In a Jam?

Ideas for Homemade Gifts

In a Jam?

By Ellen J. Pilch — Ever find yourself in a jam for a homemade gift idea? Instead of waiting until the last minute and being forced to buy everyone on your list a gift card, why not start now by making some jams and jellies. Everyone will think you slaved away in the kitchen for days, but it really only takes about an hour to make a batch if you use the inversion method.

It still amazes me how touched people are when I give a gift of jam or jelly. Most people are so used to buying the extra big jars at their local shopper’s club that they don’t think about how it is made. Sadly, once they try your gift, they won’t want to go back to the store-bought stuff. Handy tip, as jars are getting more and more expensive: be sure to tell everyone if they return the jar they can get more.

First of all, the difference between making jam and jelly is that jelly takes slightly longer because there is one extra step involved. With jam, the fruit or vegetable is just chopped up and put right into the mix. With jelly, you must first cook the fruit and strain it so you will just have the juice. A few extra tools are required for this: a cheesecloth and a strainer. Cheesecloth is available at most craft supply stores, grocery stores, and even dollar stores. I have found the easiest way to do this is to line a strainer with cheesecloth, using clothespins or chip clips to keep the cheesecloth from caving in. Set the strainer over a bowl or pot for the juice to run into.

Before you get started with jam and jelly making you may want to invest in a few inexpensive tools that are usually found next to the canning jars at the store. One tool is a canning funnel especially made for the opening of canning jars. This will make it much easier to pour the hot liquid into jars without losing some of it on the counter or getting it on you. Another tool is a lid wand. This is a tool about four inches long with a magnet on the end so you don’t burn your fingers when you remove the lids from the water. Make sure you have potholder mitts to wear when you are tightening the caps because those jars sure get hot.

I have used the following recipes for years and people always return the jars for more.


Before starting any of the recipes below you will need to wash jars and screw bands in soapy, hot water. Place lids in a saucepan and cover with boiling water until ready to use. Most recipes yield 8 pint jars.

All recipes below use the inversion method instead of the boiling water bath method, which saves a tremendous amount of time.** When they start to cool, you should hear each lid make a popping sound, which means it is sealed.

Pear Jam

• About 3 pounds of pears, peeled, cored and chopped into 1/4 inch pieces (about 4 cups)
• 1/4 cup lemon juice
• 7 -1/2 cups sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon butter
• 1 pouch (3 oz.) liquid pectin*

Cook all ingredients (except pectin) until it comes to a full boil, stir constantly.

Add pectin, let it come to a full boil again and continue to boil for 1 minute. Pour into jars, cover, screw tightly and invert for 5 minutes


Pepper Jam

• 3 medium sized green bell peppers, seeded and chopped into small pieces
• 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped into small pieces
• 6 cups sugar
• 1-1/2 cups cider vinegar
• 1/2 teaspoon butter
• Few drops green food coloring (optional). It is pretty when clear, but adding the green makes it festive for holidays.
• 2 pouches (6 oz.) liquid pectin*

Stir all ingredients (except pectin), and bring to a full boil. Add pectin and bring to a boil again for 1 minute. Remove from heat and pour into jars. Cover, screw tightly and invert for 5 minutes.

Serve with crackers topped with cream cheese.


Grape Jelly

• 6 lbs. Concord grapes, which will yield 4 cups juice
• 7 cups sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon butter
• 1 pouch liquid pectin (3 oz.)

Wash grapes and remove stems. Place in a pot with one cup of water and crush grapes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Pour mixture through a strainer that is lined with cheesecloth. Let strain for 10 minutes.

Now combine 4 cups of the juice (discard the skins and seeds), sugar and butter. Bring to a boil, add pectin, and bring to another full boil for 1 full minute. Remove from heat and pour into jars, cover, and screw tightly. Invert for 5 minutes.

*I find that Certo brand liquid pectin is the most dependable for making jams and jellies set quickly.

**Ed note: Boiling in a hot water bath is preferable to the inversion method for food safety reasons.

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