Yes, I Can

Every summer I engage in a ritual. It’s not the beach, a family reunion, or a camping trip (although I do those too). I make jam. If I can get to the woods, I harvest wild berries. Otherwise, I pick them at a local farm. Then I lug my haul home, boil up a pot of water, and begin kitchen alchemy.


“With glass jars, boiling water, and the careful chemistry of heat, sugar, and fruit, the canning process is both reminiscent of a science experiment and a visceral confrontation with the elements.”


There are plenty of easier ways to get jam, so why the fuss and bother of home canning? Partly, it’s about having a skill that seems less and less common. Partly it’s about honing my self-reliance. But the main thing is, and has always been, about the food.

Americans love to watch television shows about food, but we often forego cooking, as outlets from the Washington Post to Forbes to Slate have noted. With glass jars, boiling water, and the careful chemistry of heat, sugar, and fruit, the canning process is both reminiscent of a science experiment and a visceral confrontation with the elements. It’s dangerous. It’s inconvenient. And it forces you to get close to your food. As a result, the jam is not simply purchased, but earned.

So how does it work? My favorite raspberry jam recipe is from the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving and goes like this:

You will need:

  • Very large pot
  • 8 half-pint canning jars, with lids and rings
  • 1 quart raspberries
  • 6 ½ cups of sugar
  • 1 pouch Liquid Ball Pectin
  • Not necessary, but very helpful, is Ball’s canning utensil kit
  1. Wash 1 quart of red raspberries. Crush berries in a large bowl.

Red raspberries 2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, gently add 8 half-pint canning jars, bands and lids removed, to the water. Boil jars at least 10 minutes. You will also want to wash and rinse the two-piece caps. (This article has complete instructions on sterilizing jars.)

3. Combine berries with 6 ½ cups of sugar in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and stir until the sugar dissolves.

Raspberries being boiled in pot

4. Stir in 1 pouch of Ball Liquid Pectin (available at supermarkets). Boil hard 1 minute, stirring occasionally.

5. Remove jars from pot and place on a heatproof surface. Fill empty jars with hot jam, leaving ¼ headspace (the gap between the top of the jam and the top of the jar.)

6. Place the clean jar lids onto the filled jars and adjust the rings. Careful, as the jars will be hot. Return the filled jars to the pot of boiling water. Process for 10 minutes.

Jam jars in boiling water

7. Remove the jars with the tongs. Place on a wire rack. You will hear the lids “pop” as the jars seal. I generally let the jars cool for 24 hours, by which time all the lids should have sealed.

Removing jars from pot with a set of tongs

8. Enjoy your jam!

Jars of homemade raspberry jam

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