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First Time Making Preserves

We just came back from Paris and brought back Christine Ferber's Blood Orange Preserves. Our small and very expensive jar is finished. It was so terrific that I signed up for a 2 hour preserve making course.

My husband looked a little afraid when I told him this. How difficult is this? Did you learn on your own? Did you take a class? What books would you suggest for someone who is just starting out.

Thank you any suggestions. The class isn't until next month and I'd like to read up and be prepared. ( I'd also like to avoid killing anyone by screwing it up)

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  1. Actually like almost all cooking it's just a series of many small steps that are all pretty easy.
    You should enjoy the class and homemade preserves make great gifts.

    1. Making preserves and jams and the like is not difficult at all. What little I knew when I started I learned from my mother! I'd honestly recommend Ball's Blue Book of canning which will give you the basics before you start on a class.

      Jams and preserves are some of the easiest and safest things to make. Because most preserves have a low pH (are acidic) and have loads of sugar, they're not a particularly hospitable host for the yuckies we sometimes associate with home canned goods. If you hot-water-process them (also very simple), they're shelf stable for months.

      Happy preserving! :)

      3 Replies
      1. re: LauraGrace

        Thank you both. I will order the book today.

        1. re: LauraGrace

          There are 2 books listed on Amazon:




          looks like one's paperback and one's hardcover and cheaper. They are showing the same cover, but does anyone know if they are infact the same book?

          1. re: Stuffed Monkey

            They are the same book are both paperback. Ball have another hardcover book:


            which is about 200 pages bigger. I have both - not sure I needed them because the canning methods are the same in each, but the hardcover has a lot more recipes.

            FWIW, you can usually pick up the soft cover version at the local hardware store and Craigslist is a great source of second-hand canning equipment.

        2. Get a canning funnel. You might think it's no big deal to just ladle or spoon your piping-hot preserves into the canning jars, but it's really hard not to make a mess of it unless you use a canning funnel.

          Use full-flavor fruit. If you find that your raw fruit is bland or underripe, cook it down thoroughly, so as to evaporate some of the water and concentrate the flavor, and/or add spices like cinnamon or ginger to perk it up. Blood orange could be a challenge - recently, Trader Joe's caried Tarocco oranges, but around here when blood oranges are available they are usually the Moro variety, which is bitter compared to the Taroccos. The latter are what I had in Italy nearly 40 years ago; like a blend of strawberry and orange. I didn't know there was more than one kind of blood orange and many years later, when they first appeared in US supermarkets, I was thrilled - until I tasted them. Now I know that I don't care for Moros, but to buy Taroccos when I see them. Taste test different varieties ahead of time so you can find what you like.

          3 Replies
          1. re: greygarious

            Thank you for that advice. I also had never had or seen a blood orange until I was in Italy about 30 years ago. My college roommate and I thought that that were rotten! Then we tried them and just loved them.

            1. re: greygarious

              Canning funnel is a GREAT idea. Now is a good time to look for them too -- I saw kits at Kroger that had a jar lifter, a canning funnel, a recipe book and ?? something else, for around 10 bucks. Can't beat that!!

              1. re: LauraGrace

                LauraGrace, I agree that the kits are worthwhile. I have the big cheap enameled canning pot, with the rack, jar lifter (another thing that's not absolutely vital but without which the job is difficult), and funnel - all came in a box, with recipe booklet, for very little money. If I knew where in the cluttered garage that stuff IS, I could tell you the brand! It's probably 15 yrs old and I believe I got it at a hardware store. Daisy, you may think, "I have a big pot already" - we all do. If you make small jars you're all set.
                But boiling water needs to circulate completely - you need to elevate the jars on a wire rack, leave space between the jars, and submerge them by at least an inch of water. So if you are using taller/larger jars, you need a TALL pot. The special rack maintains space between the jars and keeps them from being jostled by the boiling water.

            2. I second everything already written. You can totally do this, canning is so easy. It's messy and takes a bit of time but so worth while. After you have gone through it all a couple of times you'll figure out ways to be more efficent. I just learned by carefully reading the Ball book. They have a larger book too, besides the Blue one, which has different recipes. If you are going to make jam, and need a food mill I recomend against the meat grinder types. That is what I have and it leaks all over. I made cherry preserves, and I think I found pulp in things for 3 months. The kind that sit on top of a bowl would be a better bet. Have fun!

              5 Replies
              1. re: corneygirl

                One more question. How "seriously" do you do this? I mean, how often are you making preserves and where are you getting your fruit?

                1. re: DaisyM

                  I live in the midwest, so I make preserves and can in general when I have an abundance of produce. I'm in a CSA so for pickles and such I get my ingredients from "surplus" in my share. I also have a small garden and preserve some of that. Jams and preserves I make when I can stumble into a bunch of fruit. Several times I have found large quantities of cherries, ground cherries, gooseberries, etc. Pumpkin and apples I buy at the farmers market. I make a lot of stuff at once, but will usually only process each type of thing once a year. I also don't put everything up every year.

                2. re: corneygirl

                  I just use my food processor. Is there a difference of texture?

                  1. re: LauraGrace

                    I don't have one, and the food mill is cheaper. Also it is good for separating the seed/pits from things. It'll remove the pits from flesh on small wild cherries, and separate out tomato seeds. I'm not sure if a food processor does that.

                    1. re: corneygirl

                      No, a food processor won't strain out seeds and peels. I like the extra color and flavor of applesauce made with unpeeled apples, so the food mill is the ideal tool for that, I don't even core the fruit, just quarter it. You can approximate what a food mill does by stirring in a colander, pressing the mush against the sides with a rubber scraper, but the food mill is faster and does a more complete job.

                3. Are you talking preserves or marmalade? Marmalade sets easy because it includes citrus peel. Preserves are trickier, and often require pectin, ang quirky boiling instructios. I've never heard of a citrus "preserve". Do you have a recipe? Pay attention to your recipes directions for sterilizing bottles,rims.and lids, and for duration of boil after bottling. Check gently for seal. I'm growing two blood orange (sanguinella) trees.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Shrinkrap

                    You are growing blood orange trees? Wow, that is kind of fabulous! This label is in French and translates as preserves, but it was more like a marmalade with rind of the blood orange.

                    1. re: DaisyM

                      Yeah well, I always have to grow the latest " foodie" thing ( first fingerling potatoes, than favas and sugar snaps, then garlic and shallots, then Blenheim apricots, then figs, then pluots, then Meyer lemons... now Blood oranges. Gah! . The trees are only a few years old and I only got two oranges last year, but there are lots of blossoms right now!.

                      I'm thinking if it's citrus and has peel it's technically marmalade, which I think is less tricky then preserves, and I've made many! Hard to go wrong with marmalade if you have a recipe.

                      some orange marmalade recipes I looked up DO include powdered pectin.

                      Here's one without pectin


                      1. re: Shrinkrap

                        Yes! Marmalade is very simple. I made about 16 pints of grapefruit marmalade with three ingredients -- grapefruit, water, and sugar -- and it turned out perfectly despite my fussing and worrying!

                        It's a great first preserving project, I think. Pretty foolproof!

                        1. re: LauraGrace

                          Thanks for all the words of encouragement. I'm excited about doing this.

                  2. You'll be jamming! Great! It's really a snap. It'll be fun to take a class, but you can noodle around and not end up killing anybody. I'm "self-taught," which means the blood orange marmalade I made a couple of years ago was stiffer than pomade, and the quince chutney was sort of yucky, and the blueberry jam was more like blueberry sauce. But they were all still edible and fun. I didn't have any equipment at first, and it was a big mess and took forever, but like any kitchen sport, practice improves. Have a great time, and lots of toast or brioche at hand for your product!

                    1. The Jam Lady Cookbook has some great, different recipes, and lots of suggestions for making smaller batches. Also check out The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving. With only two in our household I'm not interested in making lots of pints at one time, even if I have plenty of grateful recipients to give them to. So I appreciate have the small batch preserving book to help me with the quantities; perhaps a more experienced canner wouldn't need such help but I do.

                      1. I have been canning all sorts of things for years and I can tell you there is nothing to compare with listen to the music of the seals popping and looking at the beautiful jars. You will be amazed at how easy it is. If all this was started by Christine Feber's jam you might want to get her cookbook-Mes Confitures The Jams and Jellies of Christine Ferber. I looked and it has a recipe for Blood Orange Jam in it. Have fun.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: AGM_Cape_Cod

                          I like you choice in music AGM :-) I just started canning two years ago and I LOVE it. Self taught, although I do have the Ball Canning Book and I read just about everything I could on the GardenWeb Harvest forum.
                          Tonight I had the pleasure in giving away a couple of jars of salsa that I made last summer with tomatoes and peppers grown in my garden.

                          Daisy - It's easier than you'd think but rather more time-consuming and totally addictive. Good Luck!


                          1. re: toastnjam

                            Thanks so much. I've orderded the book and am very excited about trying this. I'm sure I'll have numerous questions. Thanks in advance for your indulgence. I really appreciate how everyone is so generous and encouraging.

                        2. I'm a self-taught jam maker! One summer I decided that I wanted to master canning and I went for it. Mind you, I didn't come from a family that cans. Chowhound was a valuable resource in terms of finding out what to buy. The canning funnel is essential as are tongs for the jars. I've never been able to get the rack to work in my pot (it has a lifter attached) but if you can that would be helpful. Another helpful tool is this little plastic wand with a magnet at the end. You use it to remove the jar lids out of hot water. As a bonus you can use the back end to pop air bubbles in the jam.

                          I'm a HUGE fan of the Christine Ferber book - Mes Confitures. I've made many a jam from her book. I usually modify her recipes slightly so that i use a natural pectin and less sugar, although her recipes work just fine. You WILL need a thermometer. If the jam doesn't reach the right temp you're screwed.

                          Here's some more info on my jamming experiences and fave recipes:
                          Peach Jam with Pinot Noir and Cinnamon (AMAZING)

                          Caramel Spiced Pear Jam

                          Good luck!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: wontonfm

                            Oh, wow just the names sound so wonderful. We planted two raspberry bushes this year. My husband told me that the birds and the ground hogs would eat them....but I have visions of making raspberry jam.

                          2. Oh, yay for you to do this! I started with a simple class too. Now I am famous among my friends for being the dork who gleefully calls them to make them come berry picking with me so I can make jam. I did it one summer without the proper equipment. That stunk. The basic stuff is essential. I've also been really happy to have a nice, very heavy food mill.

                            I didn't really fall in love with my jams until I started using the Pomona's Pectin and got the sugar down a bit. You might want to make a batch with that and a batch with regular and/or low sugar regular pectin and see what you think. It'd be good to do that early on so you know your own sweet-preference.

                            My mom canned her sweet black cherries last summer, destemmed but on the pit, and I swear, they were magical. Canning is cool!

                            Oh, my favorite easy canning project is pear butter with lemon juice, plenty of riesling wine, brown sugar, fresh ground cardamom and cinnamon. I actually do it over two days-- one day cooking the pears down, in the fridge overnight, then back up to heat and can. But I take two days because I usually do about 40 lbs at a time!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Vetter

                              That sounds so fantastic. Stupid question....but did you make the recipe up? I mean, do you need to follow a recipe to the T like in baking or can you experiment like cooking?

                            2. I have not yet gotten it, but found enthusiastic reviews for "Blue Ribbon Preserves: Secrets to Award-Winning Jams, Jellies, Marmalades, and More", by Linda J. Amendt.
                              I rather doubt that a canning class will give you more info than a book, and it's not a process that's hard to learn without watching someone demonstrate (e.g. de-boning a chicken).