When my mother taught me to make jam and jelly, the first lesson was to gather everything needed for the entire process before you begin. Occasionally, I am reminded of her advice when I realize that I forgot to measure the sugar ahead of time and now the juice and pectin are boiling. Oops!
The basic ingredients, supplies, and equipment required to make homemade jelly:
- Ingredients Fruit, sweetener, acid, and thickening agent
- Supplies Jars, lids, and rings
- Equipment Pots, pans, canner, and utensils
You may wonder specifically what some of these items are and how they are used, so I will go into detail about each item and how they are used below.
Jam and Jelly Making Ingredients
The specific ingredients needed depends on the type of fruit product being made, i.e. jam, jelly, preserves, and the ingredients listed in your recipe. But generally, this is what you will need.
- Fruit – Select the fruit you are going to use. Often, this is done for you because you have fruit trees that are producing, someone has given you some fruit, or you have just found some Georgia peaches that you couldn’t go home without.
- Sweetener – Unless you are making refrigerator or freezer jam with no additional ingredients, you will need some type of sweetener, either sugar or a sugar substitute.
- Acid – If you are using a type of fruit or fruits with low acid content like blueberries and peaches, you will need to add at least 2 tablespoons of lemon juice per batch to complete the gelling process.
- Pectin – Again, unless you are making refrigerator or freezer jam with no additional ingredients, you will need either commercial pectin or a substitute.
Jam and Jelly Making Supplies
These are the basic supplies needed for any type of jam, jelly, or preserves:
It’s important to use good canning jars for any canning projects, and they come in various shapes and sizes.
If you are making jam or jelly, though, don’t use any jar larger than a pint as trying to store your jam or jelly in a larger size jar will prevent the gelling process from taking place.
But you still have a variety of shapes and sizes to choose from 4 oz, 8 oz which are known as “jelly jars,” 12 oz, and pints. Here are some examples of what I am talking about. (Click the link to see the Amazon listing)
Jars also come in either regular mouth or large mouth varieties. I almost always use the regular size but it all comes down to personal preference.
Most new jars come with lids and rings, but if you are reusing jars, you can buy new lids at most grocery, dollar, or variety stores. You can even buy them on Amazon and have them delivered to you. Here is what I use:
Keep in mind that jars and rings can be recycled, but lids cannot. This is because there is no guarantee that recycled lids will reseal properly so it’s not worth the risk to try.
Like jars, rings can be recycled. But, if reusing jars, you can buy lids and rings by the dozen. Here are the rings I that I recommend:
Jam and Jelly Making Equipment
When it comes to making jam or jelly, you will need one kit for preparing the food and one kit for actually making the stuff.
For Fruit Preparation You Need A:
- Potato Masher
If you decide to use your fruit to make jelly, you will prepare the fruit by washing thoroughly, place the fruit in a large pot like this one found on Amazon.
Add water just to cover, and bring to a boil over high heat, boil for approximately 45 minutes, mashing with a potato masher to extract juice, then strain through a cheesecloth.
To prepare fruit for making jam or jelly, you will need at least two large mixing bowls or dishpans for washing, peeling, pitting, coring, and cutting up, or whatever you have to do depending on the type of fruit you are using and whether you are making jam or jelly. I have a large stainless steel mixing bowl that is 16.5 x 16.5 x 5.5 like this one made by Vollrath, that works very well.
However, I actually prefer using an old-fashioned aluminum dishpan, which is 15 x 15 x 12. I actually have about 6 of them and can’t imagine cooking and canning without them.
While you must use a stainless steel, coated cast iron, or coated aluminum pot to cook the jam or jelly, a regular aluminum one will work just fine and will be light and easy to work with.
A sharp paring knife is needed to prepare the fruit for making jelly and jam.
While the fruit is boiling to extract the juice, use a potato masher like this KitchenAid stainless steel wire masher to mash the fruit as it cooks.
When preparing juice for making jelly, this all-natural unbleached cheesecloth would be perfect for straining the juice from the cooked fruit.
When cooking your fruit in a large pot to extract the juice, you will need a large spoon long enough to stir the bottom of a very large pot without burning your hand.
To store the juice in jars until you are ready to make the jelly, it is much easier to pour the juice into the jars with the use of a funnel. You can use canning funnels or just a regular funnel that you probably already have in your kitchen will work just fine.
For Making the Jelly or Jam:
- Jelly Pot
- Pot or Pan
- Measuring Cups
- Potato Masher
- Lid Lifter
- Pot Holders
- Canning Tools
The pot you use to cook jelly or jam is one of the most important things you will need. It must be made out of a non-reactive material such as stainless steel or coated cast iron or coated aluminum.
Cooking anything with a high acid content in pots made of aluminum or uncoated cast iron could change the taste of your fruit by giving it a metallic taste. It must be wide and shallow enough to allow sufficient evaporation of liquids. And, it must have a heavy bottom that will conduct heat throughout the bottom of the pot and reduce the risk of burning, especially when making jam.
There is actually a pan made especially for making any fruit product called a preserving pan, like this one by CusinaPro. Just be sure the pot you use is wide and does not have tall sides.
Pot or Pan to Sterilize Jars
A pot or pan suitable to sterilize jars while the jam/jelly is cooking. I use either an oblong baking pan like this one or an old Dutch oven I don’t use much anymore, any pot or pan that will hold 6-8 jars.
There are many different types of canners, including pressure canners, but any large pot with a canner rack that holds at least 21 quarts will work great for a boiling water bath. The main thing is to be sure it is large enough to hold 7 jars completely covered with water with enough headroom to cook at a full rolling boil without a chance of boiling over.
A 12 or 13-inch wooden or stainless steel spoon is needed to safely stir jelly/jam while it is cooking. The one I recommended earlier for use in extracting juice will do just fine.
Always use measuring cups (like these found on Amazon) that measure all the way to the top as cups with hash marks make it difficult to measure exactly. Exact measurements are extremely important to maintain the proper ratio of ingredients so that a good gel bond can be achieved. Also, always use the same cup/cups for dry and wet ingredients as measurements from cup to cup may vary slightly.
Any type of timer can be used, manual, on an appliance such as stove or microwave, or a cell phone.
Not only will the potato masher be used in extracting juice from the fruit to make jelly but if you make jam, the fruit should be mashed as it is cooking.
Special tongs are made for lifting and moving jars safely.
A magnetic wand for pulling lids from boiling water.
A measurer is a special tool for measuring the amount of headspace at the top of the jars of your canned food.
Always keep a stack of clean dishcloths handy to wipe up spills and keep your stove and work area clean to avoid contaminating your jam/jelly and to make clean up faster and easier.
Several pot holders are needed to handle large hot pots while making jam/jelly.
Large mouth funnels are needed to pour jam/jelly into the jars and will help you avoid spills.
If you want to save yourself the trouble of buying piece by piece, you can buy a set of canning tools that includes several different items including:
- A Funnel
- A measurer
- A lid lifter
So now you have all the information you need to put together the perfect kit for making jam, jelly, and preserves. If you want to learn more check out my tips on making the perfect jelly.
What is the Boiling Water Bath Process
Boiling water bath canning is the most common way to preserve high-acid foods like jam, jelly, fruit preserves, and some pickles so they can be stored safely in the proper environment for extended periods of time. That proper environment is a cool dry storage area away from direct sunlight like a cabinet or pantry.
Steps for boiling water bath are as follows:
- Before you start cooking the food to be canned, fill the canner half full with water, and bring to a boil over high heat.
- Reduce heat so that the water is simmering.
- Check that jars do not have any nicks, cracks, or rough edges around the rim.
- Wash jars, lids, and rings in hot soapy water.
- Place clean jars in a pot or pan of water and bring them to a boil, allowing them to boil at least 10 minutes to sterilize while you are cooking the food.
- Place lids in a pot of boiling water, reduce heat and leave them in the hot water until needed.
- Cook the food that is being canned and pour into properly prepared jars. Wipe jar rims with a clean wet cloth and affix lids.
- Place the jars into the canning rack and lower into the simmering water.
- Bring water back to a full rolling boil and cook for the time designated by the recipe for the food you are canning, which is 5 minutes for jelly and 10 minutes for jam.
- Lift the canning rack to rest on the rim of the canner and carefully remove the jars of food onto a rack or other prepared place where they can remain undisturbed until completely cooled.
How are Jars Sanitized?
There are several ways to sanitize the jars you will use for canning. Most dishwashers have a sanitize setting; some people sanitize their jars in the oven. But, according to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, the only safe way to preserve canned foods is with the boiling water bath for high-acid foods and the pressure canner for low-acid foods but it is not necessary to pre-sterilize the jars if they will be processed for at least 10 minutes. However, I recommend pre-sterilizing the jars before filling by using this method:
- Check your jars for any nicks, cracks, or rough edges around the rim that could cause them to break.
- Wash jars, lids, and rings in hot soapy water.
- Place clean jars in a pan or pot with enough water to allow jars to sit in about one inch of water and bring them to a full rolling boil, allowing them to boil at least 10 minutes before using to sterilize them while you are cooking the food.
- Place lids in a pot of boiling water to cover, reduce heat, and leave them in the hot water until needed.
- Pour boiling jam or jelly into jars sitting in boiling water.
- Wipe rims, affix lids and rings and place in a boiling water bath.
Do I Have to Buy Special Equipment to Make Jam/Jelly?
It is not necessary to go out and buy a lot of expensive equipment to make jam/jelly. You probably already have most of the necessary items in your kitchen. If, however, you love canning and intend to do a lot of canning, that would be the time to start building your supply of canning equipment.