Making jam and jelly

I spent a lot of time this summer making apricot preserves, strawberry jam, plum jam and grape jelly.  Every time I finish a batch of one fruit, I say to myself, apricot (or any other fruit) is my favorite!  They're all my favorite.  :-)

Apricot preserves are easy because I don't go through the trouble of chopping the fruit.  Just cut them in half to remove the pit and cook the halves down.  I personally like chunks of fruit in my jam.  If you like a smoother jam, this method probably isn't the best one to try.

We have an apricot tree in the front yard that produces the smallest, sweetest fruit.  It always comes on about three weeks earlier than others trees in the area.  Maybe its a micro-climate in our yard, or just a different variety.  Either way, we get a bumper crop each year.  I was able to make 27 pints of preserves off this tree.  I like apricot because its not only heavenly with peanut butter, but its wonderful to cook with.  I like to call it my secret ingredient in a lot of pork and BBQ dishes.

Apricot Preserves
(This is half a recipe - if you double it, use a LARGE pot)

5 cups apricot halves
4 cups sugar
1/8 cup lemon juice
1/2 package pectin

Combine apricots, lemon juice and sugar.  Cover and let stand for four or five hours (overnight works too).  Place in a pot, add pectin and bring to a boil.  Bring it to a full rolling boil and stir constantly for four minutes.  Remove from heat and pour into sterilized jars.  Process 15 minutes in a water bath canner.  Makes about 4 half-pints.


My next batch was strawberry jam.  Costco was selling huge flats of strawberries this summer that we couldn't get enough of.  We would eat them whole as snacks while we watched TV.  Eventually, the strawberries we brought home would be a little long in the tooth so we decided to make jam.  I picked up a two more flats and went to work.

Strawberry Jam

2 quarts strawberry chunks (8 cups)
1 package pectin
1/4 cups lemon juice
1/4 cup water
6 1/2 cups sugar

Combine all ingredients except sugar in a large sauce pot and mix well.  Bring to a rolling boil and add sugar.  Return to a full rolling boil and boil hard for one minute, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat and pour into sterilized jars.  Process 15 minutes in a water bath canner.  Makes about 7 half-pints.


Gary's brother and his wife have a nice plum tree that they asked us to pick while they were out of town.  There were so many we couldn't eat them all soooo we made jam.  These I chopped up in the foot processor because I like plum jam less chunky.

Plum Jam

9 cups chopped plums
9 cups sugar
1 1/2 T lemon juice
2 packages pectin

Combine all ingredients except sugar in a large sauce pot and mix well.  Bring to a rolling boil and add sugar.  Return to a full rolling boil and boil hard for one minute, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat and pour into sterilized jars.  Process 15 minutes in a water bath canner.  Makes about 9 half-pints.


We have concord grapes growing in our back yard.  We also have another variety growing near it but I couldn't for the life of me tell you what it is.  I like to call it a red flame, but I highly doubt that's what it is.  It has tight clusters of small blushing grapes that are full of seeds, but they're so sweet.  I pick both varieties and throw them in our steamer juicer at the same time.

A steamer juicer is a fabulous device that takes all the work out of juicing grapes.  Just wash and stem the grapes, throw them in and a few hours later you've got juice, along with a mash of skins and seeds that are great for composting.


Last year, my mother-in-law gave us a bag of elderberries from their cabin in Pine Valley.  Since we were on our way out of town, I threw them in the freezer along with the juice from last year's crop.  I decided to thaw them out when we returned and make jelly.  

So this year, I pulled out the frozen juice and elderberries (see how long it took me...)  The juice I let thaw, while the elderberries went into the steamer with the grapes from this year.  I actually made two different batches of grape jelly.  This year was Elderberry-Grape, and the juice from last year was just Grape.  I thought it would take me forever, but it went by pretty quickly.  (I sort of cheated - see my note below).  

Grape Jelly
(Elderberry-Grape is the same, just measure the finished juice)

5 cups juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 package pectin
7 cups sugar

Combine all the ingredients except the sugar.  A whisk helps mix in the pectin completely.  Bring to a full boil and add the sugar.  Return to a full rolling boil and boil hard for one minutes.  Pour into sterilized jars and process 15 minutes in a water bath canner.

*Instead of making one batch and canning it before I moved onto the next batch, I made the all the jelly and poured it into the jars before processing any of them.  I added about 10 minutes to the jars to compensate for the heat that was lost while they sat.  I'm sure there are people who will say YOU CAN'T DO THAT!!!  I'd say back to them, I can if I want.  I also use a steam canner instead of a water bath canner to which they will say YOU SHOULDN'T USE THAT!!!  I'd say back to them, I've done it this way for almost 20 years and my jam is wonderful.  If you decide to use a steam canner, make sure you double the time for the water bath canner.







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