There are a lot of great recipes out there for jams and jellies. Traditional jams use a lot of sugar, but can easily be preserved with a water bath canning method instead of using a pressure cooker. If you’re wanting to easily preserve jam with less sugar, freezer jam recipes can be used to highlight the natural flavor of the fruit.

You’ll have to forgive me for repeatedly calling what is actually proper jam by the name jelly in this video. We called every goo-ey fruit-based substance jelly in our house growing up–whether it was jelly, jam, or preserves.

Regardless of the method of preserving or the type of recipe used, everyone wants their jelly to “set” right. If you take jelly off the oven too early it will be more like syrup. If you wait too long to take it off, it turns into a thick substance that is very difficult to spread. We call this fruit concrete at the Newcomb Farm. We’ve definitely made our fair share of concrete and syrup. It’s an art and a science to get jelly to the “just right” point.

There are three methods that can be used to identify when your jelly is ready to pull off the oven. The first is to use a candy thermometer. Jelly sets at around 220 degrees Fahrenheit, so wait until the temperature reads 220.

Another way to determine if your jelly or jam is ready is to use the spoon test. Place a spoon in the freezer when you start to cook the jelly. Once you think it’s starting to set, run a test by placing the spoon in the jelly. If it forms syrupy drops, it’s not ready. If it begins to come together to form a sheet of jelly that runs off the spoon, you’re set. Take the jelly off.

The final way to tell whether jelly is set is the plate test. Put a plate in the freezer when you start to cook the jelly. Once you think your jelly might be ready, put a spoonful on the cold plate. Let it sit a minute. If it is runny and syrupy, you want to keep it on the stove a little longer. If it wrinkles when you push it, it’s set! Take it off, put it in the jar, and can it up!

I use jellies on biscuits and whole grain muffins in the winter. It adds just enough sweetness to placate my sweet tooth and keeps me motivated to plan a garden full of berries when the seasons change.

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