Tag Archive for jelly

Jams & Jelly – The 4 Things That Make Them

Homemade jams, jellies, preserves and other jellied fruit products are some of the easiest and most rewarding foods for the beginning home canner. They’re lots of fun for the seasoned canner as well.
Homemade jellies, jams, semi-soft spreads and fruit butters add a special touch to any meal and make an appreciated gift. There are many different types of pretty jars, glasses and decorative lids available for jams & jellies.

Often jelly glasses or jars can be found in thrift stores or at yard sales. Every year I make different types of jelly and jams to give away as hostess gifts or as last-minute Christmas presents.
Basically there is very little difference between the various types of jellied fruit products. They are all made with fruit and sugar and are jellied to differing degrees and consistency.

Peach Jam

Jars Of Peach Jam

There are however four essential ingredients that are necessary to the production of all homemade jellied fruit products.

  • Fruit
  • Pectin
  • Acid
  • Sugar

Fruit gives jellies, jams, butters and preserves its wonderful flavor and beautiful color. Only the very best, top quality and just barely ripe fruit should be used. Fruit furnishes part of the acid and pectin needed for a successful gel.
Sugar is an important ingredient in all homemade jellied food products. Sugar contributes to the gel formation in jellies and also serves as a preserving agent.
However there are recipes for jams, jellies, fruit butters and preserves that use other types of sweeteners – honey, fruit juice, corn syrup, maple sugar and Splenda.
It is my opinion that the very best product is achieved by using only 100% pure cane sugar.

Pectin is a naturally occurring substance and is the agent that causes jelly to gel. Most modern jelly, jam and preserve recipes call for the addition of pectin.
Pectin is sold in grocery stores and bulk food stores. There are 2 types of pectin – powdered and liquid and they ARE NOT interchangeable in recipes.
Fruit that is slightly under ripe contains considerably more naturally occurring pectin than over ripe or mature fruit. The use of over ripe or mature fruit will result in a runny product. This is especially true of jellies.
In certain types of fruit (apples and citrus) there is enough naturally occurring pectin to make a very nice jellied food product without the addition of pectin. Many older marmalade and apple jelly recipes do not use pectin.
Acids help to add to the flavor of jellied fruit products and helps with the gel formation. Like pectin, acid is naturally occurring in fruit and tends to be higher in just barely ripe fruit and in certain types of fruits. Some fruits have very little naturally occurring acid and need to have acid added to them to make a dependable jellied product. Fresh lemon juice is the most widely used acid in recipes for semi-soft spread and jellies.


Strawberries For Jam

How To Use A Steam Juicer

I have found that the easiest way to make juice for drinking or for jelly is with a steam juicer.
The first time I used one was when my neighbor offered me the use of his. After using it just one time I knew there was no going back to the old way of making juice.

A stream juicer is very low tech kitchen equipment.  It is simply a 4 piece pot.
The parts of the pots are:
A capped tube with a clamp. The clamp prevents the juice from flowing while it’s being extracted. The tube will begin to fill with hot juice as soon as the collection pan is filled 1″.

Steam Juicer Tube Clamp

The Clamp On The Tube Prevents Hot Juice From Flowing

There is a collection pan. Notice the little hole on the inside of the pan at about the “10 o’clock” position. That’s where the juice comes out and flows into the tube.

Collection Pan

The Juice Collection Pan

There is a colander basket which holds the fruit.

 Ready To Steam Juice

Grapes Ready To Steam Juice

Then there’s a lower pan for boiling water. The boiling makes the steam.

Lower Water Pan

Lower Water Pan of the Steam Juicer

And then there’s a lid. The whole rig looks a little like a whiskey still to me when it is assembled.

Steam Juicer In Kitchen

Steam Juicer Set Up In The Kitchen

The way that the steam juicer works is that the boiling water in the lower pan produces steam. That seam is driven into the fruit held in the colander basket located directly above to soften it. The juice then trickles down into a collection pan and is siphoned off into hot jars or pitcher via the tube.
I have found that jelly made from the juice is especially clear and sparkles. It works great for soft fruits like elderberries, strawberries, cranberries, raspberries and black berries. I’m sure other types of soft fruit will work but I have no direct experience using them.


  • Fill the bottom part of the steam pan with water to about 1″ from the top. Be careful  about over filling. Because if you overfill sometimes the water will spit out of the bottom pan during a rapid boil.
  • Next place collection pan on top of the water pan.
  • Then place colander basket with fruit on top of the collection pan.
  • And lastly place the cover on the pan and turn on the heat to high.

It will take about 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours to steam all of the juice out of most fruit.  I’ve found that cranberries are very stingy about releasing their juice.
It is very important that the water does not boil dry in the lower pan. I try to check the lower pan every 30 minutes or so.
Take care to keep the siphon tube in a jar or container while the juice is being distilled. That’s because sometimes hot juice will trickle out if the tube hangs alongside the stove even with the clamp shut and the cap on. The juice that is collected is concentrated and can be canned immediately and processed by the water bath canning method.

 Juice Flows

Releasing the Clamp So That Juice Flows

I add about 1 cup of white sugar to every quart of juice. You can adjust the sweetness to your own tastes. It is really nice not to have to drink juice that is sweetened with corn syrup.
When I reconstitute the juice I add 1 quart of water to 1 quart of juice.
Chill and serve.