How to make real old-fashioned homemade jam & jelly

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homemade jam and jelly

Note: This article may feature affiliate links, and purchases made may earn us a commission at no extra cost to you. Find out more here.

How to make homemade jam & jelly (1912)

Now is the season when fruit is abundant, cheap and in the best condition for making jams, preserves and jellies. Preserves mean fruit that is cooked with sugar, equal weight, and left whole or nearly so.

Jams are fruits crushed and boiled with sugar to a thick mass. Jelly is made from the pure juice of the fruit, with an equal quantity of sugar, cup for cup. Blackberries, raspberries, plums, greengages and peaches are best for jam. Red currants, grapes, apples, crab apples and quinces make the best jelly, while all the fruits can be simply preserved, made into jam, or canned.

To make good jellies, the housekeeper must have proper utensils. Jelly glasses with metal covers cost but little, and the smaller size gives the best satisfaction. Pint bottles for preserves and jam are better than larger ones.

An eight-quart agate kettle, an agate spoon, a skimmer, a wooden spoon, a dipper holding a pint, a measuring cup, a fruit funnel and a pair of scales to weigh sugar and fruit are needed; also a cheesecloth jelly bag.

Jelly cannot be made of strawberries alone, as they lack pectin. Apples, crab apples, currants and grapes have the most, so by adding the juice from any one of those fruits to the strawberries, jelly can be made.

How to make old-fashioned homemade jam and jelly

The jelly bag of cheesecloth should be wrung out of hot water when the boiled fruit is put into it to drain. All fruits for jellies should be put into the kettle with just enough water to be visible at the top and then boiled long enough to cook fruit. A few minutes suffice for all except pears and quinces. Apples and quinces should be washed and quartered without peeling or taking out the cores for jelly. For preserves, quinces should be peeled and cored.

When cooked, fruit, juice and all are put into the jelly bag, hung up and left to drain all night. The clear juice is then measured, cup for cup of juice and sugar, which must have been dried so that it is hot in the oven. Boil it 20 minutes over a gentle fire, taking off the scum as it rises without stirring.

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Have the jelly glasses standing on wet cloths, each with a spoon in it. Fill and let the jelly stand all night, and in the morning pour melted white wax over the surface. This keeps jelly from molding. Paste the name of each kind on the glass, cover and wrap in dark blue paper. It is better to have the fruit under- rather than over-ripe.

Preserved quinces, pears and other hard fruits should be pared, cored and quartered and put to boil with one-quarter of a pound of sugar to each pint of water. Boil until a straw will pierce them. Take them out of the syrup and add three-quarters more of sugar to every pint of syrup and let it boil well, skimming it. Add the fruit and allow it to boil 10 minutes. This will keep forever.

Jam of any kind requires that the fruit boil soft and then be mashed and returned to the fire with its equal weight of sugar and allowed to boil 15 minutes. Peaches and all kinds of plums, being soft, should be dropped into boiling syrup when wanted whole or boiled and mashed first for jam. Peaches, apricots and cherries are better if a few of the pits are left in the syrup.

homemade jam and jelly
Photo by ratmaner/Envato

Preparing fruit for all kinds of preserving

Washing. The first step in the preparation of fruit is to wash it thoroughly; small fruit, such as berries, should be placed in a shallow colander and dipped repeatedly into one or more pans of clean cold water, then shaken and drained. Do this before hulling or stemming, to prevent loss of juice.

Stoning. When stoning [pitting] large or small fruit place the stones in a sieve and let any juice that has been retained drip out. In cases requiring a certain amount of water, cook the stones in this water long enough to draw out the juice, as it is desirable to obtain all the fruit juice that adheres to stones.

Stemming. Currants and cherries are easily stripped from the stems, but gooseberries are more tedious to handle. Small scissors are best, and if berries are canned or used for jam or preserves, each stem and little blossom end must be clipped. When fruit is run through a bag, as for jelly, this is not necessary.

Paring. When paring fruit it is best to use a silver or plated knife. Apples, being hard, are easiest pared with a sharp steel knife.

Skinning. Fruit that can be skinned, such as peaches, or plums, must be scalded with boiling water, then plunged immediately into cold water. This prevents fruit from becoming too soft, and the skin can be slipped off readily.


How to make old-fashioned homemade jam and jelly
Photo: shadesofflorence via Twenty20

How to make jam & jelly: Sealing and storing fruits

All fruits should be carefully sealed and kept in a cool, dry place. If the storeroom or pantry is very light, wrap each jar in green tissue paper or hang a dark curtain before the shelf, loosely, in order not to exclude the air.

When canning fruit, it is advisable to buy the best jars, preferably the self-sealing kind. The initial outlay may be a trifle more, but in the long run they will prove more economical, as the amount saved on a dozen jars will not offset the loss of a quart of fruit, to say nothing of the anxiety of the busy housewife, who is never quite sure that the rubbers are good and the tops air-tight. Then, too, they make unnecessary the use of paraffin, which adds considerable extra expense to the season’s canning.

All preserves, jellies, and solid conserves should be placed in open glasses or jars which permit the fruit to be taken out easily. After washing and drying the jars, all fruits should be labeled. A good plan is to make a schedule of the different varieties of fruit and check them off as soon as a glass has been used. In this way, it is easy to ascertain just what is on hand, and the consumption can be regulated.

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