Easy jam-making for dummies

Published on June 15 2009 - 8:36 AM
The idea of making jam used to freak me out a bit. (They didn’t exactly teach us how to make jam from scratch in culinary school.) A few years ago I decided it was time to overcome my fear. Luckily, my friend had already made a batch that summer, so I had someone to hold my hand through the process.

Get the recipe: Fresh Fruit Jam

It seems that I had nothing to be nervous about after all: it was way easier than I thought. And the jam was truly better than anything I had tasted.

Making homemade jam—or chutney or fruit butter—is a great way to preserve the best fruits of summer. You don’t need to go to culinary school either. Just follow these easy tips and you’ll never be afraid of jam making again.

  1. Pick Your Preserve. Try chutney, a spicy-sweet-sour condiment made with fresh and dried fruit, sugar, vinegar and chiles, alongside simple roasted meat or pan-seared tofu steaks. Fruit butter and jam are similar; both are sweetened fruit spreads, but instead of adding pectin to set the mixture as you do with a jam, with fruit butter you cook down the fruit mixture until it’s thick and sticky. Both are delicious when spread on whole-grain toast or stirred into plain yogurt.
  2. What Flavor? Some of our favorite chutney combos are nectarine and dried cherry; blueberry and dried apricot; cherry and golden raisin. If you’re making fruit butter, try blueberry with lime juice and zest; plum with orange juice and zest. Strawberry and peach jams were our staff favorites.
  3. Prep & Measure Your Fruit. Remove stems from berries and hull strawberries. Pit cherries and halve. Peel stone fruit, like peaches and nectarines, if desired, then pit and cut into 1/2-inch pieces.
  4. Get Cookin’! Follow these easy recipes for delicious preserves.
  5. Do the Can Can. You can safely store your preserves in the refrigerator or freezer. But for long-term storage, process your jars in a water bath. Our step-by-step tips will help you can safely.

A graduate of New England Culinary Institute and University of Wisconsin with a degree in journalism, Carolyn pairs her long-standing love for food with writing as EatingWell's senior food editor. Carolyn’s culinary interest is rooted in her childhood; she grew up making thousands of Christmas cookies every year with her mom and picking leaves off bunches of parsley to make tabbouleh with her dad. Away from the kitchen, Carolyn enjoys seeking out rare craft beers and exploring the outdoors with her husband, 2-year-old daughter and dog.