Learning to Can: Concord Grape Jam- Part 2

Yesterday, my neighbor, G, and I processed 1/2 of the frozen concord grape juice we made at the end of summer into jam.  As I mentioned in my previous post about the first half of the grape project, Learning to Can: Concord Grape Jelly- part 1, G has been teaching me what she knows about canning.  She was mentored by an older friend, whose mom passed down the knowledge and skills to her.  We made about 80  @ 1/2 pint jars over the course of about 4 to 5 hours, not counting clean up.  As before, we set up outside. I was thankful it was a beautiful, warm, but calm fall day.  G organized our work area into an assembly line of bbq burner, camp stove, table work area, and then my husband’s heavy duty turkey fryer burner base.  There was also a large two tiered shelf to rest the cans on.

Canning Pot and rack with 7 jars of grape jam processing in boiling water on top of the Turkey Fryer burner base.

Tips from my neighbor, G, for success with canning:

  • Always follow a proven recipe and practice safe food handling.  Each jam or jelly variety requires a different amount of fruit/ juice and different measurements of sugar.
  • Do not use the lids that came attached to the jars in packaging.  Buy a pack of lids, even for brand new jars.  And never reuse lids in canning.
  • Use only Kerr’s brand lids.  The only time G has had jars not seal is when using Ball brand lids. Ball jars are fine.
  • don’t use cheap “made in China” jars or lids
  • Watch for store sales on the jars. Sometimes jar cases can be as cheap as $6 at retail, but rarely go on sale around the holidays.  Typically jars are about $8-$10/ doz., depending on where you buy them and the style. 
  • Thrift stores and yard sales are a good place to get used jars really cheap, just run a finger around the edge to make sure they aren’t damaged or chipped before buying.  Chipped lips on the jars prevent proper sealing.
  • Store empty jars with old lids and rings attached to avoid accidental chipping in storage.
  • Work outdoors to avoid steaming up the house and kitchen.  Constant boiling water releases a whole lot of steam and a day of canning can make the walls and windows drip.
  • Save the card board cases for jar storage later, even after giving away a bunch of cans to friends. Used jars can be stored in them until needed, and the boxes make it easier to move jars around.
  • Share and trade varieties with friends and love ones.

Portion of the driveway work area set up for canning grape jam. I was shocked at how much sugar we were going to need; we went through it all.

Grape Jam

5 cups grape puree/ juice
7 cups sugar
1 pkg Sure Jell fruit Pectin
water + 1 tsp butter
+ 1 tsp butter

makes appox. 8 cups.

*G mentioned we were actually making jam, not jelly as I called it in the first post, because we did not strain out all the pulp.  Jelly is usually clear,  jam is not.  Well, I actually prefer Jam, so it is fine with me.

Finish product, however, this is one day's work is only 50% of what the summer grape harvest produced

Here are the basic steps we followed:

  1. Prewash 80 glass jars in dishwasher and dry.
  2. Set up canner pot 3/4 full with water and bring to boil.  Turkey fryer base burner (burner #2)
  3. start small pot of water off to side for hot water for lids.  Bbq burner (burner #1)
  4. place 9 jar lids, not over lapping in casserole dish and set aside for later use
  5. measure 5 cups grape juice/ fruit and bring to boil (burner #3)
  6. add 7 cups of sugar to boiling grape juice and dissolve (still on burner #3)
  7. Add tsp of butter to grape juice mix
  8. in separate small pot ( burner #4) mix 3/4 cup water with 1 pkg SureJell fruit pectin, stir until blended, and bring to boil
  9. pour boiling pectin mix to grape juice pot (burner #3) and bring to full rolling boil for 2 minutes
  10. skim foam off top of grape juice
  11. turn off grape juice pot
  12. pour boiling water (burner #1) over lids in casserole dish
  13. pour grape jam mix into funnel over jars or ladled into jars,  1/8 inch from top lip
  14. wipe edge of each jar with clean rag dipped in boiling water to make sure there is clean full contact with lid.  This ensures proper sealing.
  15. use magnet wand to remove hot lids from casserole dish and place on each jar.  Seal tightly with rings
  16. Place 7 jars in canner with boiling water on the metal rack.  The rack keeps the jars off the bottom of the pot.  Lower rack into water.  Set timer for 15 minutes.
  17. Meanwhile, start another batch. To do this go back to step #3.  Repeat until all juice is processed.
  18. When timer goes off, carefully remove jars with jar tongs and place on counter or shelf.  During the next few minutes to few hours, the jars with “pop” and seal with a vacuum effect created with the heat.
  19. Once jars are cool, check lids for seal by pressing top of lid to see if it springs back.  If a jar lid does spring back, it did not seal on its own, refrigerate those jars.
  20. Store in cool dry place unopened jars up to 1 year.  Once jars are open, refrigerate and use within 3 weeks.

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