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Prairie Fare: Preserving Fruit and Memories

Some foods bring us comfort and stir vivid memories.

By Julie Garden Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist
NDSU Extension Service

One of my daughter’s favorite children’s books features Francis, a finicky little badger who prefers bread and jam over most foods. Her parents offer eggs and all sorts of foods to entice her, but Francis only wants bread and jam for most of the book.

Most of us can relate to this imaginary character. We like certain foods more than others and we may even get on an occasional “food jag,” where we eat a fairly monotonous diet. Most often, people are “repeat customers” for foods because they like the taste of the food.

Food is more than flavor, though. It has many meanings. Some foods bring us comfort and stir vivid memories. You might remember grandma or mom opening a jar of homemade jelly or jam to serve with homemade bread fresh out of the oven. Maybe you can almost smell the aroma of the bread and taste the sweetness of the jam.

We’re all born with a natural preference for sweet foods. It’s no wonder that fruit spreads are a big seller in the U.S. On average, each person in the U.S. eats about 4.4 pounds of fruit spreads yearly. That adds up to more than a billion pounds of sweetened spreads produced commercially every year, according to the Jelly and Preserve Association.

In recent years, many people have renewed their interest in home food preservation. Salsas, jams and jellies are some of the popular items that people preserve at home. Jams and jellies are a good starting point if you want to explore food preservation.

Let’s start with some terminology. Jams and jellies are not the same, nor are marmalades and preserves. Jellies are thickened, sweetened fruit juices without chunks of fruit. Jams are thick spreads that contain some crushed or chopped fruit. Marmalades are somewhat of a combination of jellies and jams, with uniform-size pieces of fruit or fruit peel evenly suspended in a transparent jelly. Preserves are small chunks of fruit in slightly gelled syrup.

Making jams and jellies doesn’t require a lot of equipment or ingredients and there are many research-tested recipes available to get you started. A note of caution: Great- grandma’s method of using paraffin wax to seal jelly jars is no longer recommended. As a safety and quality precaution, jams and jellies should be heat-treated in a boiling water bath canner for five to 10 minutes, too.

To make jelly, you will need fruit, sugar and sometimes pectin, depending on the fruit. Pectin is a carbohydrate naturally present in many fruits and acts as a gelling agent in jellies and jams. In general, the riper the fruit, the less pectin it contains. Commercial pectin is available in stores in dry and syrup forms. Sometimes the jelly requires an added acid, such as lemon juice, for gelling to occur.

As a rule of thumb, use a mixture of about three-quarters ripe and one-quarter underripe fruit when making jelly without added pectin. If the jelly recipe calls for a particular type of pectin, use the kind that’s recommended or you may end up with pancake syrup.

If you have a lot of apples this year, consider making some into jelly. This recipe is from one of our food preservation publications, “Jams and Jellies from North Dakota Fruits.” Other recipes in the publication include wild plum jam, chokecherry jelly, gooseberry jam and wild grape jelly. It’s online at (click on “food preservation” and then “jams and jellies”).

Apple or Crab apple Jelly

4 c. crab apple juice (about 3 pounds crab apples and 3 cups water)
4 c. sugar

To prepare juice, select firm, crisp crab apples, about one-quarter firm to ripe and three-quarters fully ripe. Sort, wash and remove stem and blossom ends, but do not pare or core. Cut crabapples into small pieces. Add water, cover and bring to boil on high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes or until crab apples are soft. Extract juice and pour into jelly bag (available where canning supplies are sold). To make jelly, sterilize canning jars and measure juice into saucepot. Add sugar and stir well. Boil over high heat to 8 degrees above the boiling point of water (approximately 220 degrees, depending on where you live) or until jelly mixture sheets from spoon. Remove from heat and quickly skim off foam. Pour jelly immediately into hot canning jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe jar rims and adjust lids. Adjust lids and process in a boiling water bath canner for five minutes for pints at altitudes from 0 to 1,000 feet or for 10 minutes from 1,001 to 6,000 feet. Yields four to five half-pints.

One tablespoon of jelly has about 50 calories, 13 grams of carbohydrate and no fat.


NDSU Agriculture Communication

:Source: Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187,
:Editor: Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136,

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