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To Wax or Not to Wax? Homemade Jelly

I searched this board for info on this, but couldn't find any.

I have a glut of cider so was going to make some cider jelly which is so easy and I love it. BUT, I haven't made it in probably 10 years or more. I used to seal the jelly with a thin layer of wax and then screw on the metal tops; but am wondering if wax is still used for sealing homemade jams and jellies or if it is no longer necessary?? I don't recall seeing the wax layer on homemade jams I've gotten recently.

If it's not necessary, what is the current process to seal the jelly?


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  1. My grandmother used to do it that way, and I've done it years ago. But I think most people use jars with ring lids and submerge the filled jars in boiling water to seal them.

    1. The current procedure is to cap with two part canning lid and to water bath process. I am not sure how long a cider jelly would need to be processed but I would put it in for 10-15 minutes depending upon the size of the jar.

      3 Replies
      1. re: AGM_Cape_Cod

        ya, that's what confused me. I've always put on a thin wax "seal" over the jam/jelly while it was hot AND then used the metal screw on lid (that vacuum seals shut), which is the way my mom did it. But, I didn't submerge the jars after filling (just did the water bath to sterilize the empty jars). Eventually the lids would pop down as they cooled (vacuum).

        I'm wondering if I didn't need the wax at all, even back then?

        1. re: Scirocco

          I found this on About.com:
          "Paraffin is still commonly used (although not recommended) to seal home-canned jellies and jams."

          As I say, my grandmother always used paraffin to seal her jelly. And no one got sick. But it's not recommended. It seems that the boiling method is the only one that's recommended.

          1. re: Scirocco

            Water bath processing is a safer preservation technique than wax seal. TIn the wax seal method the wax is the protective layer, the lid is not vacumn sealed at all. Just screwed on. So there really is no "double layer of protection." Just the wax plus something to keep the wax off.

            If you water bath process you create a vacumn and thus you don't need the max.

            My grandmother was a master canner but never used wax. She said it was easier and faster in her mind than water bath but much riskier. And she used honey exclusively for canning so she was very, very careful.

        2. I remember the slabs of 'Esso' parafin, 5 to a box, that my mother used for putting up crabapple, black raspberry, and currant jelly.
          But I guess wax is on the wane.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Veggo

            Ya, I suspect wax was for when you didn't have the lids. As I said, I used to do both, a layer of wax and then the lids. Am guessing I can just do the lids and water bath now.

            Cool. That will save me a step.

            Thanks everyone!

            1. re: Scirocco

              I didn't start canning until about 5 years ago. About 3 years ago I did a canning class through the extension office, and was actively discouraged from using wax (and other methods, such as flipping the jars to seal, etc).

          2. Paraffin was used for many generations - I don't know how available it is these days but remember my mother using it in the days before the 2-part lids. It dates back to the days before there were glass jars with screw-on lids. Wax was used to seal crocks. It must have worked pretty well overall, since the human race survived long enough to invent vacuum-sealing!

            6 Replies
              1. re: DallasDude

                Yes, I am, if I do say so myself! Looks aren't everything ;-D

                1. re: greygarious

                  And wax was green before green was green.

                  Our family always reused it, after cleaning it up. Rings don't recycle (except perhaps as scarecrow like garden hanging things.)

                  I've done both and the rings are easier, especially in my warmer climate where the wax can get soft if not kept in a root celler.

                  1. re: shallots

                    Actually the new tattler lids can be reused up to 10 times before you have to replace the rings ... I have not used this 3-pc type of lid myself (band/ring/lid) but there are people who swear by them - they are more expensive at start-up, but after that the only thing you will need to replace is the rubber ring after your 10uses.

              2. re: greygarious

                People also died before the age of 30 for many generations---why relive the dark ages?

                1. re: greygarious

                  I saw some recently at the grocery store by the canning supplies ... My mother used it one year on her jelly and swore she would never do it again (she didn't like tilting jars with hot wax in them), but our old neighbor in the 1990s used to send over homemade crabapple jelly with it still - we just stored it in the fridge instead of the pantry.

                2. Paraffin wax has pretty much been replaced by modern, two piece canning lids. The rim of the lid, besides having a rubber gasket, comes with a heat sensitive sealant around the edge. That is why you should not boil the lids before putting them on the can (it will melt the sealant) and why you should never reuse them (the sealant is gone after one use).

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: kmcarr

                    It sounds like what I was doing before was overkill. Wax layer AND two part metal lid! But, that makes perfect sense that the intention of the two part lid was to NOT have to use the wax. And yes, I've read that you are not supposed to boil the lids and I never reuse them, I just reuse the glass jars.

                    this has been very helpful - thanks!

                    1. re: kmcarr

                      Any jar of homemade East Texas or Cajun mayhaw jelly worth its brix still has a paraffin lid.

                      1. re: Veggo

                        My grandmother did Mustang Jelly. Talk about tart! This was from around Austin. No wax as I recall. New avatar is scary... does this cat have its brix in the right place compared to the chipmunk with them in its mouth?

                    2. Wax, although consider old school, works well if you intend to keep the jars for a length of time. Most people eat their homemade jellies/jams/chutneys/syrups/pickles quickly thus waxing to seal is an unnecessary step.

                      1. would you mind sharing your jelly recipie? this sounds really good and lots of cider at my house as well, thanks

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: geminigirl

                          sure! It's SUPER simple....I've seen variations on the internet, but this is the one I have...

                          4 C cider
                          7 1/2 C sugar
                          1 C Certo

                          Bring cider and sugar to a boil. Add Certo and bring to full boil. Boil 1 minute. Pour into sterilized jars. (seal them how you see fit - haha!)

                          that's it!! I love it because there's no fruit to prepare.

                          1. re: Scirocco

                            thanks, I am going to make some this weekend! After seeing your recipie I realized I could probably have just used the apple jelly recipie in the ball book, but wasnt' sure if I could sub cider as their recipie uses apple juice (unsweetened). Also, they use liquid pectin in theirs, I believe one pouch, is that what your certo refers to or totally different? I'm a somewhat new canner so try and stick pretty closely to the recipie...thanks

                            1. re: geminigirl

                              Yes, the Certo is the liquid kind in the pouch. I'm going to make mine this weekend too! I have so much cider, it might be cider jelly for everyone this Christmas - haha!!

                              1. re: Scirocco

                                A staple of Shaker cooking is Boiled Cider - they cook it down into a thick, sweet-tart syrup which is then used as a topping and as an ingredient in sweet and savory dishes. Boil a gallon of cider down even farther, and you have 20 oz. of cider jelly. NOthing else added - no pectin, no sugar, no nothing.

                        2. I actually use one-piece lids, like ordinary screw-on lids. In fact, I frequently re-use the jars and tops from the organic peanut butter I buy, since I buy so much of it. Never used wax.

                          I usually wash the jars and lids, then dry them in a warm oven. Fill while jam/jelly and jars are still hot, put lids on. Usually I do a boiling water bath, but not always. The jars always seal properly (you can tell because the center of the lid becomes concave). Been doing this for 3 or 4 years now, haven't killed anyone yet!

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Kagey

                            The USDA considers paraffin unsafe as a sealing method because bacteria can penetrate the seal. What Kagey is advocating is not reliable either as the manufacturers of the lids don't recommend reusing them. They might seal, they might not. Do you really want to risk having to throw out the jam after all that trouble & expense? I wouldn't say that the fact you have not yet killed anybody is a great recommendation for a canning method. Ball/Kerr two part lids are not expensive and the rings are reusable. The U of Georgia has a great website with detailed information for preserving different kinds of food.

                            1. re: Kagey

                              While zippy2u is correct that the USDA does not recommend the repurposing of commercial bottles/jars/lids - after some searching on the internet I've found that this is a VERY common practice in many eastern european and smaller countries in the East which have issues getting new supplies of lids. it also has to be said that the USDA has not done a new intesive study of lids in a long time (1o years at least) as they also do not mention any of the new three peice lids which are proving to be just as reliable if not more so than the ball/kerr/BH&G two piece lids and they can be reused up to 10 times I'm told.

                            2. How do you plan to store these jars - pantry (room temp), fridge or freezer?

                              For the pantry, I would suggest hot water bath canning is more reliable, especially with new jars and lids. Also, you don't need to fuss with the wax.

                              Reading through this thread, there's the debate about modern canning methods versus what grandmother used to do. For apple cider, the issue may not be apparent since apples and the cider is acidic (low pH) so the risk with botulism is lower than if you were canning a bounty of salmon.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: dave_c

                                this is actual a really old thread of mine. I just do the hot water bath now and it works great. I do store in the pantry and it seems fine. I asked my mom about this too which I should have done in the first place. She has used the hot water bath method for years now. I guess I just remembered the wax from when I was a kid. Back in the day, she canned a lot more than I did, but it was always jellies and jams, so nothing terribly risky. In fact, she still has jars of jam from 10 years ago and it's still fine! amazing. she did test it on herself first before serving to guests though...hahah

                                1. re: Scirocco

                                  Dang, I fell into the trap of replying to an old question.

                                  However, Thanks for the update!

                                  lol! Tested on herself before serving to guest. :-)

                                  1. re: dave_c

                                    hahhaa - don't feel bad - I've done it too! :-)

                                    1. re: dave_c

                                      But the thing is, it's a "new" topic to a whole lot of new people .... I never feel bad about resurrecting a topic if it is timely