Home Cookin'

This time of year on the farm, we start picking berries. We pick a variety of berries from strawberries and raspberries, to gooseberries. Then we make jams and jellies out of those berries, and freeze some for later in the year to use in pies, etc. I remember helping Grandma pick the berries every year -- wearing long sleeve shirts when picking raspberries or being stooped over for hours at a time picking big, bright, juicy strawberries from our garden. What child can resist the taste of a fresh berry that they've just picked?

Before you begin to make your jelly or jam it's always wise to decide on the method of preservation. Wash your jars, get your paraffin out, and assemble everything you'll need so that when you pour the jelly/jam you can be ready to preserve it immediately. Then prepare your fruit or berries according to how your recipe instructs. Berries need to be cleaned and hulled, apples need to be cored, cherries need to be pitted, rhubarb needs to be cleaned and chopped. Once you have your preparation work done, you can move on to the actual jelly making. Be sure to have your pestle and sieve ready to mash the berries and remove the seeds. That is what I remember Grandma always using. A ricer or food mill will also work well. Some die-hard cooks insist that only cheesecloth should be used, but I find that to be too messy and difficult to work with.

Before we begin making our jelly or jam, we should know what it is we are making. A jelly is made from the juice of the berry or fruit, whereas a jam contains pulp and pieces of the fruit in it.

Jelly is fairly simple to make, usually consisting of fruit juice, fruit pectin, and sugar. Bring the ingredients to a rolling boil, and let them simmer until the jelly sheets off of your spoon onto a plate. Once your jelly reaches that gelling point, pour it into jars -- leaving about an inch of headspace at the top -- and then place them out of the way to cool. The jelly should set in about 24 - 48 hours. You can seal the jelly with paraffin wax after it has set or, after a film has formed on the top of the jelly.

Jam is a little bit more involved to make, but is still fairly simple. For jams containing whole pieces of fruit, simply mash the fruit using a mortal and pestle, sieve and pestle, or food mill. Then you can strain the pulp for seeds if needed through a cheesecloth or very fine sieve. Cook the pulp, sugar and juice for about 30 minutes -- stirring often -- until the gelling point has been reached. You can test this by using the sheeting method or by placing the jam on a cold plate and cooling it in the freezer for a few minutes. Once the jam has reached the gelling point, pour it into jars -- leaving about 1 inch of headroom at the top -- and set aside to cool.

Once your jelly or jam has reached a point where a small skin forms on top of it, you can seal it with paraffin. If you choose to can your jellies, use a boiling water canner and seal the jars while the jelly or jam is still hot.

To seal your jam or jelly with paraffin, melt blocks of paraffin over hot water using a double boiler. Be very careful because paraffin is highly flammable. Then place a wide mouth funnel in the top of your jar. Spoon a thin layer of melted paraffin over the surface of the jelly to seal the air. Then very carefully pick the hot jar up with a potholder and rotate it so wax will cling to the sides of the jar. Prick any air bubbles in the paraffin before it has time to set. After the paraffin has hardened, spoon another layer of paraffin on top of the other layer. The wax should be at least 1/8 inch deep. Once your jars have cooled and you are sure they are sealed, store them in a cool dry place to be used throughout the year.

Basic Raspberry or Strawberry Jam

  • 4 lbs. raspberries or strawberries
  • 2 1/2 lbs. sugar

Mash the berries to desired consistency. Add sugar and cook 30 minutes, stirring very often. Pour into glasses, cover and seal as desired.

  • Yields: 4 jars
  • Preparation Time: 45 minutes

Cranberry Jelly

  • 3 1/2 cups of cranberry juice cocktail
  • 1 3/4 packages of powdered fruit pectin
  • 4 cups of sugar
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice

In an 8 quart kettle, combine the juice and pectin. Bring to a full boil. Stir in the sugar and bring to a boil again. Boil hard uncovered for 1 minute.

Remove from the heat and stir in lemon juice. Quickly skim the foam off with a METAL spoon. Pour at once into hot sterilized jars and seal.

This is very good for the holiday seasons with hot English muffins and biscuits.

  • Yields: 5 half pints
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Peach Marmalade

  • 1 small orange
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 lbs. peaches
  • 1 3/4 package of powdered fruit pectin
  • 5 cups sugar

Cut orange and lemon in quarters and remove seeds. Slice orange and lemon quarters crosswise into paper-thin slices. In a medium saucepan, combine fruit slices and water. Cover and simmer the orange and lemon mixture for 20 minutes. Peel, pit and finely chop peaches.

In an 8 quart kettle, add orange and lemon mixture to chopped peaches. Stir in pectin and bring to a full boil, stirring constantly. Boil hard uncovered for 1 minute. Remove from heat and skim off foam. Pour at once into jars and seal.

  • Yields: 7-8 half pints
  • Preparation Time: 35 minutes

Strawberry Jam

  • 2 quarts fresh strawberries
  • 7 cups sugar
  • 1/2 of a 6oz bottle of liquid fruit pectin

Wash berries. Slice in half lengthwise to measure 4 cups. In an 8 quart kettle, combine strawberries and 1 cup of sugar. Let stand for 15 minutes. Add the remaining sugar and bring to a full boil. Boil hard uncovered for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in pectin. Skim off foam and put into jars and seal at once.

  • Preparation Time: 25 minutes

Tomato Preserves

  • 2 pounds ripe tomatoes -- peeled with stem ends and core removed
  • 1 tsp. grated lemon peel
  • 1/4 lemon juice
  • 6 1/3 cups of sugar
  • 1 6oz bottle liquid fruit pectin

Cut the peeled tomatoes into eighths. In an 8 quart kettle, measure 3 cups tomatoes. Simmer 10 minutes. Add peel and lemon juice. Stir in sugar. Bring to a boil and boil hard uncovered for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in pectin. Skim off foam with a metal spoon. Pour at once into hot jars and seal.

  • Yields: 7 half pints
  • Preparation Time: 25 minutes