NDSU Extension - Sargent County


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Jam and Jelly Making Season

Jam and Jelly Making Season


Making homemade jams and jellies is a science.  And would you ever have guessed that science could be so sweet?

Proper texture in jelled fruit products requires the correct combination and proportions of

  • Fruit
  • Pectin
  • Acid
  • Sugar

Accurate measuring of ingredients is one key to success, and safety is assured when proper processing methods and times are followed.

The amount of natural pectin in apples, crab apples, gooseberries and some plums and grapes is usually enough to form a gel. However, other fruits, such as strawberries, cherries and blueberries, contain little pectin and must be combined with other fruits high in pectin or with commercial pectin products to obtain gels.

Fully ripened fruit has less pectin than under-ripe fruit.  For that reason, one-fourth of the fruit used in making jellies without added pectin should be under-ripe.

The proper level of acidity is also critical to gel formation. If you use too little acid, the gel will not set. But if you use too much acid, the gel will lose liquid.  This is referred to as “weeping.”  For fruits low in acid, add lemon juice or other acidic ingredients as directed. Commercial pectin products contain acids that help ensure gelling.

Cane and beet sugar are the usual sources of sugar for jelly or jam. Corn syrup and honey may be used to replace part of the sugar in recipes, but too much will mask the fruit flavor and alter the gel structure. Use only tested recipes from reliable, research-based sources for replacing sugar with honey or corn syrup.

Do not reduce the amount of sugar in traditional recipes. Too little sugar prevents gelling and may allow yeasts and molds to grow.

A few last words to help you avoid problems in making jam, jellies and fruit spreads:

  • Paraffin or wax seals are no longer recommended for any sweet spreads.
  • All sweet spreads that will be stored at room temperature should be processed.
  • The use of sterile jars and an altitude-based process time is preferred.  Sargent County is in the 1,001-2,000 feet altitude zone.
  • Make one batch at a time. Increasing the quantities often results in soft gels.
  • Use the jar size specified in the recipe. Use of larger jars may result in excessively soft products.

A quick video demonstrating how to make strawberry jam is available from NDSU Extension online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=3&v=dvBIysZ64uo&feature=emb_title.  Additional information about making jams, jellies, canned fruits, and fruit pie fillings, is available online at https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/food/food-preservation/canning.  

Photo Source: https://pixabay.com/photos/jam-color-toast-butter-breakfast-1887246/ (downloaded 07/08/20)

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