Tips for making successful homemade jams and jellies
Making jellied products is not difficult, but it is important to follow reliable, tested recipes as well as the following guidelines.
Choose ripe fruit that is free of bruises or mold
- Using fresh fruit at room temperature helps dissolve the sugar
- Wash berries thoroughly — do not allow them to soak which reduces nutritional value and contributes to a soft product
Do not reduce the amount of sugar
- The proper proportion of sugar, fruit and pectin is important to get a good jellied product
- Sugar contributes flavor, but is also a preservative which helps prevent the growth of microorganisms
- Granulated white sugar is usually used — other sweetener flavors can overpower the fruit's natural flavor and sweetness
USDA and the University of Minnesota Extension recommend boiling water canning process for all cooked jam and jelly products to prevent mold growth*
Boiling Water Process: Water boils at 212 degrees F. at sea level. For every 550 feet above sea level, water boils 1 degree lower. To compensate, add 1 minute of processing time for each 1000 feet of additional altitude. The mean elevation in Minnesota is 1,200 feet above sea level. Find your elevation at: http://veloroutes.org/elevation/.
In addition to elevation, jar size matters. Use the chart below to determine the required processing time for jelled products you preserve.
|Jar size||Elevation||Processing time|
|Half or quarter pints||0-1000 feet||5 minutes|
|Half or quarter pints||1001-2000 feet||6 minutes|
|Half or quarter pints||2001-3000 feet||7 minutes|
|Pints||0-1000 feet||10 minutes|
|Pints||1001-2000 feet||11 minutes|
|Pints||2001-3000 feet||12 minutes|
Store uncooked freezer jams in clean (washed in hot, soapy water and rinsed) jars or plastic freezer containers with tight-fitting lids to prevent loss of quality
- Leave one half-inch of space at the top for expansion during freezing
- Frozen jellied products should last up to one year, in the refrigerator they should last up to one month
Freezing fruit to make jam or jelly later:
- If freezing large pieces or whole fruit:
- Measure the amount of fruit carefully before freezing and record
- If using powdered pectin when making the jam, do not add sugar before freezing
- If using liquid pectin, combine the measured amount of sugar and fruit together before freezing
- Freezing juice for making jelly
- Boil the fruit to extract the juice
- Pour cooled, strained juice into freezer containers
- When making the jam or jelly
- Thaw the fruit in the refrigerator until only a few ice crystals remain
- Follow the remaining cooking and processing steps
last up to one year, in the refrigerator
they should last up to one month.
Homemade jams and jellies should keep their quality and flavor for up to one year if stored in a cool, dark, dry place. If the jar seal remains unbroken and the product shows no visible signs of spoilage from molds or yeast, the jellied product should be safe to eat
*Some sealing methods recommend turning the closed jars of hot jam or jelly upside down (inverting the jars) for 30 seconds to one hour. The vacuum seal of jars filled using his method tends to be weaker than those produced by the boiling water canning process. A weak seal is likely to fail during storage and allow for mold growth.
Processing Jams & Jellies, Cooperative Extension, The University of Georgia
Complete Guide to Home Canning, Agriculture Information Bulletin No. 539, USDA (Revised 2009)
Harrison, J., Andress, E. Persevering Food: Jams and Jellies. (2013). University of Georgia. The Geography of Minnesota, Persevering Food: Jams and Jellies.