One of the frugal things that I am learning to do is can my own food. Growing up, I remember my Mom canning and my Grandma’s did as well. Now, I live in an Amish area so I like to say that I have to keep up with my Amish neighbors by canning.
One of the first things I canned – last year and this – is blackberry jam. It is very simple to do! This year, since I already owned the jars and the blackberries were free, I spent under $5 (for sugar and pectin) to can 22 jars of jam.
Canning jam doesn’t require fancy equipment. You can actually make freezer jam that is also delicious. I canned my jam in a water bath canner so I can store it in my pantry. A water bath canner is simply a large pot in which you can cover your canning jars with boiling water. You can buy one of these canners yourself or use the largest pot you have in your kitchen.
Here are the steps to making your own blackberry jam.
First, gather your blackberries. If you have a friend who allows you to come pick 20 cups of blackberries, all the better! If you have a husband who is willing to keep the dogs away and pick said free blackberries with you in the rain, that (he!) is the best!
Once you get your blackberries home, deal with them as soon as possible. Wash your berries gently under cool water. Then, smush your blackberries with a potato masher. If you don’t have a potato masher (like me), simply use a sturdy metal spoon. It won’t take long and some chunks are actually good!
To make one batch of jam, you will need 5 cups of crushed berries. (That is about 3 pounds of berries or 8 cups of blackberries, if you were wondering.)
Set your blackberries aside now and prepare your jars. You can also do this first, if you like. Gather all your Ball canning jars and wash them in hot water. You can also sterilize them by washing them in your dishwasher.
You can buy Ball canning jars at your local grocery store or at Walmart. Ball jars can also be found at many garage sales. I tripled my jars this year as my Grandma and Mom gave me all their old jars.
Canning jars come in many sizes. Half pint jars are the perfect size for jam. I use pint jars for salsa and quart jars for applesauce. You can decide on the size of jars that you would like to use. Half pint or smaller are really the best size for jam.
Once you have washed your jars, spread them out so they are ready for use. Aren’t Ball jars so cute and country?
Once your jars are washed, you need to do three things.
First, fill your canner with hot water. Cover and bring to a simmer.
Second, you need to fill your jars with hot water to stay warm. This is very important because your jam will be warm when you fill your jars. If you put warm jam in a cold jar and submerge it in hot water, your jar will not seal properly and could very well crack.
You could fill them with boiling water from a teapot on the stove. I improvise. I turn my tap water as hot as it can go. It is almost boiling at this point. Then, I fill my jars with this scalding water and carefully balance all the filled jars in my dish rack. It works! See?
The third thing you need to do is boil your lids and jar bands. Simply drop them all in a pan full of water and boil them on the stove.
Now, it’s time to go back to your berries. Carefully dump your smushed berries and juice into a large pan on the stove. Stir in 1 package (1.75 ounce) package of fruit pectin. This helps it maintain the sweet, fresh flavor of your fruit. Next, stir in seven cups of sugar. Yes, seven is correct. I know it’s a lot but your jam will be delicious!
Stir the mixture over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.
Once the jam has simmered for the full 20 minutes, it is time to pour your jam into jars.
The best thing I did this year was to purchase a $2 canning funnel. It fits perfectly into all sizes of canning jars and makes filling my jars a breeze! Last year, I spilled everywhere. Thanks to this funnel, my canning is much neater now.
Dump the hot water out of your clean canning jars. Place the funnel in the jar and fill it with blackberry jam.
Fill your jam carefully leaving 1/4 inch headway. Hint: This is marked by the top line where your lid screws on. I tend to leave closer to one inch, right where the curves begin.
Once the jar is filled, remove the funnel. Using a damp paper towel, wipe the inside and outside lip of your jar. Remove a lid and ring from the hot water. If you have a magnetic lid wand, you won’t burn your fingers! This is another great canning invention. Place the lid on top of your jar and screw the ring on tightly. Carefully place your jar into your hot water bath canner.
Repeat the process until all your jars and / or your canner is filled.
If you are using a water bath canner, you will have a wire rack that you can lower your jars into the warm water. Add boiling water to your canner until there is 1 to 2 inches of water above the lids of the jars.
Cover the canner and heat water until boiling. Boil for 15 minutes.
Turn off the burner heat. Remove lid and allow jars to cool in the canner. After 5 minutes, carefully remove the jars and place on a towel to cool. You will probably hear a popping sound as the lids seal. That is normal and a good sign that you have canned correctly.
Leave your jars to cool for 24 hours. Do not disturb them. I know it’s hard to be patient, but you need to be! At the end of 24 hours, press down lightly in the center of each lid. If if does not give, your jar has sealed properly. Tighten the bands on your jar and label your jam.
You did it! You’ve now canned blackberry jam!
The final step is to open a jar of this delicious, homemade, frugal goodness and savor the taste on warm bread. Bonus points if your bread is homemade!
Canning really is simple, frugal and fun. Have you canned anything recently?
For further instructions on canning, I highly recommend the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving.