January 30, 2015

January Jam & Jelly Making

Of Dan's and my various uses of electricity, I have to say that probably the most useful ones are the refrigerator and freezer, followed by the computer. (Power tools for building and repair would be next). I do a lot of jelly and jam making throughout the summer, but being able to freeze various fruits to make jam and jelly in January and February is a blessing indeed. This works particularly well with things that I have to harvest over a period of time, such as elderberries. Over the summer I was able to pick and freeze four gallons of them. Once the holidays were behind us, there was finally time to make that jelly.

Elderberries cooked down and crushed for the juice. 

While the juice was cooking out of the elderberries I pulled out a gallon of frozen strawberries and a gallon of frozen figs.

A combination of strawberries and figs from last summer's bounty.

These I cooked together to make strawberry - fig jam. Dan loves his strawberry jam but I never seem to be able to make enough. I thought I'd try the two fruits together to see what he thought.

I ended up with enough elderberry juice for a canner load of half-pint jars of jelly, and enough strawberries and figs for a canner load of pints of jam.

Elderberry jelly and strawberry-fig jam

Does anyone else squeeze out the juice when making jelly? I read somewhere we aren't supposed to do that because it makes the jelly cloudy. I do it anyway because I can't stand to leave any juice in the pulp. I want it all for jelly!

The other thing we aren't supposed to do is blend fruits for jam in the blender. I think the idea is to have chunks of fruit mixed in. I don't care about that either, because my fruit bits always end up at the top of the jar. I like them evenly dispersed. I suppose my jam is more of a jellied fruit puree.

The last one to make is my annual mixed fruit jelly.

Sand cherries and blackberries. Boy, is it red!

It's last because if there's any elderberry juice left, I'll add that to the mix. This year I had a couple handfuls of sand cherries and a handful of wild blackberries. Today I'll strain and measure it. If I need more juice I'll cook down some frozen blueberries too.

I think this year's batch of elder jelly was better than last year. I think that's because last year I got a fair but not abundant harvest. The competition with the birds is pretty stiff so I tended to pick them while a lot were still green. This year was more bountiful and there was plenty for everybody. Next year should be even better.

So that's how I spent the last several cold, damp days. How are you faring these last days of January?


Farmer Barb said...

We are still covered in snow up here. We are getting snow right now, but only about an inch or so. I have been having photo opportunities with the herd because they look so nice against all the white. Inside, I have decided to begin culling my crafting accumulation. It is a painful truth, but I think I have more time than I have. I couldn't live long enough to do everything. I am promising to get all my belongings down to the drawers. The extra plastic boxes around the room are going to be emptied. I have until tomorrow to finish. Donation time!

Unknown said...

Leigh, can you tell me what steps you use to make your jams? I am just learning how to can and would love to know how to make some strawberry jam.

Quinn said...

Your kitchen must smell fabulous!

Woolly Bits said...

I was on the "jam" trip too, but I made lemon curd:) I am the only one, who likes that here, so it's only 2 jars full (doesn't keep long!), but it's so much better than shop bought that it's worth the work! and I don't have to press out the juice, because I use a steam juicer for jelly-making. I blend stuff up as well, because I don't like big chunks either, but I tend to make jelly with those berries that have hard seeds, raspberries, blackberries (I could probably make a ton of jelly most years:) and elder. oh, sloe juice, mixed half and half with pears is lovely too. takes away the tartness of the sloes, but I suppose they would need cooler weather than your climate provides?
enjoy the time to make jelly in peace - soon all the spring jobs will start again:)
ps. I don't think I could produce enough strawberry jam, if I planted my entire garden with them:)

Frank and Fern said...

We've been having temperatures in the 70's with wonderful sunshine, Leigh. That means we've been outside planting blackberries and putting up shelving in one of the storage buildings. It was great until the cold north wind showed up again yesterday. The good thing is, it won't last long and we'll be outside again. Just think spring. It won't be long now.


Leigh said...

Barb, I wondered about you and all that snow they were predicting. Glad it wasn't terribly bad. Good for that indoor to-do list, LOL

Vickie, you will have so much fun making jams and jellies. I use packaged pectin and simply follow the directions that come with it. That's usually best in terms of amounts of fruit and pectin. I think these are pretty much the same for most brands, but there may be variations so I highly recommend buying what's locally available and going that route to begin.

Quinn, does it ever!

Bettina, I thought about lemon curd as I've eyed the remaining half dozen lemons on my Meyers tree. I don't know of anyone over here who mentions sloe juice so I had to look it up. It appears it is native in eastern North America, so I'll have to look into it. Have to love all those exotic jams and jellies!

Fern, lucky you! We're barely making the low 50s these days and the wind is very cold. It's sunny today so I'm hoping for some good outdoor time this afternoon. :)

Sandra said...

Your jam/jelly looks delicious!

Amanda said...

All that straining and chopping - I don't care what it looks like as long as it's yummy! I know home canners who every jar looks like a blue ribbon-winner in the county fair. I am not one of them. Vickie, there are a bunch of books about home canning, but the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving (just looked it up on amazon) is one of the best. There are over 400 recipes, but the best part are the clear instructions. Great book if you're just starting out. Mine's a beat-up mess, what higher praise can I give?

Meredith said...

I love canning in the winter! I've been pulling out frozen tomatoes and canning pizza and tomato sauce this week. Your jam & jelly sounds delicious (and I definitely squeeze out the last bit of juice, too).

Renee Nefe said...

I wish I could be canning...instead I'm at the sewing machine (or the computer ;) )
I still have two pinafores to make for Secret Garden before we are "done" and this weekend is Super Saturday...Tech week starts on Monday and we open on Thursday night.

Ed said...

I love jam on homemade biscuits and have fond memories of making strawberry and cherry jelly with my mom. Those were the only two we could raise enough of to make it worthwhile.

These days, I don't have enough fruit of any kind, at least until the trees I planted mature in a half dozen years, to make jam. Fortunately, farmers markets are plentiful and there is always someone there selling jams. I love being able to try something different. One of my new favorites for cheese and crackers is pepper jam! Who'd-a-thunkit?

Karen@ onthebanksofsaltcreek.com said...

I've been looking at what to can this next summer. Once the seeds for the garden arrive my focus shifts to storing food up for the winter.....even though it is winter now :-)
My frozen fruit is saved for desserts. Apple crisp, berry galettes ,hand pies etc. I think my guys would revolt if I used them to make jam now. However, if there are any left when the berries start to bloom then they will become jam.

Sandy Livesay said...


I like your idea of blending the berries when making your jam/jelly. My strawberry jam had all the little pieces at the top, next time I'll make sure to blend it first before canning, thanks for the idea :-)

The weather here has been a bit warm, we've been doing cleanup outside on the property and preparing to expand our vegetable garden.

Temperatures are changing again, time for cooler weather.

Nina said...

I squeeze my jelly bags to extract all the juice too. There is a fair bit of juice that would go to waste otherwise. As my son said, I was probably the only one who would notice the difference in clarity. Still very cold and snowy here. I have a kilo of red currants in the freezer though, waiting for me to turn it into jelly and have a lovely moment of summer-like memories in the kitchen.

DFW said...

Sounds like a dream day to me Leigh! Plus look at all the freezer space you freed up!

Jane said...

Here is subtropical Queensland, Australia, we are sweltering. It's in the mid thirty Celcius range . Hot! It is also mango, passionfruit and chilli season. I have an abundance of all. I made eight jars of mango chilli chutney which I put through the water bath preserver and eight jars of mango passionfruit jam. I also made five jars of mango lemon marmalade. I plan on freezing some mango to use in our winter, June, July.

Leigh said...

Sandra, thanks!

Amanda, I'm not one of those blue ribbon winners either, LOL. The Ball canning book is a great recommendation. Thanks for mentioning it.

Meredith, you remind me that I still have a bunch of tomatoes frozen in the freezer! Hmmm. Maybe I need to make some soup.

Renee, you sound busy! Still, it sounds like a lot of fun.

Ed, I tried making some pepper jelly last year. I thought it was pretty good but the particular recipe was too vinegary. I'd like to try again without so much pucker power to the jelly.

Karen, +1 for fruit for desserts! I froze half a dozen blueberry pies, also canned both blueberry and apple pie fillings. So handy!

Sandy, the fruit blend jelly turned out really well. Mostly elder berry juice with sand cherries in the second largest amount. I ended up making up the difference with apple juice. The elder and cherry flavors work really well together and I'm quite pleased. Hoping for 100% cherry jelly one of these years!

Nina, that cooking fruit is a heavenly scented reminder of summer. You're probably right about clarity. Plus all mine are with dark fruits so who can tell anyway?

Deb, I cleared out freezer space just in time for roosters!

Jane, how fun it must be to have such different fruits to work with. The mango lemon marmalade sounds absolutely delicious.

1st Man said...

You have inspired me, I think buried down in the freezer are several freezer bags of dewberries from last spring. It might be good this rainy Sunday to make some more jam! Tomorrow (Saturday) is supposed to be nice but getting cool so I'll only have a day outside...Sunday is rainy and very cold so it will be an inside day. Thank you!

Bill said...

Those look so good! I love how you've mixed fruit together. I'll bet those are tasty combinations.

I just scraped the last of our grape jelly out of the jar yesterday. Looks like we'll need to make more next year. :)

Here we're enjoying the backside of winter, while looking forward to spring. Cutting wood, tending the animals and what's left of the gardens. Trying to finish a few winter projects.

We'll be starting seed and innoculating mushroom logs in another week or so. :)

Carolyn said...

Oh yeah, I squeeze the jelly bag to get every last drop out. I don't mind one bit if my jelly is a little cloudy.

Cat Eye Cottage said...

I've never made jelly because it seemed like extra effort to strain the juice, but if I made jelly, I would definitely squeeze. I wouldn't care about cloudiness as long as it tasted good.

Bag End Gardener said...

I've made jelly a few times and by leaving it overnight found that all the juice has run through with no need to squeeze.

A friend of mine adds the leftover pulp to chopped apples and uses it as pie filling - must remember that when our summer comes around.

Leigh said...

1st Man, jam making is a perfect rainy day job!

Bill, mushroom logs is something I have yet to try, but we love mushrooms! I love muscadine grape jelly too. Too bad I haven't had a good muscadine harvest since our first year here.

Carolyn, you're a woman after my own heart. :)

Candice, yes, it is another couple of steps compared to jam making. What got me started was muscadines. Grape jelly was a childhood favorite and years ago we lived in a place that had a huge wild vine. I could, and did, make tons of jelly. With edler, I just assumed the seeds had to be strained out but I've seen a few recipes for elderberry jam too. Liking the end product makes the extra work worth it. :)

Jayne Hill, very interesting about the pulp, thank you! I think if I'd put smaller amounts in my press in my jelly bags more would have drained. As it was I put all 4 gallons in and the next day put the whole thing in my tincture press. I got an extra pint of juice! Pretty amazing.

Sarah said...


Do you ever dehydrate your elderberries? If so do you sell them? I'd sure love to buy some if that is something that you ever do! All the jams and jellies look incredible!

Leigh said...

Sarah, I've never considered dehydrating them! They are pretty tiny as individual berries and might even fall through the mesh on the dryer racks. I'll bet the Native Americans did it however. I may have to experiment next summer!

Dawn Goryca said...

My sister and I made strawberry and mulberry jam last year. We only thought to combine them because those two fruits were ripening about the same time but it turned out really good! We made plain strawberry and plain mulberry jam but neither of them tasted as good as the combination of 2/3 strawberry and 1/3 mulberry jam. We got the mulberry stems and seeds out of the jam with a squeezo food strainer.