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How to Make Your Own Homemade Jam or Jelly
One of the best ways to save money is to cook from scratch as much as possible. Many people consider cooking from scratch to be when you cook dinner yourself, as opposed to eating out. I consider it to be when you use no prepackaged items in your meal. Store bought jam and jelly would be considered prepackaged to me, because someone else made it and it is ready to use right out of the jar. Making your own jam and/or jelly is a good way to save money and is surprisingly easy to do.
There are a couple of different types of jam you can make yourself. Freezer jam is incredibly easy! The problem I have with freezer jam is that it doesn't make very much (2-3 pints I believe) and it needs to be used within a month or two. Basically you buy a box of pectin that is specific for freezer jam and combine it with your crushed fruit and sugar. Many recipes don't even require cooking the fruit. Once the ingredients are mixed together you let it set out for a specified time until the jam is set and then you freeze. This recipe does not require much hands on work, uses few ingredients and tastes great. For the price of one small jar of jam at the store you can have three jars of your own homemade jam - with no additives and preservatives.
Cooked jams and jellies are a bit more work, but to me they are well worth it. Again the key ingredient to getting your fruit to the consistency of jam or jelly is the pectin. Sure Jell is the brand I usually use, just make sure you get pectin for jams and jellies. You can find pectin by the canning supplies at your grocery store or Wal-mart. Other ingredients you need are fruit, sugar and sometimes lemon juice. You will also need canning jars for this type of jam. All recipes and instructions are in the box of pectin and very easy to follow. The most important thing I have found is to measure your ingredients exactly and to follow the instructions carefully.
Once you have your sugar measured out and your fruit chopped up you are ready to start making jam. Make sure that your jars, rings and lids are all boiled and sterile. Combine the fruit and pectin in a large pot on the stove and heat to a rolling boil. Once it boils add the sugar and stir constantly until it comes back to a rolling boil. Keep at a rolling boil for one minute, stirring the whole time. When the minute is up, remove from heat and fill your jars. Once the jars are filled up to 1/4 of an inch from the top wipe around the rim and place the lid and ring on, closing firmly, but not overly tight.
Once all rings and lids are secured flip the jars over and set your timer for 5 minutes. When the timer goes off flip them back upright and wait to hear the pops. The pops you hear are the lids sealing the jam jars airtight. This is called the inversion method of canning and it works great for jams and jellies. Allow the jars to cool overnight, spaced a couple inches apart to allow cooling. In the morning wipe down the jars, remove the rings only, check to make sure you have a good seal and store in a cool dark place. Jam stored like this can last a year or more.
Making your own jellies requires a couple of extra steps. Depending on what type of jelly you are making there are different instructions on how to prepare the fruit. Follow them carefully. Once the fruit is prepared you need to strain the juice through 3 layers of damp cheesecloth. Once you get the correct amount of juice that you need from the fruit you should follow the rest of the instructions for the jam making. Again all the recipes of exactly what you need and instructions are in the box of pectin. It is actually very easy to make.
Making your own jams and jellies does require a good bit of sugar, so if you have problems with that much sugar purchase the pectin that requires less sugar or even no sugar. It is pretty easy to accommodate for this by purchasing the correct pectin. You can not reduce the amount of sugar when using regular fruit pectin. Also there are many more recipeson the internet that you could try as well. I just have found it easiest to begin with the ones in the Sure Jell box.
I have found making my own jams and jellies to be a great way of cooking from scratch. I know exactly what is going into the jam I make, I enjoy spending the time in the kitchen making it myself and best of all - it saves money and tastes great. Try it!