Turn summer fruits into holiday gifts

July 14, 2004|by LYNN F. LITTLE

Christmas in July? Not exactly, but don't discount the gift potential of summer-fresh fruits. During the summer, when fruit is plentiful, you might consider turning it into jelly and jam that can be used as holiday gifts.

Making jam need not be difficult, with freezer jams being the easiest. Chop clean fresh fruit, then mix fruit with sugar and pectin, and spoon it into sterilized jam jars.

The process is easy enough for inexperienced cooks and also family-friendly so that children can help make gifts to give at the holidays.

  • Take advantage of lower fruit prices during peak season or use garden surplus.

  • Choose fresh fruits and berries that are free of dents, bruises or mold.

  • Wash fruits and berries thoroughly, but don't allow them to soak - doing so can diminish nutritional value.

  • Stem or peel, as necessary, before chopping.

  • Follow a recipe from a reliable cookbook or product insert.

  • Recipes that are packaged with products such as pectin or jelly jars have been tested by family and consumer science professionals who understand how ingredients in recipes interact. For example, test-kitchen professionals recommend using pectin that contains calcium for recipes prepared with artificial sweeteners.

  • Use canning jars that are made to withstand heat (if a hot water bath is used) or cold (in the freezer). The jars can be sterilized in the dishwasher and, while sealing rings can be re-used, new lids are recommended. Re-using mayonnaise or other household jars is not recommended for jam and jelly making or canning. The recycled jars may not withstand the high heat (240 degrees) from a pressure canner or prolonged storage in a freezer.

  • Food preservationists listen for a pop as a sign that a canning jar is sealed. Lids tighten as they seal and a sealed lid should not indent when touched. For added insurance, you can leave the rings in place to hold lids secure.

  • Follow recipe recommendations for storage and use within one year.

Summer-fresh jams and jellies extend fresh-fruit flavors into the fall and winter months. They take relatively little time to prepare, and, when used as gifts, can relieve some of the pressure during the busy holiday season.


For more information on making homemade jams and jellies and preserving summer fruits and vegetables, visit The National Center for Home Food Preservation at: The United States Department of Agriculture's "Complete Home Canning Guide" and recipes are available on the site.

For a guide to making jams and jellies, including recipes, send a self-addressed, stamped (37 cents) business-size envelope to: Maryland Cooperative Extension - Washington County office, 7303 Sharpsburg Pike, Boonsboro, MD 21713. Please mark the envelope, "Jam."

Lynn F. Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County.

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