into heated jam jars, lid up, and stick into your boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes. Once the 10 minutes is up, take off the heat, remove lid from the canner, leave for 5 minutes, then place jars onto a cookie sheet to cool over night. Enjoy!

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Low added sugar blackberry jam

Posted on May 29, 2012 at 8:04 am

Having picked a lot of delicious blackberries at Holmestead Farm as part of my fun U-Pick experience, I set out to create some awesome low added sugar blackberry jam, using Pomona’s Universal Pectin.

Yield: about 5 cups (5 jelly jars)
Thoroughly rinse and pick through your blackberries

  • 4 cups blackberries
  • 1 cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons Pomona’s Pectin
  • 2 teaspoons calcium water
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice

1. Prepare jars by washing and rinsing. I leave the jars in the hot water bath canner while I bring it up to a boil.

2. Measure fruit into pan with lemon juice (you can use lime juice instead if you prefer).

3. Add calcium water into pan and stir well.

4. Measure room temperature honey into separate bowl. Thoroughly mix proper amount of pectin powder into honey (if you prefer to use sugar, you can use 3/4 to 2 cups of it instead of honey).

5. Bring fruit to boil. If you prefer a chunky texture just stir the fruit mix – if you want something a bit smoother, you can mash the fruit or even feed it through a food mill to remove seeds. If you want seedless, add an extra cup of fruit to correct for the loss of bulk in the milling process. Add pectin and honey mix and stir vigorously for 1-2 minutes while cooking to dissolve pectin. Return to boil and remove from heat.

6. Fill jars to 1/4″ of top. Wipe rims clean. Screw on 2-piece lids. Put filled jars in boiling water to cover. Boil 10 min. (add 1 min. more for every 1,000 ft. above sea level). Remove from water. Let jars cool. Check seals–lids should be sucked down. Lasts about a hypothetical 3 weeks once opened, but if you’re anything like me it’s doubtful the jar will last more than 3 days 😉

The most awesome part about the Pomona’s Pectin is that you can scale the recipes either way – you can double it or halve it without in any way affecting the quality of the finished product. You cannot do this with conventional pectin, hence my preference for Pomona’s.

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Reduced Sugar Strawberry Jam

Posted on April 21, 2012 at 7:57 pm

Pomona’s Pectin is an alternative to conventional pectin, which allows you to make jams with reduced, or no, sugar.

Due to the very mild winter we have had this year, strawberries have come into season early and very sweet. What else could I do apart from make some jam? And as I have Pomona’s Pectin, and some local honey, well… that’s pretty much a match made in heaven!

Prepare your boiling water bath canner along with 7 jam jars, lids, and rings.

  • 8 cups of crushed or sliced strawberries
  • 2 tsp calcium water
  • 1.5 cups of honey
  • 2 tsp Pomona’s Pectin
  • Put the strawberries and calcium water into a large cooking pot. Mix the pectin into the honey very thoroughly. Bring the strawberries and calcium water to a full boil, stir in the blended honey and pectin while returning the strawberries to a full boil. Once the jam has returned to a full boil, allow it to stand for a couple of minutes then stir thoroughly – this short rest should make sure that the fruit gets distributed evenly throughout the jam.

    This will make a jam that is semi-solid with a nice juicy texture. For a thicker jam, try a sliding scale of up to double the pectin and the calcium water. If you double the pectin and calcium the jam should set almost solid.

    Put the jam into the jars, boil for 10 minutes, allow to cool for at least 12 hours, label, and store in a cool, dark place. Jam!

    Check this ingredients list against commercially made jams. What do you notice? No preservatives, no High Fructose Corn Syrup, no artificial colouring. Just fruit, pectin, honey, calcium, and a little water. In other words… food.

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    Boiling Water Bath Canning – basic principles

    Posted on August 14, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    This article should serve as a handy reference point for anyone who is unsure how to can by using the Boiling Water Bath, or Hot Water Bath, method. You might want to have a read of my article on setup costs as well.

    The technique I am describing here is only for products that can be dealt with in a hot water bath process, or “high acid foods”. A few examples of high acid foods are jams, jellies, pickles, relishes, and chutneys. Foods such as vegetables, meat, fish, stocks and broths are “low acid foods” and need to be dealt with by pressure canning, which I will deal with in a separate article.

    First, you need a boiling water bath canner:

    canner with jars

    Canner and jars

    Next you need some jars. Exactly what size you use will vary depending on recipe. Jelly jars hold 1 cup(8 US fl oz)/250ml (centre of rack in picture above). Pint jars hold 2 cups/500ml (centre left and right of rack in picture above). Quart jars hold 4 cups/1 litre (back of the rack in picture above). I know that these are not exact conversions of US fl oz to ml, but the volume difference between the metric and American style jars doesn’t make any difference for our purposes – the recipes and the processing times are the same.

    Third, you need lids and bands. New jars come with lids and bands, but you should pick up extra lids when you can get them at a good price. The bands are reusable for many canning sessions – they only need to be discarded if they show signs of rust or corrosion.

    And finally, you need something to put in the jars – the “jar contents”.


    To start a boiling water bath session, first clean the jars you are going to use. Running them through the dishwasher works well; if you don’t have a dishwasher you can wash them in the sink. Once they have been cleaned, put them in the rack, place the rack in the canner, then fill the canner with hot water (from the tap is fine) until the jars are covered to about a finger width above the rims. Once the jars are covered with hot tap water, put the lid on the canner, put the canner on the hob, and set it to a medium-low temperature.

    This is all before you do anything to the “jar contents”. You are aiming to have the jars at a good hot temperature before filling them with the “jar contents” – too much of a temperature difference between the jar and the contents leads to thermal shock, also known as “glass shrapnel and incendiary contents spread across the kitchen”. Thermal shock is generally considered A Bad Thing(TM) and is definitely to be avoided.

    Once the “jar contents” are starting to cook, increase the heat under the canner with the aim of getting it to a full boil once the “jar contents” are ready. It’ll take you a little practice to know exactly when to turn the heat up, but don’t sweat it too much – you can keep the “jar contents” nicely hot for a few extra minutes if needed, and it doesn’t really matter if the empty jars are boiling for longer than needed.

    Give the lids a good clean with plenty of soap and hot tap water and then rinse thoroughly. I have seen many people saying to boil the lids and then keep them in the hot water straight after boiling, but according to the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving (which I cannot recommend strongly enough – it is absolutely essential for a home canner), all that is needed is to keep them to a simmer – 180F/82C.

    Once your lids and jars are ready, you can ladle in your jar contents (the pickles, jam, relish, etc.) and then seal the jars.

    Once each jar is filled to the appropriate level (usually within 1/4 to 1/2 inch of the top of the jar depending on the recipe) you should wipe off the rim of the jar to make sure that there is nothing on the rim to interfere with a proper seal. Use a paper towel sprayed with a 50/50 mix of white vinegar and water to wipe off the rim. Lift lids out one by one and place on the rim. Screw down the bands to “finger tight”: use your fingertips to screw the lid down until you can’t tighten it any more, but do not tighten the lid as tight as you possibly can. The purpose of this step is to secure the lid on, not to seal it completely – there needs to be a little looseness in the band to allow air to escape, but equally you don’t want water to get into the jar. The jar seal comes from the vacuum you will create in the water bath stage.

    Once your jars, lids, and “jar contents” are ready, it’s time to put them on the wire rack and lower them into the hot water, which should be at a boil at this stage. You want to see a stream of bubbles come up from the jars.

    Place the lid on the canner, and process for the amount of time specified in the recipe. Once the processing time is up, take the pot off the heat, take the lid off the canner (carefully! you don’t want to get caught by the steam!) and leave for 5 minutes before lifting the rack out of the hot water and hooking it over the edge of the canner. Use your jar lifter or tongs to take the jars out of the hot water to cool.

    The best way I have found to cool jars without having any danger of thermal shock (hot jars and cool countertops do not mix) is to use a cookie rack. This allows free air circulation around the jars without putting them onto any surface which could turn them into jam bombs.

    Leave the jars overnight; the next day you can take the screw bands off and test the seal.

    Testing the seal is easy. If you can lift the jar up by the lid, the seal is good. If you can’t, the seal is bad! If a jar didn’t seal properly, treat it as an eating jar and just finish the contents within a few days, or as normal (pickles last longer than jams when opened).

    You were waiting for me to say what the jar contents are? Well… that’s up to you. Go for it!

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    Pluot Jam

    Posted on August 7, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    I am in the lucky position where the farmer’s market comes to our office once a week. This is a great way to get people to eat more fruit and veg (put it right in front of them!) so I bought some pluots* and proceeded to make jam with them!

    4 pints of sorted, scrubbed, and chopped pluots – about 3lbs
    1/4 cup lemon juice – fresh squeezed or bottled
    1/2 cup Water
    5 cups white sugar
    1 packet pectin
    1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil (I use plain olive oil – not the extra virgin stuff)

    Put the chopped pluots in the pot with the water, lemon juice, pectin, and sugar. Heat gently while stirring vigorously to ensure the pectin is completely incorporated into the mix.

    Once the pectin is fully incorporated, apply medium-high heat while stirring frequently until the mixture comes to a full, rolling boil – a boil that cannot be stirred down. Keep boiling and stirring for at least 1 minute then take off the heat. If there is a lot of foam stir in the 1/2 teaspoon of vegetable oil and allow to rest for 5 minutes.

    Once the 5 minutes is up, stir the mixture, jar, lid, ring, and boiling water bath process for 10 minutes, Yield: 8 to 10 jelly jars (1/2 pint).

    * pluot: hybrid between a plum and an apricot

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    Blueberry fruit butter

    Posted on July 29, 2011 at 7:32 am

    Fruit butters are extremely easy to make in your slow cooker and you can use any fruit to make a butter. Use this recipe and technique to design your own – substitute your favourite fruit for blueberries.


    • Blueberries – 5 pints / 10 cups / 2.25 litres / about 3.5 lbs / about 1.75 kg, preferably fresh
    • Lemon juice – either fresh squeezed or bottled. 1/4 cup.
    • Water – 1/2 cup
    • Sugar – 5 cups
    • Seasoning – 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves

    Pick your blueberries or buy them from the store. It’s better to use freshly picked if you can. If using fresh, wash them thoroughly and pick through for mushy berries, twigs, bugs, and the other stuff you don’t want to be eating!

    Mash the blueberries as much as you care to – the mashing will affect the cooking time, which isn’t so much of an issue with this method, as well as the texture – I prefer it a little chunky, so I didn’t worry too much about getting the berries reduces to a paste. If you prefer smoother, you could process the berries in a mixer or food processor.

    Place the fruit, water, lemon juice, and sugar in your slow cooker. Put the lid on the cooker and prop it open slightly – you can use a spoon, pencil, or splatter guard, whichever you prefer, so long as one corner of the lid is open to allow water to evaporate. Put the cooker on the longest cooking setting and walk away. That’s right – just walk away!

    When the cooker stops cooking and switches to “keep warm”, give the fruit butter a stir and check for consistency. If the consistency is what you want, you’re done! If you want a thicker butter, hit the “cook low and slow” button again and walk away. The butter is ready when it’s how you want it to be, which is the beauty of making it yourself.

    If you want to put the butter up on the shelf, prepare your jars and lids and hot water bath process for 10 minutes (below 1000ft above sea level, check with USDA guidelines for extra processing time above 1000ft).

    Yield – between 2 and 4 cups, or between 4 and 8 jam jars, depending on how thick you like it. I doubled the recipe and cooked it quite thick which gave me a yield of 9 jam jars or 4.5 cups of fruit butter.

    You can use this same technique to turn any fruit into a butter. Enjoy!

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    Blueberry pie filling

    Posted on July 21, 2011 at 8:33 am

    Part 2 of my short series on blueberries – pie!

    7 cups blueberries, washed and sorted
    1 2/3 cups sugar
    2/3 cup ClearJel
    2tbsp lemon juice

    12 drops blue food colouring
    4 drops red food colouring
    1tsp grated lemon zest

    Prepare your jars and lids in the usual way.

    Half fill a large stainless steel pot with water and bring to a rolling boil. Add blueberries for 1 minute to blanch, drain, then return them to the pot. Cover the pot to keep them warm.

    Combine the sugar and ClearJel in a large stainless pot. Whisk in 2 cups / 500ml of water, add food colouring if using, then bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and boil gently while stirring until the mixture thickens and begins to bubble. Stir in lemon zest if using, add the lemon juice and cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and gently stir in the blueberries and any juice until they are well incorporated into the mixture.

    Ladle the pie filling into jars leaving 1 inch / 2.5cm head space. Remove any air bubbles, adjust head space if necessary by adding or removing filling. Wipe the rims of the jars with a paper towel that has been sprayed with white vinegar. Lid, band, and hot water bath process for 30 minutes. At the end of the 30 minutes turn off the heat, remove the lid of the boiling water bath canner and wait for 5 minutes before gently removing the jars to a cookie rack.

    Cool on a cookie rack overnight, remove the bands, label the jars, put them in your pantry, and enjoy blueberry pie!

    Yield: about 4 pint / 500ml jars.

    A note on ClearJel: it’s worth using it instead of any other option. Yes, it’s more expensive than, say, corn starch, but ClearJel is specifically formulated to work with pie fillings – repeated heating does not cause the ClearJel to break down into liquidy mush.

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    Blueberry Syrup

    Posted on July 19, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    Blueberries are in season just now, so get out there and pick some yourself!

    Once you have a ridiculous amount of blueberries, what can you do with them? Well, I am here to help with a short series, starting with blueberry syrup.

    Prepare your jars and lids by thorough washing with soap and hot water. I also boil the jars for 10 minutes which sterilises them.

    6.5 to 7 cups of fresh blueberries, washed and sorted
    4.5 to 7 cups of sugar OR 3 cups of natural frozen fruit juice
    2 tablespoons lemon juice, fresh or bottled

    Mash the blueberries with a hand held masher, food processor, hand blender, or whatever other method you want to use. The hand masher can be very cathartic if you need to work off some stress. Just saying.

    Add the lemon juice to the blueberry mush, bring it to a boil and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes – they should be nice and mushy. You now need to make a choice – bits, or no bits? If you want to have a completely smooth syrup with no bits in it, you’ll need to strain the mush with a jelly bag, cheese cloth, or whatever. If you are not bothered about bits, as I am not, you can just move on to the next step.

    Add all the sugar in one go. If you need to control added sweeteners, use the fruit juice concentrate instead of table sugar. I added 5 cups of sugar, and am extremely pleased with the result. Bring the blueberry mush and sugar to a boil for about a minute and keep an eye on the texture – you’ll want the syrup to still be a little liquid-y when you put them in the jars as they get some extra cooking time during the hot water processing. Over-cooking at this point could result in a blueberry candy rather than a pourable syrup!

    Fill your jars – either pint or half pints – lid, ring, and boiling water bath process for 10 to 15 minutes*. Remove the lid of your BWB processor, wait for 5 minutes, then lift the jars out of the BWB and place the jars on cookie sheets to cool overnight.

    Pour over pancakes or waffles and enjoy.

    *as usual this is the time for 1000 feet above sea level or less. If you are above 1000ft, please check with the USDA processing guidelines for how much extra time you need to add.

    Yield: with 5 cups of sugar I got 4 pint jars, or 8 jelly jars. With 7 cups you should get about 5 pints or 10 jelly jars.

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    Corn relish

    Posted on June 27, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    What do you do when your local grocery store is charging 15 cents an ear of corn? Well, if you’re like me, you roast some and use the rest to make corn relish!

    Yield: approximately 6 pint jars

    • 4 cups white vinegar
    • 1.25 cups white sugar
    • 2 tbsp salt
    • 8 cups corn kernels (fresh, frozen, or canned)
    • 4 cups diced seeded red & green bell peppers
    • 1.75 cups diced celery
    • 1 cup finely chopped onion
    • 2 tbsp mustard powder
    • 2 tsp celery seeds
    • 2 tsp ground turmeric
    • 0.25 cup water
    • 2 tbsp ClearJel(R) (if you have it)

    If you are working with fresh corn, blanch it for 5 minutes in boiling water then cool it in ice water. Shave the kernels off the ears about half way down the kernel, then use the back of the blade to scrape the rest of the kernel off. You will also release a lot of the corn “milk” which will add to the flavour of the relish.

    1. Prepare your hot water bath canner, jars, and lids.
    2. In a large stainless steel saucepan combine the vinegar, sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Slowly add the corn and veggies, stirring constantly while maintaining a boil. Stir in the celery seed, mustard, and turmeric. Mix the ClearJel(R) into a paste with the water and slowly stir into the veggie mix. Reduce the heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, until thick enough to mound on the back of a spoon.
    3. Ladle hot relish into jars, leaving 0.5 inch/1cm head space. Remove air bubbles and top up if necessary. Wipe rim, centre lid on jar, screw lid down to finger tight.
    4. Place jars in hot water bath canner, making sure they are completely covered in water. Bring to a boil and process for 15 minutes. Remove lid from canner and leave for 5 minutes. Remove jars from canner and cool overnight. Label, store, enjoy later!

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