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Jan 24, 2012 04:40 PM

How long will homemade jam last if I don't can it?

I will be making jam for the first time, but I am totally clueless when it comes to canning (I'm also afraid that I will poison myself and others). About how long should I expect the jam to last if I just put it in the refrigerator?

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  1. I put mine into plastic containers and freeze it....lasts a very, very long time.

    9 Replies
    1. re: escondido123

      I did this too with the huge pot of fig-vanilla jam I made in the fall. I used little plastic freezer containers that were around the size of jam jars and just took a new one out to defrost whenever the old one ran out.

      How long it lasts in the fridge will depend partly on what kind of jam you make, how much sugar is in it, how acidic it is etc. The jams I've made have lasted anywhere from a few weeks to a few months in the fridge before they started to mould. If you're only making a couple containers and you eat a lot of jam, you should be okay without freezing. If you're making a ton or you don't eat a whole lot of jam, I'd freeze it.

      1. re: BananaBirkLarsen

        Fig vanilla jam sounds great! Would you please share the recipe?

        1. re: sunflwrsdh

          It was sort of improvised when I found myself with two bags filled with calimyrna figs. Basically, I cleaned and chopped the figs, tossed them in a pot with sugar, lemon juice and several vanilla beans (scrapings and pods) and cooked the heck out of 'em (I used the frozen plate test to tell when it was done). The figs didn't break down as much as I wanted, so I ended up pureeing everything. It ended up more like a fig preserve than a fig jam, but it was delicious. I imagine it would also be excellent unpureed if the figs were chopped a bit more finely. I didn't use pectin, but it would probably help thicken everything up as well if you didn't want to go the pureeing route.

          1. re: BananaBirkLarsen

            Thank you! It sounds wonderful. We just started making our own Greek yogurt, and I was hoping to find some new jams/preserves to use to flavor it. this one sounds great! I have made lots of berry jams in the past, but haven't ever tried anything like fig jam/preserve....thanks again for the idea!

            1. re: sunflwrsdh

              No problem! I actually even used some of mine to top yogurt and it was quite good. It's also really good on pancakes and on toast with peanut butter.

            2. re: BananaBirkLarsen

              Dried figs or fresh? This sounds wonderful!

              1. re: nofunlatte

                Fresh figs! We found an old abandoned orchard last fall, with the figs just rotting on the trees, so we picked a ton of them. This was one of the longest-lasting and most used thing I turned them into.

                I imagine you could do it with dried figs as well for a different (but delicious) flavour.

              2. re: BananaBirkLarsen

                or just add an apple for the pectin. Apples and figs are a great combo.

                1. re: magiesmom

                  This is a great idea -- an apple would've fit perfectly into my jam.

        2. Canning jam is fairly straightforward. Bernardin (produces jars, lids, all home canning material) is a great resource, they are on the internet, their instructions are clear. If you feel really unsure, use a thermometer. In my view, its mainly all about temperature and timing. Once you get the hang of it, you'll not want to buy jam again. Best of luck to you. And if it does end up in the fridge, the others are right, it will last quite a while (assuming its not eaten in the meantime).

          1 Reply
          1. re: Professional_Amateur

            "Bernardin" is a Canadian brand - in the U.S. it's called "Ball". Both companies are owned by Jarden Brands.

          2. I make every few years a large batch of Elderberry gelee, actually it turns out more like a very thick syrup which we love. I wash the glass jars by themselves in the dishwasher before filling and use new covers and seals.
            I fill the jars to about 80 % with the very hot prepared Elderberry prep, close up the jars pretty much immediately and then turn the whole glass upside down for a couple of seconds. The hot liquid does the trick of sterilizing the whole inside of the glass. I have never ever lost a jar due to fungus, despite keeping them in the cup board at room temperature. One large batch usually lasts us 2 to 3 years.

            16 Replies
            1. re: RUK

              Wow, that is smart. I never heard of that! Like you, once I have the proper seal, there is no spoilage. I've kept things almost as long without any bacteria growing.

              1. re: Professional_Amateur

                My MIL taught me that many years ago. It works!

              2. re: RUK

                That method is called "open kettle" method and isn't food safe. Why is open kettle canning not recommended? In open kettle canning, food is cooked in an ordinary kettle, then packed into hot jars and sealed without processing. The temperatures obtained in open kettle canning are not high enough to destroy all spoilage and food poisoning organisms that may be in the food. Also, microorganisms can enter the food when it is transferred from the kettle to jar and cause spoilage. Read more here:

                1. re: momskitchen

                  so i think the filled jars should then be returned to the boiling water bath that sterilized the jars (that's what I would do rather than the dishwasher method)? My Mom taught me that you could do that if you wanted to be extra safe, but that if you carefully handled the jars and lids and funnel and anything else that touched the jam on the way into the jar, that step wasn't necessary. your thoughts?

                  1. re: danna

                    I don't think open kettle has ever been an approved method in the US. Things are done a little differently in Europe, though.

                    Current US methods don't require that jars for jelly or jams be sterilized before packing. Just clean and hot, then processed for at least 10 minutes.

                    A great place to learn current approved methods/techniques is the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving. It's a magazine-like book that you can pick up at grocery stores or Target/Wal-Mart. Guidelines in the US changed in the 1990's so what your mom did or what your grandma did might not be something that the USDA currently recommends.

                    I'm a totally by the rules canner. I give pickles and jams to friends and don't want to do anything that could possibly add to the risk of contamination. Plus, here in the midwest, things like farmers market strawberries are expensive. I want minimal risk for my money and time investment.

                    1. re: danna

                      Open kettle is not safe; you've just been lucky. You can never be sure that you've "carefully handled" enough.

                      1. re: JudiAU

                        I'm not advising anybody, i'm just trying to figure out how you and momskitchen define "open kettle" , i've never heard that phrase before.

                        mtoo, thank gave me a moment of gratitude that my mom is "doing" not "did" whatever she does when canning. ;-)

                    2. re: momskitchen

                      Hmm, I didn't know that. I haven't done too many other preparations besides Elderberries. But, I always worked very clean and very fast, none of us ever got sick from it in all these years.
                      Perhaps if I would start canning vegetables and all around got more serious about canning ( which I am not), I might change my method. Which does by the way create a very tight seal.

                      1. re: RUK

                        Well, again, according to my Mom (who of course knows everything by virtue of being both my Mom AND a schoolteacher), things that are high sugar and high acid, are much less likely to be problematic. (like berry syrup)

                        I have now googled the "open kettle" and I suppose the fact that it's now frowned upon is why my Mom mentioned the additional processing option. I assume she hasn't switched because she's been doing it her way for 60 years. And my grandmother before that. (although, I remember Mom being horrified one day when we went over and saw my other grandma canning green beans and i was thereafter instructed not to eat green beans at her house)

                        anyhow, I'm still a bit confused, Clemson's extention service says the reason open kettle is considered insufficient is that temps are not high enough to destroy all organisms. What temp IS required? I would have thought if the jam is boiling and the jars were boiled, that ought to be a high enough temp. wrong?

                        1. re: danna

                          For high acid foods (which is most fruits, BUT NOT FIGS - and it means anything that has a pH of <4.6) the sufficient temperature is 212F at a prescibed length of time to make sure that even the stuff at the center of the jar is food safe. When you boil the jam, by the time you pour it in the jar and it seals, the food hasn't been held at a food safe temp long enough to make it food safe. Your mom is right about the acidity helping keep canned goods safe, however the sugar in canned goods is there strictly for the taste and to help the pectin set up in jam. You can actually can fruit in plain water - it won't taste very good, but it won't spoil, because it's acidic enough.

                          1. re: momskitchen

                            interesting, thanks. fyi, here' the family fig recipe:

                            1 quart figs, washed, stems removed, quartered.
                            3 cups sugar , divided
                            ½ lemon sliced very thinly (optional)

                            Put figs, 1 ½ cups sugar, and lemon (if using) into a large heavy pot. Bring heat up to boiling gradually, making sure sugar does not stick. When it boils, cover for a minute to dissolve any crystals. Uncover and boil 8 minutes. Add the remaining 1 ½ cups sugar. Cover again to dissolve crystals. Boil for another 8 minutes.

                            Transfer preserves to sterilized glass jars following standard safe canning practices

                            1. re: danna

                              Here's a canning safe recipe for fig jam that's very similar.

                              1. re: momskitchen

                                thank you. that's an interesting recipe, but I don't think it would turn out similarly , given how little time the figs themselves actually cook. Might be fun to try a different method for a batch if the crop is big.

                                As far as food safety, I see no difference here from my Mom's "if you want to be extra safe" method of returning the filled jars to boiling water after filling them.

                                1. re: danna

                                  Returning the filled jars into the boiling water and boiling them for a specified time is called "boiling water bath canning" , and that's not being "extra safe" that is the ONLY WAY to make it be food safe, and that's if the lemon is added to make the figs acidic enough. Hope this helps.

                        2. re: RUK

                          I've been in the kitchen for over 30 years and never heard of doing what your mother in law showed you. that said, I can see why it worked with a jelly/syrup but with other products, I don't know. its also clear that your kitchen is obviously v clean. the other thing is that you have to force the extra oxygen from the jar making the product inside it essentially sterilized. that's what real processing is about. if you try to do anything low acid, you'll be in your kitchen for an eternity.

                        3. re: momskitchen

                          Yes, but its rather obvious that this isn't some kind of approved method and its quite unlikely that the original person who asked the question would even try it.

                      2. Thanks for the responses. I didn't even think about freezing jam.

                        Actually I have a family friend who cans all of the time and I have always wanted to try it. I don't want to attempt it on my own though, and she lives a bit far from my house. Next time I see her I really want to do it. She also has a lot of fig trees growing around her property and I would love to try a fig jam.

                        1. Usually about a month in the refrigerator, if everything was very clean. Maybe a bit more for an unopened jar. But, really, consider freezing instead. It will give you six months in peak condition.