Making Jam: It’s Time


Today’s guest post comes from Jennie Burke. Jennie is a freelance writer, homemaker, wife and mother from Annapolis, MD. She’s interested in real food and its role in human development. She also runs a fund that supports low-income young adults facing cancer. She loves being with friends and family, travel, enjoying the outdoors and eating!

Knowing that Jennie is an avid canner and jam maker, I asked her to demystify the process.  While I’ve made jam myself, it took me years to get up the courage to actually do it.  It’s a lot easier than it looks.  I will never forget making jam for the first time with my mom.  She was so sick at the time yet she took pride and solace in our project.  I still have a jar of strawberry jam we made labeled from 1997.  I will never remove it from my freezer.

Here’s what Jennie has to say (take notes):

Let’s discuss the reasons why you are not making jam.

The other day, I spoke with a friend here in Annapolis, MD. He told me that he has owned his motorboat for 15 years, but that his wife (a highly-respected surgeon and also my friend) refuses to drive it.

“Why won’t she drive it?” I asked. “She cuts in to people for a living! Certainly she can drive the boat!”

“She always says ‘next time,’” he replied.

I have a feeling that’s what you’re thinking about jam. You’ve probably been intrigued to buy a flat of luscious berries at the farmer’s market, wondering if you could possibly make jam. And why can’t you? You too are highly successful!

flat of cherries

Certainly you have done many things in life that are harder than making jam: like experiencing childbirth, or being on the receiving end of being “dumped” as a teenager.

You can, and should, make jam.

Here is what you need:

1. Some fruit.

2. Some time.

3. A kitchen with a stove, a pan and a spoon.

4. Either a refrigerator or a freezer, if you don’t want to eat it right away.

5. If you want to really lean in, canning supplies.

I find it easiest to follow a recipe when making jam, if you have never made it before. There are so many books out there, but I really like the two book series by Marisa McClellan: “Food in Jars” and “Preserving by the Pint.” I also love “Canning for a New Generation” by Liana Krissoff.

If you are afraid of measuring pectins (jelling agents) and sugars in to your jam, you shouldn’t be. I don’t like commercial additives. The recipes that I follow derive their pectins from green apples, if they need additional jelling power. I also will use Pomona’s Pectin – a natural pectin widely available at Whole Foods Markets and on Amazon.

You can make two types of jam: freezer jam, which will keep…wait for it…in the freezer, or you can preserve your jam through traditional canning methods, like your grandma did.

You can purchase any canning set from Ball on Amazon. It comes with instructions on how to can. I suggest starting small, with half-pints of jam – before setting off on preserving steel vats of homemade tomato sauce.

I like traditional canning. It’s very Zen to me. I like to get my fruit and ingredients “mis en place” on a summer night, put on a little music, pour a little wine, and make a batch of jam. The process is very satisfying to me. I like the beautiful colors, flavors and textures of the summer fruit as it cooks. I love the satisfying suck-pop sound that a jar makes when it is pulled from a pot of boiling water, as the lid seals in to place. I enjoy the sight of the jewel-toned jars, lined up and glistening as they rest and cool.

I enjoy it all again, come fall, when we enjoy Maple Blueberry jam over a slab of buttered sourdough toast.

We enjoy it during the busy holiday season, when I set out a baguette, a runny brie, and a side of Raspberry jam.

Finally, when February’s polar vortex hisses upon us, we wile away the dark hours hunkering down over winter salads and a pork roast served with Spiced Plum jam.

Kids remember picking the berries. I remember the kiss of a humid summer night and wiping sticky hands on an apron skirt.

Friends are impressed that I “made that!” I revel in the wonder that sunshine, summer fruit, a little sugar and a glass jar can create. Before we know it, the seasons have come around again, and quick! It’s time to pick the cherries before they all fall off the tree! Double scoop of ice cream for any kid that helps pick!

You’ve done so many incredible, challenging, complex things in your life – you deserve the simplicity that comes with making jam. Decide if you want to make a simple batch of freezer jam – or if you are ready to give canning a try. Either way, you don’t have to wait until “next time” when you eye those beautiful berries at the farmer’s market.

Buy them now and give jam a try.

Here’s a great article from NPR on freezer jams that includes many recipes:

Maple Blueberry Preserves from Pomona’s Pectin:

Marisa McClellan’s Spiced Plum Jam:





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