If you are interested in becoming a jam and jelly maker, you may be wondering what kind of starter equipment you need for your canning toolkit. Essentially, there are only a few items that you absolutely must have to get started. The great thing is that you will typically not have to go to a great expense to start making jams and jellies. In fact, most items you need can be found in any well-stocked kitchen.
The essential equipment that you absolutely must include in a starter kit when making jam and jelly are canning jars, lids, and rings. Just any old jar will not do; you must have jars that are made for canning and will not break when boiled or cooked under pressure. You will also need a large pot, like a Dutch oven, that is made from stainless steel, copper, or clad cast iron, anything but aluminum. For everything else you need, you can substitute regular utensils that you probably already have.
Once you try making a batch or two of homemade jelly and become hooked on the process you may find that you simply must become the best jam and jelly maker possible. At that point, you can upgrade your stock of kitchen equipment.
Personally, I have seldom purchased anything specific to use in making jam and jelly except for the jars, lids, and rings. However, recently I finally went out and got a kit that contains tongs/jar lifter, a jar funnel, and a lid lifter, and a speckled enamel canning pot. These few items have made my life (at least my jelly making) much easier.
Jam & Jelly Making Tool Kit List
I have broken down the tools needed to make jams and jellies into a 6 part list. It may seem overwhelming but just keep in mind that most everything you need is probably already in your kitchen.
The most important thing you need in canning or jelly and making is good canning jars (Amazon affiliate link) to preserve the food. These jars do not have to be new as good canning jars can be reused, no matter how old, as long as they are not chipped, cracked, or otherwise damaged.
Even though the jars are most often called “Mason” jars, most are labeled as Mason, Ball, or Kerr. The molded glass jars that we use for food storage were invented by John Landis Mason in 1858, are made of soda-lime glass, and are designed with a screw thread on the jar’s mouth that allows a threaded metal ring or band to be screwed down tightly to hold a lid in place until sealed.
The rings, as with the jars, can be reused many times unless they become damaged, but the lids are designed for one use.
Canning jars are made in 6 different sizes:
- Half-Gallon – Made for canning fruits and vegetables and even meats, but not for jam or jelly as they probably would not get properly.
- Quarts – Made for canning fruits and vegetables and even meats, but not for jam or jelly. If you put jam or jelly into a quart jar, chances are good it will not gel.
- Pints – A general-purpose size that is good for anything.
- 12-ounce – Can be used for anything, but mainly for jam and jelly.
- 8-ounce – Used mainly for jam, jelly, and pickles and are made in many different shapes.
- 4-ounce – Used almost exclusively for jam and jelly and are made in several different shapes.
- Regular Mouth
The mouth of these jars is 2-3/8 inches for inner diameter and 2-3/4 inches for outer.
- Large Mouth
The mouth of these jars is 3 inches inner and 3-3/8 inches outer diameter. These are great for making pickles and canning fruits and vegetables as they are easier to fill.
2. Measuring Cups and Spoons
I recommend using measuring cups that measure all the way to the rim, like these found on Amazon, as it is difficult to get an exact measure with cups using hash marks. Also, you may want to use the same cup or cups to measure the fruit or juice and the sugar so there are no discrepancies in those measurements that could cause your jam or jelly not to set properly.
You will also want to have measuring spoons on hand to measure any lemon juice, spices, or flavorings you are using.
3. Pots & Pans
- Large stockpot for cooking down the berries or other fruit to obtain the juice. Here is a good one that I recommend.
- Stainless steel, copper, or coated cast iron Dutch oven (at least 5.5 or 6-quart size) for cooking jam and jelly. Never use aluminum pots or utensils for cooking jam, jelly, and other foods to be canned. There is a preserving pan with a thick bottom and a wide top that is made for making jam, but the Dutch oven will work just fine. Click here to see a great pot, found on Amazon.
- Pot of any kind for heating lids. I use a 3-quart saucepan.
- Canner or large stockpot for boiling water bath. Be sure to use a canning rack or some sort of rack in the canner so that jars are not set directly on the bottom of the pot. The water must be able to circulate under and around the jars during the boiling water bath process.
- Dishpans or large mixing bowls that hold at least 3 gallons. Aluminum pans can be used when washing fruit and preparing juice, but never for cooking the jelly. Large plastic bowls can also be used for washing and preparing juice.
- Low oblong pans at least 13″ x 9″ x 2″ for heating jars.
5. Rings and Lids
- Rings to fit the jars you are using, large or regular mouth
The rings should be left on the jars of canned food until it is completely cool. However, when the food is completely cool and ready to be stored, remove the rings from the jars as they can rust over time. Rings can be reused indefinitely unless they become damaged or start to rust. If the jars of food are being gifted or shipped, leave the rings on as they will protect the seal of the jar lids.
- Lids to fit the jars being used, large or regular mouth
Lids can be used only one time. If reused, the lids may or may not reseal. They can certainly be reused if you are only storing something in the jars and not trying to seal them.
- Bubble Tool – Measures headspace in jars and removes air bubbles from your jam or jelly. Not absolutely necessary as you can just eyeball the headspace and use a wooden chopstick or skewer to remove the air bubbles, but it is a handy tool.
- Canning Tongs – Regular kitchen tongs can be used, but they are unreliable and it is easy to drop a jar either back into the water or onto a kitchen surface which could result in the jar breaking or the jelly maker getting burned by splashing hot water
- Spoons – Large stainless steel or wooden spoons for stirring fruit, jam, and jelly.
- Colander for straining fruit.
- Funnels – Large necked funnels are needed to pour jelly, jam, and vegetables into the jars. Regular funnels can be used for pouring juice into jars.
- Labels – Be sure to label your jars with contents and the date. Believe me, in a few weeks, you won’t remember just when you made that batch of jelly and whether it is blueberry or blackberry.
- Ladle with a Spout – Handy thing to have when filling the jars with hot jam or jelly. Be sure it is stainless steel.
- Lid lifter – I used a fork to lift lids out of the hot water for many years, but a lid lifter works much better.
- Scales for measuring fruit or pectin as some recipes call for weight measurements such as 2 pounds of fruit or 1.75 ounces of pectin.
- Straining Cloth – Jelly bag, cheesecloth, or plain white fabric to use for straining fruit.
- Sugar or Candy Thermometer – Some jam and jelly recipes call for cooking to a certain temperature, so it’s good to have a thermometer on hand.
- Timer – Recipes must be followed exactly, and using a timer can help you ensure your canned food turns out right. Most stoves, microwaves, and other kitchen appliances now include a timer. If you don’t have one, though, inexpensive timers are available at many stores.
Why You Can’t Use Aluminum or Untreated Cast Iron For Making Jam and Jelly
If you have ever been around a person who cans or have tried canning yourself, you have probably heard that you should never use aluminum or cast iron pots for making jam and jelly. But, do you know why? Well, I have heard this all my life from my mother, but I never actually understood the reason for this “rule.” I had to look it up.
The foods that are safe for boiling water bath canning are the ones that have a high acid content. Food with high acid levels has a pH of 4.6 or below as the lower the pH, the higher the acid content. The acid content of foods like jam and pickles is what keeps the preserved food safe while stored.
So, when cooking these high acid foods, a precaution you must take is to make sure you cook them in a pot that is non-reactive. Pots made from certain metals like aluminum and cast iron react with the acid in the food and allow a metallic flavor to leach into the food.
Copper is the only exception to this rule as it is a reactive metal which does not allow a metallic flavor to leach into the food.
To be safe, when doing any kind of canning, be sure to use a stainless steel, copper, or coated cast iron pot when cooking your food. You can use any aluminum pots or pans when cooking the fruit for the juice, for heating the jars and lids, and for the boiling water bath, just not for cooking the jam, jelly, or other high acid foods.
Can Glass Mayonnaise or Salad Dressing Jars Be Used For Jam or Jelly?
Glass mayonnaise or salad dressing jars are not recommended for use in canning. However, if the jars are made to fit the 2-piece canning jar lid so that you can get a good seal, it would be alright to use them for jam or jelly or any product that doesn’t require further processing. They could be used for processing in a boiling water bath, but never use them when processing in a pressure canner.
If you do use these jars, expect more seal failures and jar breakage. I have used pint mayonnaise jars for jelly many times and haven’t had any problems.
The only equipment you must have to make jam or jelly are good canning jars, rings, lids, a large stainless steel or wooden spoon, measuring cups, and a copper, stainless steel, or clad cast iron pot or Dutch oven, but a canner, canning tongs, a lid lifter, and a couple of large necked funnels would be worth their weight in gold.
Just be sure that you don’t use an aluminum or cast iron pot to cook your jam or jelly as an unpleasant metallic flavor could leach into your canned food.
Thanks for stopping by!
Required Products to Make Jam or Jelly
Here are the essentials for making jam or jelly, there really are only 3. Most everything else you probably already have or are just “wish list” items.
Recommended Additional Products
If you want to enhance your canning experience, these products are highly recommended.