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STEP-BY-STEP GUIDES

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How To Make Jam & Jelly

Creating delicious spreads is as simple as measuring accurately, cooking to the correct temperature and preserving using the boiling water method. The following guide will show you how to make jam or jelly without using a Ball Automatic Jam & Jelly maker. Additionally, the video tutorial will walk you through the creation of a mixed berry jam recipe.

Step 1: Start With A Reliable Recipe

A recipe needs to have more than good flavor to be considered appropriate for home canning. Factors like jar size, accurate measurements, and ingredients used, among other factors, are all part of the equation for creating safe, reliable canning recipes. Many recipes that are published today do not undergo the necessary evaluation to determine accurate processing temperature and time that will yield a shelf-stable home canned food. That is why it’s important to choose canning recipes from a reliable resource. Links to our expert-tested canning recipes are located below:

Tip: Our pectin calculator can help determine the proper amounts of pectin and sugar to make a wide variety of jams and jelly recipes.

Step 2: Pick The Fruit

This is no time to skimp on quality. Harvest or purchase only the best quality fruit when it is at its peak for flavor, texture, and color. Discard mushy, overripe, and diseased fruit. Prepare only the amount of fruit needed for the recipe you are able to complete at one time. Store remaining fruit where it will keep the freshest – for most fruit, that is the refrigerator; however some do just fine at room temperature.

Our Seed-to-Harvest guide will help you plan for finding the freshest fruit all year.

Step 3: Prep

Gather and setup all other necessary materials needed for creating and canning your jam or jelly recipe. 

Always wash fruits or vegetables under cold, running water rather than soaking them. This is especially important when cleaning fresh berries and delicate fruits that have a tendency to absorb moisture. Cut, crush, or juice produce exactly as stated in the recipe to help maintain the correct balance between ingredients. Measure the full amount of sugar listed in the recipe. If you wish to use less sugar, use a recipe specifically developed to get the taste you want. When using commercial juice from concentrate or a bottle, use only unsweetened, no calcium-added juice unless otherwise stated in the recipe.

Tip: Find low or no sugar jam and jelly recipes using our pectin calculator or in our recipe database by searching for “low sugar.”

Tip: Our canning kits have all of the essentials you will need for your first jam or jelly creation.

Step 4: Cooking

Follow the recipe’s specific instructions for cooking. Because you’re trying to develop a gel structure while cooking soft spreads, it’s important to maintain the balance between ingredients. Use a wide-diameter saucepan with a flat, heavy bottom that has tall sides to prevent boil-over during cooking. Giving the soft spread more surface area helps evaporate water so the fruit will gel. Do not double recipes: doubling could throw off the balance of ingredients and cause your spread to have a soft set or not gel. Prepare only a single batch at a time. Overcooking or undercooking will adversely affect the set. Recipes that use pectin are boiled for a specific time as stated in the recipe.

As you begin to cook, foam will form on top of soft spreads during cooking. To reduce foam, you can add an optional ½ teaspoon butter or margarine after removing the saucepan from the heat. Otherwise, use a spoon to skim the foam off the spread prior to filling your jars.

Tip: The Ball® Automatic Jam & Jelly maker is specifically designed to cook your soft spreads perfectly, every time.

Step 5: Fill

Once you have cooked your jam or jelly for the correct amount of time, ladle the hot spread into a pre-warmed jar, leaving ¼-inch headspace. Clean jar rim. Center lid on jar and adjust band to fingertip-tight. Place jar on the rack in simmering water in your boiling-water canner. Repeat until all the jars are filled.

Tip: Use only the jar size specified in your recipe. You can always use smaller jars, but it is never safe to use larger jars as this could affect processing temperature and time. For most jams and jellies, half-pint (8oz) or smaller jars are used.

Tip: For more detailed instructions on using a boiling-water canner, see our step-by-step water bath canning guide

Step 6: Processing

Ensure water covers jars by at least 1 inch. Place the lid on your canner, adjust heat, and bring water to a rolling boil. Process according to your recipe, only counting the time after the water is boiling. Turn off heat and remove lid. Let jars sit for 5 minutes, then remove from the canner and set on a towel. Do not retighten bands if they are loose. Cool jars 12-24 hours, then check the seals. Label and store your jars to enjoy all year.

Tip: If seedless jam is preferred, crushed berries may be heated until soft and pressed through a sieve or food mill; measure pulp and proceed with recipe.

For more information on how to make jelly or for help with troubleshooting view our preserving tools section or contact one of our canning experts.