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