GROW O'ahu

Island Style Gardening and Plant-Based Living

How to Screw Up Easy Jam


I’m a work in progress, let’s just say that right up front.  If you want to follow beautiful cooking blogs with amazing recipes, please click away now.  This might not be the place for you.  But if you are willing to suffer through some descriptions and photos, I might just save you from wasting 4 hours of your own life messing up “easy” to can jam.

It all started with the “Ball Complete Guide to Home Preservation.”  On page 24 is the Pineapple Jam recipe, and since we have cheap pineapple a-plenty (actually two growing the backyard right now) this seemed like the obvious choice!  Besides, how hard could it be, after I had successfully done salsa, which was way more difficult?

It seemed so simple: dump some pineapple, sugar, lemon and water together, boil it, can it. Done.

Lesson #1: Do not count how many cups of pineapple you are putting into the pan while singing Thomas the Tank Engine theme song.  You will miscount and not put enough.  This was likely the mistake that made it all go downhill.

The steps are as follows:

Prepare jars and lids.  For me, this means dishwasher for the jars and boiling the lids to sterilize.

Dump the pineapple (measured accurately!),sugar, water and lemon into another pan. (Shout out to the pineapple-chopper extraordinaire, the Hubs, for prepping all this the day before!)

The recipe says to leave the lemon unpeeled and to slice it thinly, but if I did this again I would be pulverizing that lemon in the food processor because the rind doesn’t break down or get soft- in fact the end product, which I have now tried, has chunks of lemon rind which are so tough I had to spit them out! Bad idea, Ball Canning Book. 

Then, you are to boil the mixture until it thickens into the “gel stage” which is described with photos in the book.  It’s supposed to look and feel like the jelly you get in jars for $3.79 at Safeway. (Which is why I was making this to start with.  I wanted to avoid purchasing jam and DIY!)

I had doubled the recipe, so I figured it would take longer than the 15 minutes stated to get to this stage, but after boiling for more than 45 minutes, it was STILL not thick.  The foam forming on top didn’t happen until 30 minutes in- this was my first clue that something was not right.

After a “gel stage” has been reached, I was supposed to skim off the foam and spoon into jars for processing.  Except by the time the stuff was finally thick enough to resemble jam, it had also been a bit, well, scorched, burned, whatever and there was no foam left!

I should have removed myself from kitchen duty for the rest of the day.

But I was determined!! The flavor wasn’t that bad- it was the texture that wasn’t right.  I spooned it up into jars and processed it anyway.  The hubs came in halfway through to a sweaty wild-haired woman and encouraged me to keep going and to NOT throw the whole thing out the door.  He is the patient one.  And he had chopped all that pineapple and wanted some jam.

Due to the fact that I obtained the “cute” squat little 8 ounce jelly jars, I could only put two at a time in my canning basket.  How annoying.  I will, in the future, stick with the more narrow jars that fit in the basket.

And they all sealed!  I had hoped this jam would make a nice impromptu gift, for a dinner host or to cheer up a friend who might be having a crap day- but I’m afraid I won’t be letting any of these Burnt Brown Beauties out into the wider world.  I tried some on toast this morning, and though not completely awful, the texture wasn’t right, it was too sweet and the slices of lemon rind were very off-putting.  *sigh*

The good news is our little house will be happy to eat strange looking jam on PB & J.

We just aren’t that fussy.

Author: Carmen

Things I love: justice in all forms; flowers; locally grown food; cloth-diapering; breastfeeding; feminist theory; outdoor play; beaches; wine; Divine interventions; 4-H and coffee. Things I loathe: racism; homophobia; toxic crap; misogyny; litterbugs; the zombie apocalypse and pitbull-haters. My formal education is in sociology, gender studies, and public policy. I'm also a Lactation Educator; 4-H Youth Development coordinator a Certified Master Gardener and a graduate of a Permaculture Design Course. I've been blogging for several years on dozens of topics- everything from women's health to breed-specific legislation. But the thing I like to write about most is my gardening, food adventures and my kids. So there you have it. Please be kind. Thanks.

7 thoughts on “How to Screw Up Easy Jam

  1. Kudos to you for your canning bravery! I’m very intimidated by canning, so I admire your efforts, however scorched they might be. 🙂 I did make some strawberry freezer jam today. I’m hoping I followed all the directions correctly…we’ll see tomorrow if they have jelled up!

    • I hope it worked for you too! I just kept thinking how hard could this be? There are 3 ingredients! Humbled once again by plants, this time in fruit & sugar form. 😉

      • Well, it looks like we’re in a similar boat. Not only did my jam not set, when I called and read the recipe I used to the Ball customer service rep, she said it was the wrong proportions and because the recipe called for it to sit out at room temp to set, it was unsafe. Good thing I didn’t use all the strawberries. But I hate wasting even one, let alone the number I did 😦

      • Oh shucks! 😦 I guess I’m lucky then- the pineapple wasn’t “wasted” it’s just oddly textured. A bit gooey perhaps, but still safe. But we shall keep trying! Never give up, right? 🙂

      • Right! Press on!! 🙂

  2. Pingback: Nothing Dies | The Green Box Garden


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