OK, so I’m a contrarian. I don’t know whether it’s one of my best or worst characteristics, but push me too hard and I get real pigheaded. My contrarian tendencies really get the better of me when some scientist says I should or shouldn’t do something based on the latest research. The reason I balk is that I spent many years in the health-care field and a number of those years doing quality improvement, where research and the use of data are paramount. I know that people falsify data. I know that less than stellar research results can be spun just as crazily as any political statement. And I know that the money supporting some of those research projects can wind up influencing the results. So when it comes to making jams and jellies, there are some points at which my back goes up and I do it my way.
I don’t use a water bath when making jams or jellies. I know the latest instructions tell you to use a water bath for 5 to 10 minutes. But I’ve read the research and the only thing you get out of a water bath is a slightly tighter seal. Since I’ve never had a problem and I’ve been using the “invert jar for 5 minutes after sealing” method for about 40 years now, I think I’m OK. I will add that my mother died over 25 years ago. The jams and jellies my stepmother recently asked me to clean out of her cellar that were put up by my mother several years before she died still have a good seal from the invert method.
First, let me point out there are some steps for which there are no shortcuts. You absolutely must have squeaky-clean jars that do not have nicks or cracks. You must put both lids and jars in boiling water and leave them submerged until you are ready to fill them. You must work quickly, as keeping things hot and sealing quickly keep contaminants out of the food. Finally, my contrary methods below should never be used for canning things like vegetables or meat; those need pressure canning. Where I veer from the mainstream path is in skimming, ladling and water baths.
I don’t skim the foam from jams or jellies. Foam will not hurt you; it just makes the top of the jelly look different than the rest of it. And the process of skimming means it takes longer to get the hot liquid into the jars. Letting the liquid stand in an open kettle or pan increases the chances that airborne contaminants can get at it. Cooling will increase the risk of spoilage; hot liquid, sealed quickly, will decrease spoilage. Skimming also makes the whole process messier and increases the risk of a burn. By the time you get to the last jar or two, the foam has already been poured off, so if you want something pretty for a gift, use these jars.
I don’t use a ladle, for similar reasons – mess and cooling. Instead I pour the cooked jam or jelly into a pitcher that has been thoroughly washed and disinfected and equally thoroughly rinsed in very hot water (since I can’t get it into a kettle to boil it). I then take each jar out of the boiling water one at a time, fill it by pouring from the pitcher and quickly clap on and seal each lid. Using a pitcher means I almost never have a spill, so the rims of the jars rarely need to be wiped – another time-saving method that decreases mess and keeps things hot until sealed.
Sometimes the latest research is good stuff, and sometimes it’s hooey.
been making chokecherry jelly/jam for years by inverting jars –no problems
–lately I’ve been having problems with blowouts when inverting jars. Do you think some of the canning products are inferior to previous KERR or BALL products?
I try not to tighten the hot jars too much –just hand resistance–and things do not go well—
any suggestions ????
Patricia, my most sincere apologies for not getting back to you on this (if you check the latest post you’ll see why). I haven’t done any jams or jellies this year so I can’t speak from personal experience, but I have noticed a lot of things seem to be lower quality since the pandemic really got going. You might try contacting the manufacturer. Have you tried doing the jars without inversion? Also, there’s a post on this blog under “When Canning Jars Won’t Seal” that might be helpful.
Re: foam. The first jam recipe I ever used (apricot) recommended putting a pat of butter on the jam before boiling to keep the foam down. This has always worked for me.
I wish we could find out more about the new lids that do not suggest keeping them in boiling water and that they will not “pop” when sealed as in the old ones. I recently canned 36 jars of Concord Grape jam and fortunately had enough lids of the older variety. Don’t want to risk using the new ones and having failures in sealing. Also, I’ve found that keeping jellies and jams in the freezer, even if they have sealed well, retains the beautiful color of the strawberries or the grapes with out effecting the taste and texture. Just my experience. Did not use water bath as seemed unnecessary. Didn’t invert jars but like the idea and will in the future. Thank you for the reassurance about water baths!
I read about this online, maybe the USDA site? My take away was that as long as it was lid seal clean and jar water bathed or pressure canned, further research found that boiling the lis made mite hassle but no difference in contamination or jar seal failure.
Maybe it was needed decades ago because different products in the seal needed that heat to soften them to achieve proper seal? I have both water bathed and outside canned this year without boiling lids just washed and rinsed, laid on clear tea towel/ cutting board with other canning tools and just used a regular 3d fridge magnet (@ 1/2 inch high) to move and place lids and I’ve had no failures.
I recently made strawberry rhubarb jam and I did NOT water bath it! Reason being is that my neighbour has also been canning for 40+ years and she advised me it does not need to need to be done for jams or jellies.
That being said, because I added rhubarb in there do I have to water bath it as it’s a vegetable…?
Please let me know!
While I can’t give a hard and fast answer, rhubarb and strawberries have about the same pH level. I’ve never done a waterbath with strawberries and have had no problems.
I made jalapeno jelly yesterday but didn’t water bath it but now I see they haven’t popped. Did they seal and are they OK
First time canning. Help thank you.
Push down in the center of the lid and see if it indents and stays indented. Then take the rings off and lift the jars by the lid (hold your other hand under the jar just in case). If the lid indents and stays attached when lifted this way, they sealed even without the pop. Otherwise, store in the fridge.
And do I have to keep it in the refrigerator.
I’m new to this kind of canning and I just wanted to check to be sure I’m doing it correctly. You fill the jar, tighten the lid and invert for 5 minutes, right? And then do you turn them back upright? Thanks.
Correct; turn them upright after five minutes. Otherwise your jam will jell against the lid, which makes for a messy removal.
Don’t forget to turn them back over either, I’ve done it many times. If it happens, you can use a pressure cooker instead of a water bath to settle the contents back to the bottom. 10 mins in pressure cooker.
Do NOT invert. This is an old method now proven to cause more seal failures and contamination issues. There are several websites that explain this, I would recommend checking the USDA canning sites first.
This site has a good discussion on inverting jars. https://www.pickyourown.org/FAQ_jamsandjellies.php. Note, I’m not in any way connected to it, just found it in my research, as I found this page.
I know this blog is talking specifically to jams/jellies, but I just canned blueberry pie filling. I didn’t do a water bath, I sterilized the jars and lids followed by the notorious pop. I’m now nervous that I should have done the water bath. I’m new to the whole process and thought I needed to process like jams/jellies. Now I’m not so sure. Any thoughts?!
Pie filling is more dense than jams or jellies, especially pie filling with larger chunks like apples. It’s also more common to make it in quart jars, while jams and jellies are typically a pint or less. I haven’t seen any information specific to pie filling and it was traditional to cook it in a water bath while it was not traditional to water bath jams and jellies. If you can eat it all within a week or so, you might get away with refrigerating, but I definitely would not store it on the shelf. Much as I hate to say it, the safest thing would be to discard this batch and start over.
Many thanks for supporting inversion method to can jellies and preserves!!! I have been doing it this way for over 40 years. I agree, never have problems with inversion as I am very careful with hot jars and canning lids. Amazing these young/new canning experts think they have something over us old timers using proven methods from our moms and grandmas. I also use as sterilized pitcher when filling jars, too – the pour spout saves messes and time. Another trick my mom taught me was to use Fruit Fresh sprinkled over the fresh fruit before processing. Though it is not necessary, it does help keep fruits fresh and colors brighter.
Hi there! I am hoping you can help me! We have bought this ginormous can of our favorite German pickles (the only way we can buy them these days) and have also bought 1L canning jars. Having never canned before, I am just wondering … do we just clean the jars, lids and rims well and keep them in hot water before filling and sealing? Will that produce a sufficient seal? We are unable to store them all in the fridge after “canning” and certainly do not want them to spoil! I thank you in advance for your advice!
Lori, I would not attempt to recan them in jars – they’ve already been through one canning process. The pickles will be mushy, the flavor probably won’t be the same and there’s no way to know how long you’ll have to cook them in order for them to be safe. You can certainly decant them into jars and store them in the fridge as is. For that you just need clean jars and lids and don’t need to worry about getting a good seal. If you’re short on refrigerator space, do you have a neighbor who might share in return for a jar of pickles?
Thanks for the info. I want to do my first batch of tomato chutney. I know you’re specifically talking about jams and jellies here, but do you think the same method would work? Sterilised and hot jars and lids, hot chutney straight into jars and sealed?
Tomato chutney is a whole ‘nother ball of wax. Tomatoes are a low-acid vegetable, especially modern varieties, which are higher in sugar than the old-fashioned heirlooms. That’s a recipe I wouldn’t tinker with.
Thanks for your help
I like your idea of using a pitcher to pour the jelly into the jars. Would you please give some detail about the pitcher?
It’s just an old Tupperware pitcher I’ve probably had for 20 years. Holds about 2 1/2 quarts. Normally I’m not big on plastic but the hot liquid is in it maybe three minutes, and because it’s plastic I don’t have to mess with hot dish holders.
I love the idea of the pitcher, thanks!!
Is the invert method ideal when making a large year round batch of Elderberry syrup? If not, would water-bath or pressure canning work better? Would it be okay to add honey after opening up canned Ederberry syrup, or is it better to include it in the Elderberry before canning?
I don’t can my elderberry syrup. I use dried berries and make a fresh batch when supplies run low. You could also freeze the berries (they take up very little room). Two/thirds of a cup of dried elderberries (1 1/3 cups fresh or frozen) makes enough syrup for about a month for two people. Remember, you’re only taking a tablespoon a day. One of the problems with canning is that it degrades any heat-sensitive constituents (vitamin C especially). Since you’re already cooking the berries, canning adds insult to injury, so to speak. If you do decide to can inverting wouldn’t hurt. There are plenty of people who don’t invert jams and jellies, however, and still get a good seal. In either case, a water bath would be unnecessary. The honey has a preservative effect, so I prefer to add it before bottling. I store the syrup in the fridge.
Omg I didn’t water bath my grape jelly or apple butter jelly is it doomed? Sterilized jars lids and jelly. Forgot the water bath..crock pot cooked the apple butter😭 all that work please is it to bee thrown out,
It was to be Christmas gifts.
Hi Pamela – if you followed the recipes, sterilized your jars and have a good seal, you’re fine. The water bath isn’t necessary.
I have used the invert method for many years! Glad to see your explaining it so well!
Great article, and very helpful. I have recently started making my first two batches of jam, which turned out beautifully. However, I was unaware that I was supposed to put the jars in a water bath. I have simply been sterilising my jars and lids and waiting for them to cool completely and then filling them with the hot jam and sealing them. I haven’t been inverting the jars which I will do next time. I have checked all my jars and they are all sealed tightly, but I am glad to have come across your site as I am glad that I am not alone in not using a water bath.
I’m glad it was useful. One thing, though – you say you sterilize your jars and wait for them to cool. It’s safer (and a long-recommended practice) to fill the jars while they are hot. For one thing you get a better seal. For another, hot jar+hot jam decreases the chance of bacteria getting a foothold.
A good seal means you get a vacuum seal. That is why the jars and jam should be hot when put together. As the jam cools a vacuum is created in the air space between the jam and the lid. When you hear the “pop” of the lids, you know you have a good seal.
Jacqueline, a good seal means a vacuum has been created between the jam/jelly and the lid. Without this vacuum the food will spoil over time. To create the vacuum you need hot jars and hot jam/jelly. Keep jars, lids and jam/jelly as warm as possible while putting it all together. When the filled jars are cooling you will hear a “pop” when the vacuum pulls the lid down. You can test the seal by tapping your finger on the top of the lid.
Hi, I made strawberry jam 2 weeks ago. I was very careful to sterilizing everything, I bottled the jam put the hot lids and rings on and placed them in our shelves in a dark room. I never have had a problem even though I do not process by boiling but I did see today that 4 of the jars, do not have a good seal, it is not down. Is it too late to process these jars in a boiling bath? Thank you!
No, fourteen days later makes it all too likely you have contaminants in the jam. Store them in the refrigerator and use within a month or so. If they show any signs of mold, are off color compared to the rest of the jars or have an odor, don’t use at all.
I have some jars that had came with peaches or ect,I’m making grape jelly and jams,my problem is the reg rings a dids are to big, the lids s that came with it has a seal type on theids,would it be ok to use tbese jars a d kids and freeze them,
You could certainly freeze them but if they are the commercial lug top jars with sealant on the inside of the lid, you can also reuse them for canning. See this post: https://www.jeffersonsdaughters.com/2015/09/11/reusing-lug-top-commercial-jars/
So this isn’t a question about omitting boiling, it’s a seal/shelf life question. I made a batch of peach jam with no added pectin. I did boil it. The next day I had one bad seal, but the others seemed fine, so I put them away. A week later I found that all the seals had failed on the shelf. I didn’t see any mold, so I refrigerated them. That was 2 days ago.
Is the jam still safe?
If so, can I empty the jars, re-boil, re-jar, and re-seal?
What do long time canners think?
Here’s what this old canner thinks:
Is the jam still safe? If the seals failed almost immediately, which is what it sounds like, and the jam sat on the shelf for a week, I would not eat it. While it might be safe, a week is plenty of time for nasties to get a good foothold on an unrefrigerated shelf.
If so, can I empty the jars, re-boil, re-jar, and re-seal? I would also give this one a negative. For one thing, while botulinum – the thing you really worry about – is unlikely, boiling the usual time isn’t going to be enough to kill any spores. In addition, you’ll have cooked the jam to death and the quality isn’t likely to be what you’re hoping for.
I think this is one of those better luck next time situations.
This is a good site that answered alot of my questions.
Personally living in uk jam is often left on the counter, I’ve had this for up to 2 months without molds or spoilage. Kitchens here tend to be a lot cooler than USA, but 1 week I would expect to be ok unless it’s a hot kitchen since you would be reboiling then processing jam, but it will lose some flavour and nutrients. Fresh jam keeps easily for a month in the fridge so no problems if fridges.
I also have never used a water bath when making jams and jellies. I do not, however, invert my jars and am wondering what the purpose of inverting is for? I just set my finished jars (sterilized and filled while everything is hot) on towels on the counter. Over the few hours, I can hear the ‘pop’ of each jar sealing. If I ever have a jar that doesn’t seal, I just stick it in the refrigerator. All others go in the pantry where they are good for at least two years (they are always consumed by that time).
I remember hearing pop as a kid….mom would smile and have us test the jars in the morning. Any fails went in the fridge. A failed jar was rare. If a jelly jar failed we had crepes the next morning!
I’m pretty sure that by inverting jams or jellies after filling them, the mass of the jam or jelly pulling away from the lid aids in pulling the safety button down for a tighter seal.
But that might be hooey, too. lol
I have used this same procedure, Linda Forcum, for many years. Have never had a bad jar of pear preserves, muscadine jelly etc.
This is the method my grandma used for 60 years. No bath or inverting. Just it jars and lids and listen for the pop
I’m using a strawberry jam recipe from America’s Test Kitchen. It calls for lemon juice and a granny smith apple. No pectin. I’ve made a batch using the water bath canning method. I want to try the no water bath method. The pectin is supposedly in the apple. Do you think this is enough pectin?
I would also like to know if you have a recipe for making liquid pectin from crab apples.
Virginia, my experience with ATC is that they test their recipes literally hundreds of times. If you follow the instructions, it should work out fine. Tart green apples like the Granny Smith usually have enough natural pectin for the jam to set up, especially if the apple is slightly under-ripe. The no water bath method works fine with this sort of recipe. I do have such a recipe and I will post it on the blog today.
Excellent site. Lots of helpful information here. I’m sending it to some buddies
ans also sharing in delicious. And obviously, thanks for
I have been making jam for several years now. My favorite is mango. I have made plum and strawberry. My problem came with the plum and strawberry. I did the water bath for both of them and the first bath did not create a seal. The second bath did, but the jam looks funny. Does not look like my regular jam that is smooth. This looks like it is curdled if that makes any sens. Wish I had known about turning the jars upside down, maybe would have had perfect jam if that had worked.
Marge, both plum and strawberry are fairly high fiber fruits, which makes them thicker when cooked and cooled. However, the second cooking could have been the culprit, especially if you took the jam out of the jars and reheated in a pot. This boils off more water, making the jam thicker, and could have created that curdled appearance.
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HELP! I have already made a batch of strawberry jam earlier this summer. Turned out great. I ran out of time with the second batch, so just measured and froze the strawberries. I just tried making jam with the thawed strawberries yesterday. I used the liquid in the freezer bags as well. I figured the liquid was in the strawberries to begin with. Anyways, this batch did not jel. Still runny. Should I not have used the liquid in the freezer bag? Also, I put a couple tablespoons of Grand Mariner into this jam mixture. (Experimenting as it tasted so good in a strawberry dessert I had served earlier this summer). Could this have messed it up as well? Any ideas on how I can save this batch?
When I use frozen fruit or any kind I put in all the juice and it does fine. I would suspect it’s the Grand Marnier that’s causing problems. Your jam might set up if you give it another day or so. If not, I’d suggest you use it for a topping – ice cream, pound cake, etc.
I was taught how to do canning from my great aunt when I was little. She always used the inverted method to seal her jars. The only thing I changed was putting my jars in the oven. I still take them out one at a time and I still boil my lids and rings. The only time I rember her using a water bath was for green beans and tomatoes.
I’ve never done the oven routine, although many people swear by it. It’s so blasted hot here in the summer, there’s no way I want to heat up the kitchen any more. Green beans are actually better with pressure canning – they’re a low-acid vegetable, which increases the risk of botulism. with tomatoes, the older heirlooms that are high acid do fine with a water bath. Modern varieties often have less acid and either need pressure canning or the addition of a supplemental acid.
Good article. My first time making jams, jellies. It was peach honey. And I skimmed the foam off. Wish I had read this first. I like the idea of putting it in a pitcher and then pouring it in the jars. I did do a hot bath. And then I got to thinking, how did people do hot bath when they did a paraffin top. And that’s when I found this. Anyway. I’m going to try rhubarb honey next.
Another question- I am using lemon juic instead of pectin, and storing jars 5 months before gifting. does this effect the inversion method?
Also, if you boil your jars to sterilize, do you dry them before filling?
Hi Ashley – thanks for stopping by. To answer your questions, I have never tried the keeping jars hot in the oven method, primarily because it generates more heat that I can’t disperse readily in my summer kitchen. As long as you can keep the jars at a minimum of 212 Fahrenheit, the temperature of boiling water, then yes, it should be fine. I would also worry about the oven heat actually melting the rubber in the lids; you want it soft but not liquid. You’ll definitely need protection when handling the lids and jars. The advantage I see to the big pot of boiling water is that you can place both jars and lids in it, so you know they’re hot enough. Then you can use the tongs to lift the jars and lids out of the water, one at a time, and quickly lay the tongs down to fill jars. With something like an oven mitt, you’ll need to take it off unless you’re a lot more dexterous than I am. The lemon juice and storage time don’t have any impact on using the inversion method. If you boil jars, you don’t dry them. It increases the risk of introducing bacteria and it’s tricky performing that kind of task without burning yourself. It can also allow the jars to cool slightly before you fill them – another contamination risk. The system I describe in this post works because everything is very hot and you’re working fast.
I use the oven for the jars (225F 30 min) and take them out one by one with long BBQ tongs. I use a small pot of water for the rings and lids (shorter tongs for the rings and a magnet stick for the lids). All quick and easy.
I’m planning to eliminate that huge pot of boiling water altogether! My thought is to wash my new jars and lids, place them on a cookie sheet in the oven and take them all out at once. Do you think I will get a seal if I use the pitcher method to pour and work fast? (I’ll have a helper behind me to put on the lids)
Also… will the lids be too hot to touch? Or do I need some sort of garden glove??
Going cherry picking tomorrow and making jam for Christmas gifts 🙂 the jars will be so pretty with a green bow!
Thank you for any help!
I just did this method today and it seems to have worked so far. I ladled mine in though, I think I’ll try the pitcher next time.
Ladling works, I just try to speed things up since I’m always short on time. Glad it went well for you.
I’ve been using this inversion method for 35 years and never suffered once, except for the occasional jar that fails to seal! I learned form my older sister. Some people think I’m crazy, but I’ve had a few converts. Making blueberry jam and blueberry sauce tonight.
I’ve been making jams for about 8 years now. I’ve always had great luck. Last year, I decided to make a batch of blackberry jam and then a batch of blackberry jelly. All of my jam did great and stored well on the shelf. The jelly…well, the shelf life did not go well and each jar I opened in subsequent months had mold in the top. Heartbreaking! I was wondering if anyone else has encountered this problem? Maybe I should seal the jellies with wax like my grandmother used to.
Elizabeth, moldy jelly nearly always means a problem with the seal. That’s why it’s so important to check them once the jars cool and to store them in a place that doesn’t get too hot. That said, I don’t know anyone who hasn’t had a failure somewhere along the line, including yours truly. Sometimes you’re lucky and you just have blackberry syrup instead of blackberry jelly – sometimes you lose the whole batch. Sealing with wax doesn’t appeal to me; once it was the only way to do it, but current rings and lids are much safer.
So what is your recipe for blueberry jam? I want to make some but not do the water bath.
I don’t have anything special, Diane, I just use the one on the pectin insert. No matter what recipe you use, as long as you follow the directions and your jars and lids are clean and hot, you can skip the water bath.
I made jam yesterday 3 did not seal (I did not do a water bath). I put these in the fridge this morning. The others that did seal…do I still need to put in fridge or can I store in my pantry? Thank you!
The ones that sealed should be fine on the shelf; the others should be stored in the fridge and eaten within a couple of months.
Hi, great article. I have been having some trouble with a pear and ginger jam sometimes getting mould on the top. It sometimes has happened in my apple pie jam too. It is not every jar and does not affect the seal but I find it very unsettling. I had wondered if a water bath would prevent this but after reading this probably not, do you have any suggestions? I have just started the inversion method so am unsure if that will solve the problem.
Thanks, it’s definitely sparked some conversations! If I were making a guess, the jams that were moldy had more moisture in them and that let some water pool on the top. Mold is more likely to develop in those cases, even if you have a good seal, because the spores can get in during the transfer from kettle to jar. That’s why I like the pitcher – it gets the jam straight out of the kettle and into the jars without letting it settle during the spooning out process. You should also make sure your jars are filled to within 1/4 inch from the top. Opinions on whether to scoop out the mold and eat the rest of the jam are mixed. Apparently plenty of people are doing it, but I really don’t feel comfortable recommending the practice.
Ok…making jelly and my jars are sealing while in water bath. Problem is the jelly is still syrup. Not jelling. Following instructions to a T. Would elevation have anything to do with it? Am I over processing and reducing the effectiveness of the pectin? The pectin has not reached expiration.
First, give it time – jelly often takes a little longer to firm up than jam because of its higher percentage of liquid. Elevation doesn’t generally make any difference. Your fruit may have had little natural pectin (more likely if it was all fully ripe) and the pectin you added couldn’t compensate. If it’s more than three days and it’s still liquid, you could redo the recipe with additional pectin, but you’re cooking the jelly to death and losing a lot of nutrition if you do that. I’d be more inclined to just use it as syrup and next time, make sure about 1/4 to 1/3 of the fruit is underripe.
Hi y’all, great comments.
The first time I canned jelly or jam my lids popped before I could get them in the bath, so I figured I was good. Every jar was great. It’s now several years later and I never do the bath thing for jams. One question though- I do follow the ball blue book and my jam does turn a little brown especially on top. Taste good and never got sick, but I was wondering if there is a trick to preserving color. I use butter and lemon juice. Thanks
Richard, thanks for stopping by. The most likely problem is that there’s still some oxygen in the jar. Oxygen causes oxidation, i.e. browning, over time – sort of like metal rusting. That’s especially likely since it starts at the top. It won’t hurt the taste and as long as you have a good seal, it won’t affect the safety. You might try filling your jars a bit more – I usually leave no more than a quarter inch from the surface of the jam/jelly to the top edge of the jar. The experts will tell you to can because it drives out more air. Exposure to light can also cause oxidation and browning; either store in a dark place or use the old-fashioned trick of wrapping the jars in brown paper and tying it on with string (or be modern and use tape!).
Where have you been all my life!?! I used your idea of pouring the cooked jam into a pitcher to fill the jars…GENIUS! It was quick and no mess. It made the whole job so much easier. I will do that from now on. Thank you!
Glad it worked for you, Laura. I’m admittedly lazy and always short on time, so I look for shortcuts in everything I do.
I am so happy I am not going crazy. My husbands grandmother always made her jams using the inversion method. But this year after many years of (jam making) inactivity I was second guessing myself. I have already made strawberry jam and am on to Pear Butter now. Thank you for confirming my memory.
I may just slow cook my pear butter in the oven like she used to also. Slow and low.
Not only are you not going crazy, you’re in good company!
Thank you. I googled this because I have noticed a lot of newer jam/jelly recipes saying you have to water process and that didn’t sound right based from experience and knowing the power of super sugary foods against spoilage.
You’re welcome – happy to have you with the rest of us contrarian jam makers!
Hi! I enjoyed your article but I’m still unsure as to what I should do. I made hot pepper jelly a couple days ago. I should have researched first but instead followed directions from an online recipe to let the jelly cool in its jars then put on the lids and put in the refrigerator. All the jars have set up nicely but now I’m wishing I had canned them. I used no sugar needed pectin. Can I boil it down again then can them or do they need to stay refrigerated? Thank you
Hi Christie –
You can boil them down again but it will negatively affect flavor and texture. You’re probably better off to just store them in the fridge and do it differently next time.
Thanks for this article. I’m getting ready to make jam and was really wondering if the water bath method was really necessary. I did that with my last batch and it just seemed to add so much time. I’m old enough to remember when people used to seal their jam with hot paraffin. lol.. Curiously, no one died from that, either.
I’m curious about your mom’s 25 plus year old jam. Did you open any of the containers to see what it looked/smelled like?
I remember paraffin, too, Karen – guess that dates us:-) We did open some of the jars. Nothing smelled bad, but the jam was so dark it was almost black and the texture was really thick and clotted.
How hot does the jam have to before filling the jars?
It should be at a full rolling boil (bubbles you can’t stir down).
I made Concord grape jelly last night and my jars didn’t seel. Could I just freeze the jars to make them last? Or should I give them all away now? Or is there an easy fix without reheating the jam. Thanks in advance.
Hi Jeanne – you have several options. Store the jars in the fridge and use within a few months. Reheat to boiling and pour into clean, hot jars; seal as you usually would. I wouldn’t freeze them as freezer jams have different proportions of sugar and fruit – freezing a regular recipe usually doesn’t come out too well in terms of texture. Although you could try freezing a jar just to see.
Thank goodness for your site. I am about to start making jams and jellies, I’ve got the jars and other bits and pieces, but I’ve been in a complete quandary about the water bath issue, whether it is needed or not. I don’t want to have to buy a huge new stock pot or similar and certainly don’t want to waste my precious time doing something which is totally unnecessary.
You have put my mind at rest and I will sally forth with my jam making using the invert method or even just leaving them to seal on their own.
Thank you for sharing your wisdom 🙂
You’re welcome! Nice to have you among the ranks of jam-making contrarians.
I was wondering if anyone can help me out here. I made dome crab apple jelly yesterday. The jelly set. It was a lovely light Amber color. However not one of the jars sealed so I reprocessed them today. They are now full of bubbles and a much darker Amber and not setting up. But the jars sealed.
My question is this: Is it safe to reprocess them for a third time or should I just scrap them all and start all over.
Sherry, if the jars did not seal the first time and sat overnight, the risk of contamination is pretty high. This is probably one of those times when it’s better to chuck them and start over. Jelly often takes longer to set up than jam, but if they still aren’t setting up, they may not have had enough pectin. If you decide to do the recipe over again, either use one with added pectin or make sure at least 1/4 of your crabapples are under-ripe.
I just made a whole bunch of raspberry peach freezer jam at a friends house. She gave me 15 pints of jam when we were done. I don’t have room for that many jars in my freezer. I was wondering if now that it is in jars if I could hot water bath it and have it be ok… or if I had to cook it before it was in jars. What do you think? Here is the recipe we used. http://www.kraftrecipes.com/recipes/surejell-for-less-no-sugar-needed-recipes-raspberry-peach-freezer-jam-51750.aspx
Thank you in advance for any feedback!
Lyndsi, if the jam has been in the freezer since you made it, you could cook it (don’t defrost, just dump in a pot and bring it to a boil, then let it boil hard for at least a minute) and then treat it like regular cooked jam without a water bath. Frankly, though, I suspect it wouldn’t taste very good and I don’t know how well it would set up. You’d probably be better off to try and find someone who has freezer space and will share in return for a few jars.
I have enjoyed this site . My Daughter and I have been in an ongoing fight about water bathing! I did do it a few times to please her but no more .I have a glass top stove and it took forever to water bath and I have now heard twice about someone breaking their stove doing it.I too have never killed anyone and am 73 now!
Glad to know you like the site, Mary Jane. As you can see from the comments, you’re in good company when it comes to not using a water bath!
I decided against a glass top stove when I found it did not get hot enough for canning.
Yep – priorities!
I don’t know if I mentioned this or not when I made a bunch of comments last year, but here goes:
The best invention yet for getting your hot jam or jelly into the little jars with no mess is a jelly funnel. I bought mine at Lee Valley.
When I told my mother that we are now supposed to use a pressure canner for vegetables, she snorted loudly about how she never did, not even for meat & fish, for 50 years – and neither did anyone she knew. And I and my siblings are living proof that it is safe to just use a regular hot water bath. I think that various parties are trying to get millions of canners to buy their expensive pressure canners. Collusion and dishonesty.
There’s no question that fear is often used as an advertising technique, as is the old “keeping up with the Joneses” routine…
I have made strawberry and raspberry jams and peach jam for decades. Never water bathed, sometimes turned upside down for a couple of hours, sometimes not. Keep refrigerated for months and have never had a problem. I do always use dishwasher-cleaned jars and tops that have been boiled in water. As I said, that’s been my method for decades … always has worked.
Appears to me ‘Contrarian’ is another term for ‘uses common sense’… Thanks! I have never water-bath jams, jellies or pickles (sugar and acid levels) over the decades. For me, I wash the jars with a dash of bleach in the water, then set in a 200 F. oven until ready to use. I simmer the lids in a small pan, and remove them with a magnet (!) one at a time. I have a key chain with a magnetic end, and I keep it on the side of the stove for convenience. I ‘catch’ one lid at a time with it and never touch the inside area using it. When I’m on my game, I have the outer ring positioned to screw down so I can pull the magnet off; otherwise I use the spoon handle to keep the lid in place. With everything literally ‘burning hot’, I’ve never inverted or had problems, as long as the jar rim is clean for sealing. THANKS all Contrarians!
I like that definition, Elaine! And the magnet idea is a good one. Thanks
First time I am trying to make jam on my own. I have loads of passion fruit and I’d like to try this method before they go bad.
Do you wipe the metal lid dry after pulling it out of the summer water with the magnet or place it straight in the filled jar even if it is damp?
Don’t dry the lid – you want it as hot as possible and whatever you’re using to dry it may introduce bacteria. Just take it straight out of the simmering water and clap it on the jar. Put on the ring and screw it down finger tight.
Thanks so much! Most of my jars popped when I flipped them back over but for the ones that did not pop should I assume they must be eaten in the next few weeks? Thank you for your help!
If you store the ones that didn’t pop in the fridge (don’t store them on the shelf), they’ll be good for several months.
hello! I made jam for the first time 4 days ago. I just now realize I didn’t water bath my jams when I should have. I misunderstood the purpose. I also didn’t invert them. I shut the jars and left them. In any case- does this mean the jars should be frozen and then consumed within a few days of being thawed? Or is there something I can do now, four days later? I appreciate the response!
Hi Erin –
Not waterbathing is no big deal, as you can tell from the post and other comments. As long as the seals are good (take the ring off and lift the jar by holding only the lid with your fingertips or see if they have a little depression in the center of the lid) the jam will be fine. If you have any doubts about the seals, store them in the fridge and eat within the next few months.
Thanks so much. Revolutionary stuff. Everyone I’ve told hasn’t heard of this method! Thanks for the post.
I did the inversion method, but left the jars turned over overnight. now there is an airspace at the bottom of the jar. The seals seem good- are these OK to eat. It is a fruit jelly
Sure, they might look a little odd, but they will be fine to eat as long as the seals are solid.
I never have used a water bath on any of my jams in the 40 years I’ve been making them. I do have a quick question however. I wanted to make some strawberry habanero jam, basically following a typical strawberry jam recipe. I was going to throw in a couple of minced habaneros. Do you think there is enough acid in the strawberries to make this safe without adding any lemon juice? My gut says to add a Tbsp of lemon juice, but I would rather not if I can get away with it.
Laurie, sorry, I was out of touch for a couple of days and missed this post. This is a hard call, as the point of the juice is to increase acidity and make the jam “safer.” However, strawberries are considered a high acid fruit, and I have seen plenty of recipes that don’t require lemon juice. Habaneros, though, are low acid, so by mixing them you’ve changed the acidity equation. If you have a tested recipe for strawberry/habanero jam and it includes lemon juice, I’d stick with that.
Thanks for the great info. My Mother never water bathed her jams or jellies. She did as you, and inverted the first 5 minutes. I’ve opened jars that were 6 years old, and it was like she just canned them. I have seen her skim sometimes if the foam was a lot, but mostly she did not skim either.
Thanks for clarifying the point!!!
PS – Love the site!!!
Thank you – I’m glad you like Jefferson’s Daughters. You might also want to take a look at the IANS (It Ain’t Necessarily So) posts for more on how the experts don’t know what we know!
Thanks so much for your blog, I have also thought a water bath is not necessary for jam and jellies….as I too have had them keep for a long time perfectly well. I have just made my first batch of the season today, all looks good.
Thrilled to have found your site.
Since they started all the hoopla about having to WB EVERYTHING,
I have been. However, I don’t remember ever dying when I didn’t.
I understand the veggie thing, but jams and jellies? I think I’ll stop
wasting my time.. and money on WBing. However, I am about to make
some grape jelly with a Bernardin No Sugar Pectin. These grapes are
plenty sweet enough, so I won’t be adding any extra. I’m wondering
what your thoughts are on making this… WB or not… because there will
be no added sugar. The boxes say there is dextrose in them already.
What say you?
Maija, glad to have you with the rest of us contrarians! No-sugar pectin is designed to let you make fruit jams and jellies without sugar; it’s often called low methoxyl pectin and the binder is calcium instead of sugar and acid. One of the important factors in this no WB issue is the acidity of the fruit. With classic pectin, the pH range is between 2.8 and 3.6; in fact, they won’t gel if the pH is above 4.6, which is considered the cut-off point for preventing botulism. Low methoxyl pectin, on the other hand, will gel in a pH range of 2 to 7. The latter puts it over the safe point cutoff. I know Bernadin has some recipes they developed that ensures the pH will be low enough and they also add potassium sorbate, potassium benzoate or sodium benzoate to help inhibit mold. I really don’t know what the WB does for these low methoxyl pectins; all the research I’ve reviewed was tested on regular pectin with added sugar. If Bernadin recommends a water bath, I would follow their directions.
Hi needs some answers please.
I made zucchini relish this September making sure everything was sterilized for the recommended time. After filling the hot jars and putting the lids and rings on the jars sat on a table for 3 days before putting them in pantry. I made sure all the lids were inverted. Today I went to get a jar to have with dinner. I found that a lot of the lids had popped. Is there any way to salvage these or are they doomed to the garbage.
No, Fran, they definitely aren’t safe if the seals on the lids have popped! That means there may be a gas-forming bacteria in the relish, which could be botulism. On the chance that it might be, the best thing to do is dump the relish into a pot, boil hard for at least 10 minutes (to destroy any toxin) and put it in the garbage in a sealed container or bury it deep in the garden so animals can’t get to it. So sorry about that, but I really wouldn’t take a chance.
Thanks I figured as much
I made zucchini relish this year. All the jars had sealed lids inverted. After a month on the shelf I went to get a jar to have with dinner and noticed that a lid had popped. They have been kept in a dark cool place. Can they be resealed or have to be thrown out.
Love your advice! How would I go about taking the seeds out of blackberries for jam? These are the huge thornless berries, but you could break a tooth on the seeds! Thanks so much!
Donna, just cook the berries until they soften a bit (maybe 10 minutes) and then either put them in a food mill and crank the juice out, or in a strainer and squash them with a wooden spoon. The food mill is faster and gets more juice out, but the strainer routine works, too.
you can also strain them with cheesecloth
Just woke up at 3 am wondering if I my gift of jelly to my neighbors will kill them . I did no water bath, no inversion . Yes they pinged as they cooled and I keep them refrigerated at all times . Thank goodness for that extra fridge. I also sterilize in my steam oven – any issues with that ?
Diana – if you cooked the jelly as directed and your jars/lids were all sterilized and still hot when you poured in the jelly, they should be fine. I wouldn’t think you’d need to refrigerate them at all.
This boiling-water-bath thing must be an insurance issue. It is exclusively an American thing: no English or Australian jam or pickle or chutney recipe has ever included that step over the last 400 years. If your jam or chutney fails, it’s obvious, as with any food that goes off. If a high-acid recipe full of sugar and vinegar and boiled half to death before sealing isn’t safe then nothing is. I wonder if it just arose from a mistake repeated so often people believe it? Preserving with a Fowlers vacola set, for uncooked fruits and vegetables, has been around forever, but jam and chutneys are not just nice, they were developed as a means of preserving. Perhaps there has just been confusion over the two methods?People will admit that a high-acid mix with the right PH is impossible for botulism to grow in, than say, “But you need to process it anyway.” You don’t. The Chinese whispers effect is very strong on the internet – people here have access to US recipes and I’ve noticed odd things like instructions for boiling water baths for marmalade on Australian sites, just because people have copied American recipes from the internet. Also Australians share recipes with “all-purpose flour” which we don’t have here, as we are a hot country with no low-protein wheat, and “baking soda” for bicarb soda, and “cupcakes” instead of patty cakes as we have had for 200 years. It’s definitely an internet thing.
The United States Department of Agriculture recommends boiling water baths for jams and jellies – which pretty obviously isn’t necessary, based on the experience of those of here.
I have been making jams and pickles Down Under for years and have never heard, as Gina stated, about a water bath. I have followed my mother’s and grandmother’s processes and recipes and we’re still all here! It’s obvious when a seal has broken or a batch failed – it’s as much about using your common sense and taking responsibility for yourself. (I also only refrigerate after I have opened the jars).
I have a question. I am new to pickles and canning in general but this year with the guidance of my mother decided to make mustard pickles/relish. It is a maritime recipe known as lady ashburham. I boiled my lids and washed my jars and kept them in the hot over until ready to use. I filled the jars and all of the lids popped on their own. I did not do a water bath/process them. I am wondering if i should have and if there is a chance of them making someone sick if I didn’t. I am also wondering if it is possible to process them now or will that make a difference ( I made the pickles 2 or 3 weeks ago. Just wondering if I could process them now or if it is too late)
Cara, my apologies that I didn’t answer until today, our internet has been out for several days. If you take a look at the latest post (https://www.jeffersonsdaughters.com/2016/09/24/canning-zucchini-relish/), it will probably answer your question in detail. It’s too late to process them now, but if you have any concerns, just store them in the fridge.
Hi Bee, me again..I know that this site deals with jams and jellies, but I make zucchini relish every year and I don’t use a water bath or pressure cooker for that either. I was on another site that says a person must use a pressure cooker on all veggies. Well, zucchini, bell peppers and onions are all veggies and I haven’t had a problem with them sealing. They have to be simmered for half an hour before the jars are filled. My family loves this relish and even people that hate store bought relish, absolutely love the zucchini relish. Every time I read about veggies having to be pressure cooked, I get a little un-nerved. What’s your take on this? thank you..
Judi, the rule of thumb on vegetables is that they should be pressure-cooked because they are low acid. I haven’t done any research on this one, so I hesitate to recommend it. Sounds like a topic for another post.
Judi Jones said she was making a relish, not just plain vegetables like when you can carrots or beans.
Relishes contain plenty of vinegar and sugar and that will raise the acidity. You would not need to water bath or pressure bath them.
Zucchini relish is basically like bread & butter pickles made with cuc slices. Well, who here bothers processing them in a hot water or pressure cooker bath. I never do.
Plus – there’s all those spices. They’ll kill any unfriendly microorganism.
Plus – you let your sliced cucs or zucchini sit in salt overnight.
Samia, those are good points. I’m doing some digging on the issue and will be putting up a post within a day or two.
okay thank you..I have been doing them for many years with out water bath or pressure cooking, as has my mom 7 aunts for many years..no problem as of yet.just done 22 pints of relish last week..
Hi Judi Jones,
I’ve been looking for a good relish and was wondering if you would share your zucchini relish? It sounds delicious. Just in case you will here’s my email; firstname.lastname@example.org
thank you in advance!
I am a different Judy from the ones that have already posted.
I want to say I love your background. This kind of writing is a thing of the past in fact some young people cannot read writing anymore. Everything is in printing, computers, texts, websites and emails. It is a shame. I don’t know if it is your Mom’s writing or yours but it reminds me of my Mom and Grandma. Well, so much for that subject.
I am glad you had this posting. I am a newbie at the jelly making and was looking for the water bath answer. My recipe says to leave 1 inch at the top but I notice your jelly is right to the top. I will be doing a second batch tomorrow, what is the reason for leaving an inch at the top or should I just go ahead and fill the jars to the top? Thank you for your help.
Hi Judy –
You’re right, there have been a lot of women named Judy or Judi; must be a popular name. The background of the website is actually the Declaration of Independence. Ell was the one who found it and managed to put it up, when we first started the blog — there was a bit of creative swearing during the process, as I recall. I do know what you mean about the younger generation’s writing, although I must admit that I myself print, a habit I started years ago when nurses did all their charting by hand; printing was faster and more legible.
As far as the jelly, I have always left only a quarter of an inch (another instruction in the older cookbooks). Not sure what the rationale is for an inch, but I doubt that it matters much either way.
Thanks for stopping by!
I made some apple jams and jellies . It called for 1 5/8 teaspoons lemon juice with 5 cups sugar..I used 1/4 cup lemon juice instead, because my pear jam/jelly recipe called for that amount. Then I read about the right ratio of acid and sugar together. Is my jams and jellies going to be okay..love your site! Thank you! Judi Jones
Hi Judi –
The additional lemon juice might make your apple jam and jelly a bit more tart, but it shouldn’t affect safety as long as you otherwise followed the directions and have a good seal on the jars. In fact, the extra acidity might even help preserve it a little better. As far as taste, I suspect it will depend on the variety of apple you used. Apples like Granny Smith, Gravenstein or Greening’s Rhode Island probably don’t need the extra pucker factor, while Golden Delicious, Macoun or Roxbury Russet could benefit. Acid can also affect how well jam and jelly set up; that’s just one of those “try it and see” things. Thanks for stopping by.
thank you! The jams and jelly set up perfectly..haven’t tried them yet to see what they taste like..Thanks for the advice and thank you for this wonderful site!
I am making grape juice using a steam juicer, they are dealing with out a water bath, but it’s taking a bit of time to seal. Should I also put them in a water bath? I am leaving then unsweetened at this time. Thank you!!
Nellie, I’ve never used a steam juicer, but this is one case where I would be hesitant not to water bath, especially if the juice is unsweetened. When I make my Easy-Peasey Grape Juice (https://www.jeffersonsdaughters.com/2015/09/20/easy-peasy-grape-juice/), I give it 20 minutes in a water bath. If you pressure can, it’s 10 minutes at five pounds; adjust for altitude.
Thank you!! I put them in a water bath ?
Sitting down listening to all my plum jam jars popping one by one = sealed! So glad I don’t have to waterbath them. My mother never did it with jam Found your blog on a search for ‘do i have to waterbath jam’. Great site. Will spend some time browsing and learning something new Thanks for the post.
Thanks Judy; glad you stopped by!
Hurrah !!!! A kindred soul. I’ve been inverting jams and jellies for years with no problems. I also run my jars and lids through the dishwasher and through the dry cycle, cap them as they come out, and use them later with no further action.
I don’t have a dishwasher, so I do go the boiling water routine for my jars. Nice of you to visit, Ernie!
I have to tell you! I’m really with you on NO Water Bath for jams, and jellies! I also run all my jars through the dish washer and then just before I fill them, put them in the microwave for 3 minutes, and get them really hot to fill. My question is a new one… I just purchased new lids this year (Orchard Road) and they have a notice enclosed, not to really heat your lids any more, to just warm them and they will seal fine in your water bath or pressure canner. Have you used these lids? What do you think? I’ve tried them and the “pop” is way different than I’m used to.
Here is the final word if you can plow through it all.
I use the American-made Bernardin lids. Bernardin is a Canadian company owned by Jarden. It doesn’t say anything on the box about temperature. It does say BPA-free, though.
I think they should all go back to the old way, and the old style lid! Personally, I think the new ones suck!
Jolene, I haven’t used the new lids, so I hesitate to comment on this one.
Hi, I have to say after canning for 27 years I was shocked to see the recommendation to water bath jams. I have never done that for jams and jellies. I honestly think maybe it is to scare people to follow proper sterilization procedures. Or maybe certain snap lids are not being made consistently and this is a way to ensure they seal.
I don’t know what the rationale is; maybe “if a little is good more is better.” Either way, it’s an unnecessary nuisance and a recommendation I ignore.
You’re a treasure, Bee – it is surprisingly rare to find people who will look at reality and use common sense. Should be more of you!
Why thank you – I do my best…
Thanks for all the informative information! I just made a hot pepper jelly but decreased the sugar because I thought it was too sweet. The jars are sealing but now I’m wondering if it may be unsafe to eat? The recipe called for 2 cups jalapeno, 2 cups green bell and 12 cups of sugar, (plus pectic and lime juice). I used only 10 cups of sugar. I’d like to know your opinion on if these will be safe to use a Christmas presents. I’d hate to make some one ill at Christmas!
Shannah, using a little less sugar shouldn’t make a difference as long as you cooked the jelly for the recommended time, used sterilized, hot jars and lids, poured in the jelly while piping hot and immediately clapped on lids and jar rings. Jams and jellies are about the only canned goods where you can adjust the ingredient quantities a little and get away with it. Generally speaking, though, it’s not a good idea to tinker with canning recipes, as the balance of acid and sweet is key to preventing spoilage.
Thank you for the information. I’m still waiting for the jelly to set up. It seems more like a sauce now, as well as the fact that it seems to be clearer up top and cloudy half way through, though I boiled it for the recommended time. I put a jar in the fridge to see if that would help it set but that jar is still liquidy as well. I wonder if its because I shorted the recipe 2 cups of sugar? I’m wondering if it’s too late to save it somehow?
Jelly generally takes longer to set up, in my experience; give it at least 48 hours. The recipe is large enough that while cutting back the sugar might have a bit of an effect, I wouldn’t expect it to be like a sauce. Was the pectin fresh? That might affect the set. I suppose you could call it hot pepper syrup…
I have my own business making & selling my homemade jams/jellies. When I make my pepper jelly, I cut the sugar back to 10 cups as well. Pepper jelly does usually look cloudy & takes up to a few days to set. It will clear up as it sets. I hope this is helpful!
I just now found your post and I did everything except I did not invert my jars. they seem to have sealed very tightly. I did not do a water bath either and I did use a label. Do you think they are OK?
Hi Judy –
Inverting the jars is a little extra that probably isn’t required. It’s something I learned from my mom and have always done, but several folks who’ve posted here don’t invert or water bath and get perfectly good seals. You can check the seal by removing the ring and picking up the the jar by holding the lid with your fingertips; if it’s a good seal, you’ll be able to lift the jar and the lid will stay tight.
Thank you so much hi am thrilled to have found your sight.
I am so glad that I found your post. I am going to make small jars of peach jam for my daughter’s bridal shower. I am not wanting to water bath them, as I am not sure how to do this with the size of the jars. I have a quick question. How long do I leave the jars inverted before turning them over? I am so glad I don’t need to water bath them. Thank you, I appreciate it.
Hi Judi –
Five minutes is the usual; the size of the jars is irrelevant. Have a great time at the shower, and blessings on your daughter’s marriage.
I have the ability to get a rather large amount of grapes and would like to jar them. My ?is I would like them as a fruit spread not so much adding a bunch of sugar and most of all NO artificial sweetener. I’m having a hard time finding a recipe. Can this be done? Can I do without a water bath? How long
Do you think shelf life would be? Thank you in advance for any info
Judi, I don’t have any experience with using them as a fruit spread, so I hesitate to give you suggestions. You might be better off to do them as jelly, which would not require a waterbath, or as grape juice with this super easy recipe: https://www.jeffersonsdaughters.com/2015/09/20/easy-peasy-grape-juice/. Shelf life for either, properly stored, would be at least a year.
I have used wild grapes several times to make something I call a “butter” so to speak. I dump them in skins, seeds and all after I pull them off the stem. Add a little water to sort of steam them and then run them through a ricer to get ride of the seeds and skins. It leaves you with grape pulp. I them proceed with the recipe like making jam/jelly. It turns out sort of like a soft butter. My family really likes this on their toast and biscuits.
That sounds like a yummy recipe, Susie. Do you add sugar or pectin?
Hi, Bee! I have been making jam & jelly with Pomona’s Universal Pectin (a gift from God himself if you ask me) for 20 years.
I don’t always invert; I never water-bath the filled jars.
Here’s something interesting. I have an old booklet written by a home economist probably in the 1970s. No instructions to process jam & jelly after sealing. Also, Pomona’s insert never said to process until a few years ago. Someone scared them, I guess.
Thanks for your info, Bee.
Hi Samia –
Thanks for stopping by! I know what you mean about the older books; very different instructions. Those of us who have been canning for years know from experience that the more recent guidelines are often overkill, but many newbies have no idea, which is why I wrote the post.
Bee, I tried to discuss this topic on a cooking forum and, well, it was World War III. I never took so much crap in my life. I was told that I was putting my family’s life at risk, etc.
I know what you mean. Doesn’t matter what the subject is, when you swim upstream, you often get attacked. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as it’s good to listen to opposing viewpoints, and it’s a way to learn new things. But when you’ve done your research and have years of experience with something like not waterbathing jam and jelly, you know it works. In that case, if I want to be polite, I say “thank you for sharing your opinion,” and go do it my way. If I don’t want to be polite, I — ummm — modify my response…
Thanks so much for your reply. I feel much better since I did put the jars in the freezer except a little I had left over went into the fridge which I will use to make the jam cake recipe that you posted. This website is awesome!
I just made blackberry freezer jam for the first time. I did sterilize jars and seals and rims; however, the jars cooled before I got all of the jam in the jars. So far, 10 minutes have gone by and no popping. Do I need to invert the jars? Will the freezer be enough to preserve? I used the directions that were in the pectin package. Did not cook jam according to these instructions.
Did you refrigerate or freeze it as soon as it cooled? If so, since it’s freezer jam, you should be OK. If not, I’d recommend you keep it in the refrigerator and use it up within a week or so. Maybe make jam cake (here’s the recipe: https://www.jeffersonsdaughters.com/2013/08/07/old-fashioned-cooking-grandmother-fraziers-jam-cake/) if your family won’t eat it up that fast. Next time, leave the jars in the hot water until you’re ready to fill each one; take them out and fill one at a time, clap the lid on immediately and tighten the band. That should keep them hot enough to be safe.
so glad to find this post! I bought a different brand of pectin this morning (they were out of the one I usually buy, and I didn’t have time to go elsewhere, I’ve got fruit to jam!) and it says to use a water bath. I was seriously regretting getting the different brand – Good to know I’m not alone in thinking it’s a waste of time!
You can relax; you’re in good company!
What is the life span if you do not do the water bath? I’m new 2 this whole canning hobby. I made pepper jelly and didn’t know I was to give it a water bath afterwards for seal. But after reading your post I feel better. One site said store all my cans in the refrigerator and they are good up to 3 weeks and the 1 week once open.
Jacqueline, if you sterilized your jars and lids, poured in boiling-hot jelly and immediately sealed them, and you have a good seal, your jelly should be good for at least a year at room temperature (I’m not sure why the other site gave such a short storage time). Room temperature means between 50 and 70 degrees; storage in a hot area can soften the seals.I disagree with the one week refrigerated as well — I’d say a month to six weeks if not more. Congratulations on your jelly!
My daughters and I (very novice jam makers) made raspberry jam tonight without pectin. We made it last year and it turned out great but we thought it was a bit sweet. It calls for 4 c berries to 4 c sugar (just like you said above) but we did 8 c berries and 6 c of sugar. We also didn’t do a water bath (I don’t think we ever do with jam but I can’t remember right now.) In hind site I’m wondering if we just messed up 4 pints of jam.
Only way to know is to try it! If you’re concerned about extra sweetness, next time you might want to add some lemon juice. It should still be safe to eat.
Thanks! It was a bit runny but very tasty. We’re going to do it right today. Have a blessed weekend!
I made blackberry jam, did hot water bath, even though I have never done that before. The jam is crystallized along the edges and tastes nothing like blackberries it just tastes like sugar chunks. Can I fix this? What went wrong? I’ve never had a jam do this right away before.
If it crystallized immediately after making it, the most likely problem is that the sugar was either added after the fruit came to a boil or wasn’t stirred thoroughly. Other causes of crystallization include adding too much sugar or not cooking it long enough. Sugar tends to want to crystallize, anyway, and it will often revert in stored jams. You could try putting the jam back in the kettle, adding some hot water and lemon juice (acids help prevent crystallization). Then heat it to boiling again and treat it like fresh jam (clean, sterilized jars and new lids). That will pretty much cook it to death, though. You might also try dealing with it one jar at a time: reheat, stirring well, in a double boiler, add a little lemon juice and put it in a new jar. Then store in the refrigerator.
I just made my first jelly, it’s called citrus wheat beer jelly. My question is, hot long after the 10 minute water bath, then the 5 minute resting time does it start to take the hot jelly liquid to start to form up. It’s been almost an hour and still looks just like liquid. I followed the instructions to the T.
Shelley, I’m not familiar with that recipe, but in my experience, jellies often take longer to set up than jams (more liquid). I’d give it at least overnight. And congratulations on your first jelly-making session!
I would like to know how many cups of blackberries and how much sugar do you put in your recipe to make it come out thick. And how long do you cook it.thanks
Doris, I’m assuming from your question that you’re talking about the old-fashioned kind of blackberry jam without pectin. If that’s the case, the standard is four cups of unseeded crushed blackberries and four cups of sugar. As far as how long you cook it, that’s a little tougher, as it depends on how juicy the berries are and how fast it jells. The best I can tell you is to put a couple of saucers in the freezer and get them icy cold. Then bring berries and sugar to a boil, stirring constantly, and when it starts to feel thick, dollop a little on a cold saucer. If it thickens up and stands in a glob, it’s done. If not, rinse the saucer and put it back in the freezer; cook it a little more and retest with the second saucer. Keep that routine going until it’s as thick as you want it, then pour into hot jars and seal. This will make about two pints.
I made fig jam and the put lemon juice in it as part of the recipe. Washed the jars and filled them while the jam was still very hot. The seals all popped about 10 to 8 min. So that should mean they are all sealed right?
Yes; you can also check them by taking off the rings and lifting the jar by holding just the lid (don’t lift too high, just in case the seal gives and the jar drops) or by looking for the dent in the lid. A sealed jar is slightly concave.
anyone use less sugar pectin? I hate to put in 6 cups of sugar into a small amount of fruit?
Donna, there are specific low-sugar recipes out there; if I remember correctly, you use a different kind of pectin. There are also some fruit preserve recipes that rely more on cooking the fruit down. If you’re going to tinker, find a tested recipe. Remember, part of the reason for the sugar is that it acts as a preservative.
Pomona’s Pectin allows you to make a jam or jelly with much less sugar. I have been using it for years. I buy the Pomona’s in health food stores, tho maybe regular supermarkets sell it, also. Happy Jamming.
I made blackberry syrup the other day and it calls for 4 cups blackberry juice, 2 cups sugar and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, let come to a boil and boil for four minutes. . After cooked then 1 tablespoon butter and half teaspoon of vanilla. My question is … I had sterilize my jars and they sealed very well. Someone said I needed to waterbath them and I did not. Is it too late to waterbath lamb it’s been about four days.? Or do they need water bath since they are sealed.? I don’t want to make someone sick. Thanks and advance for your answer.
Jolene, four days later is too late to water bath them. However, if your jars were sterilized and hot when you poured in the syrup and you have a good, tight seal, you should be OK. Berries, like most fruits, are high acid. If you have any worries, store them in the refrigerator and use them within a few months. Alternatively, you could redo the batch (unseal everything, re-sterilize the jars, cook the syrup again and seal with new lids, then water bath).
Another idea for sterilizing jars: Wash in hot soapy water and then put in oven to dry (@200). Leave in oven while making jam/jelly and then take out hot to fill.
That’s a good idea, Jenn; thanks for sharing.
That’s what I do. I use large tongs to remove the hot jars.
Canning raspberry jam at midnight is never good, and that’s what I did. Realizing that I forgot to get my jars hot beforehand. Now I’m a bit worried as I never hot bath, never invert, and I poured the jam into room temp jars. Do you think I should scrape, recook, and recan? Many thanks!
Hi Lynn –
Yes, I would do them over; you’ll lose a little quality, but room temp jars makes it unsafe. Even if you just stored them in the fridge, they wouldn’t last long.
Thank you for a great informative site. I have been making Jam and Jellies all my life taught by my Mother. Can’t stand shop bought! But I too thought I was going crazy as my daughter said you must use a water bath now. I have never done it and after reading all the posts here won’t be now either!
Just made some Cherry Jam and after a good 3 minute boil it is setting well!
Happy Jam And Jelly making!
Glad to hear it was helpful, Julie. I’m fond of saying I’m efficient because I’m lazy; this is a good example of a situation where extra work gains you nothing. Thanks for stopping by.
I made jam this afternoon and used the invert method for sealing. After the jars were cool, I turned them right side up to check that they had sealed, and they had. When I removed the screw top ring to add labels, I discovered that some jam had leaked and the tops of some jars were a little sticky. I cleaned them up with a hot cloth, and the seal is tight on the lid but I’m wondering if they will go bad more quickly because there was obviously some jam that had escaped when I turned them upside down. Any suggestions?
Hi Claudia –
Sounds as though the jars might have been overfilled. Since they leaked, even though it seems you have a tight seal, there may be jam particles between the lid and the jar. To be safe, I’d recommend keeping them in the fridge and using them within a couple of months.
When you refer to “safety”, what exactly do you mean? What might happen that we can’t actually see? If mold or yeasts form, you can obviously see that and throw the jam or jelly into the compost.
Do you have to give the jars a water bath if only making the jelly for one time use or putting it in the fridge right away? I made jelly the other day and followed all of the directed steps from the recipe I followed, but was wondering if it will congeal without doing all of this? Is the waterbath just to add pressure?
Alex, if you’re making jelly for one-time use or plan to store it in the fridge for a few weeks, a water bath isn’t necessary at all. In most cases, your jam and jelly will set up properly as long as you’ve followed directions and used the correct proportion of ingredients. Very occasionally, if the fruit isn’t tart enough (the acid in the fruit interacts with the pectin), your jam and jelly may be runny. Our ancestors always used some unripe fruit in the recipe to add natural pectin and ensure a good set. The waterbath is supposed to make for a tighter seal, but as I note in the post, you can get a perfectly good seal without it.
I was teaching my daughter how to make jam and I forgot to invert the jars while cooling. Some James are a bit loose in the jars. Is it still safe to give as gifts? Please help
Hi Beth –
As long as you’ve got a good seal on the jars, they should be fine. After the jam cools, take the ring off and pick up the jar by holding the edge of the lid. If the jar stays sealed it should be OK. You can also look at the center of the jar lid; a sealed jar will have a slight indent in it. Even if you find a jar that hasn’t sealed, just store in the fridge and eat it within a few weeks.
I have made jelly all 3 ways; inverted jars with no water bath, water bath and pressure canned. All 3 produce sealed jars with no mold. Growing up, we never water bathed the jelly and jam and at 64 I’m still going strong. Anything that can cut down on the time needed to make the product is fine by me. I do pressure can my tomatoes and meat products.
Just picked up a couple of boxes of pectin and read the “new” directions. When the heck did the boiling water bath requirement start? Thought i was losing my mind. Ive been making jam & jelly for years without a boiling water bath, but I have used the invert method for sealing. Never had any problems.
Steve, I can’t tell you exactly when it started, but apparently it became the “new normal” a few years back. As far as I can tell from my research, it doesn’t gain you a thing, just adds another step to the process. Supposedly, the research says you get a “better” seal, but since the seals I get have been good for several years and some stuff my mom canned with the method stayed sealed for over 30 years, it seems pretty dumb to me.
Just made some jams for Christmas gifts and curious if once they seal if I would break the seal if I removed the screw top but left the sealed plate in tact in order to place a piece of fabric and fancy label on top then screw it back on. Or should I avoid that all together n just write on the top with a sharpie to be safe?
Kelly, not only would it not break the seal (the lid itself forms the seal, not the ring), it’s a classic way to pretty up home made jelly and jams for gifts!
I recently made grape jam and forgot to hot water bath it! I didn’t invert my jars, do you think my jam will still be okay? This was my first time trying to make my own jam!
Crystal, if you have a good seal on the jars they should be fine even without inverting. Take the ring off the jar and lift it by holding onto the lid only, not the glass. If the lid stays on you have a good seal. You can also look to see if the middle of the jar lid is slightly inverted (has a dip in it). That’s another sign of a good seal. If you’re at all worried about it, you can store them in the fridge. And welcome to the ranks of home canners!
I’m a first timer! Yesterday I made pineapple/jalapeño pepper jelly! I was a nervous wreck! I’m so glad I found your article because it meant one less step to freak out about! I followed your directions! Is it ok if I heard the tops pop? I can leave them stored in the pantry correct? I put a jar in the fridge so it would set faster and it was so good with wheat thins and cream cheese!
Congratulations, Jessica! That first time is always a little crazy-making. Hearing the tops pop is a good sign. Now put your finger on the middle top of each jar and see if it’s a little indented; that means you have a good seal and you can store them in the pantry. If a jar pops in when you touch it, that’s OK, too. Store them in the pantry, pat yourself on the back and enjoy the fruits of your labors.
I watched my mother make jams and jellies for years and never once did she ever putthem in a hot water bath or turn them upside down. She always melted paraffin wax in the tops of the jars to seal them. I’m 50 years old so it must have worked, I do remember if any jars wound up with jelly or jam on top of thr wax were used right away.
Turning them upside down with hot paraffin would certainly not be a good idea:-) The paraffin technique has lost favor with the experts as they say it doesn’t produce an adequate seal. In many cases, that may be true, but as you note, using them up quickly is probably a good solution to the problem. It’s an additional step and takes longer, so I wouldn’t use it, partly for that reason and partly because it’s a petroleum byproduct that I don’t want leaching into my food. Before it was available, women used beeswax, which seems to me to be a safer option from the standpoint of harmful chemicals.
I am wanting to make hot pepper jam with my bumper crop of regular and hot peppers I have grown. Do I need to water bath or pressure can them? Does anyone have a good recipe for hot pepper jam?
I’ve never made hot pepper jam, so don’t have a recipe, but there are lots of them on the Web. Peppers are a low-acid fruit, and those are usually water-bathed for canning. Pepper jam and jelly recipes, however, typically add vinegar to bring up the acidity level. I don’t see why they would need a water bath or pressure canning for a jam recipe, as the vinegar and sugar both keep down bacterial growth. It you’re worried about it, go ahead and water bath.
can i water bath after it jells.and can the lids be reused if you don’t water bath.
Dean, once it’s jelled, you shouldn’t water bath it. If it didn’t set up or you’re concerned about the seals, you can scrape it all back into the pot and reheat to boiling. Wash all the jars and rings, get out new lids and treat it just as you would a fresh batch of jam. Once you’ve sealed it with new lids, you could water bath it. I wouldn’t do it because you’ll have cooked it to death at that point and the invert method should give you a perfectly good seal.
As far as reusing the lids: Even without a water bath, the lids will seal well if the jelly and jars were hot enough. By the time you pry them off, they’re likely to have small irregularities in the lid and may not seal well. I’ve seen some articles about reusing lids, but I don’t think the risks are worth it unless you’re in an Armageddon-type survival situation. Lids are cheap, so I’d use new ones.
My grandmother never used one. She also made chili sauce (ripe tomatoes) and chow chow (green tomatoes) and never water bathed those either. I do water bath the tomatoes because I was told by another canner that I should. What do you think?
Marilyn, one of the things that is different for us than for our grandmothers is that tomatoes today often have less acid. That increases the risk for canned foods (one reason why you should pressure cook things like canned meat and low-acid vegetables). In jellies and jams, the high sugar environment retards growth of bacteria. Even though I grow many of the old heirlooms, I water bath tomato products, whether red or green. This is probably one of those times when it’s safer to play by the ‘rules.’
Hi I just made prickly pear jelly I think I got to down good now last time I had to redue it several times. This time I used three cups of juice four cups of sugar one tablespoon of lemon juice and one box of pectin. Everything jelled perfect and no water bath. Love prickly pear jelly and the fruit is free.
I have never done a water bath when making jam. I have followed the way my grandmother taught me how to make jam. We always put a tablespoon of butter to help prevent excess bubbling and inverted the jars. I have had my jam made this way all my life and I’m fine. I think that inverting the jars also helps to distribute the fruit through the jar so it is not just floating g on top.
I just finished making red current jelly and the five jars i filled and hot water bathed are not setting up. The overage that I could not put into a jar I poured into a few smaller containers that I just put in the refridgerator. They are setting up fine. Does the hot water bath undo the effect of the pectin to your knowledge?
Melanie, when jams and jellies don’t set, there are several possibilities. Some fruits are naturally low in pectin. Others just take longer to set up. The hot water bath might slow the process compared to not using a bath just because it takes longer to cool. The other possibility is that the pectin was old, although it usually lasts for a long time. Liquid pectin sometimes takes longer to set up than powdered pectin, and if you use home made pectin, it can be variable. Since the ones in the fridge set OK, I would bet the others will set if you just give them little more time. Occasionally, no matter what you do, the stuff just won’t set. If that’s the case, use it for pancake syrup!
I’ve never used a water bath and have made jam and preserved figs for years. Its been about 10 years since I last did this. My understanding was that the sugar kept the jam from forming bacteria. Given the shelf life of Twinkies, that might be the case. However I always used parafin, poured in a hot stream onto the jam prior to placing the lids and inverting the jars. I’m not sure why I did that. I’ve not heard anyone on that topic. I’m in the middle of making a batch of apricot jam and am wondering if this is an old method that really isn’t necessary. Any thoughts?
Kitty, the sugar does help to retard bacterial growth, as does cooking your jam prior to pouring it into the jars (and you’re right, Twinkies should last forever, given their sugar content!). Cooking also helps break down the fruit to make it more spreadable. I don’t think the paraffin is necessary. Back in the days before screw-top bands and rubberized lids, paraffin formed an airtight seal over the food. At the time, it was the only option. In addition to it being unnecessary, I would hesitate to put a petroleum product next to a food I plan to eat.
I have been canning for several years now, sometimes I use a water bath others I don’t. Either way a year or two down the line I always have a good seal and well preserved jam! I am just about to make a batch of raspberry lemon and strawberry jams and thought I should google ‘water bath free jam making’ just to make sure my memory was correct about it being safe…and so I came across your site. I am glad my memory served me well and am also curious of what the ‘inversion’ does in the whole process, I have never done this before.
Amy, my understanding is that inversion applies a little extra heat to the lid to counteract the effect of the cooling that takes place in the few minutes between when you pour in the jam and when you apply the lid. The important part is getting a good seal, so that little bit of extra heat helps.
I made wild blackberry jam yesterday and realized in the middle of the night that I forgot the water bath! They all sealed fine–even though I also forgot to invert the jars! (My daughter just had surgery and is recuperating here. In my defense, I am sleep deprived and did not want to waste a good hour of berry picking!) I was relieved to read your post! I don’t remember my grandmother doing water baths either! Thanks!
Jamie, as long as you’ve got a good seal they should be fine. If you feel anxious about it, you can just store them in the fridge. Thank you for dropping by!
I forgot to mention, that I always add a small amount of butter, not margarine, to minimize the foaming.
I had to laugh at this this morning when I read it! Thanks for letting me know I am not alone in how I do things. I never use the canner on my jams or jellies either… I always use a pitcher to fill them… and one last note… I also use my dishwasher to clean them, and then heat them in the microwave just before I fill them… that way the jars are really hot! Have been doing this for years and never had a problem.
Yes, there are times with the “latest and greatest” is really unnecessary. Thanks for stopping by, Jolene!
I just made eight jars of cranberry sauce. It is wonderful I just added the amount of raw sugar per package of cranberries and the amount of water. Put the clean jars in oven and did it the old fashion way. All the jars sealed and they look so beautiful. The last jar only was half full I made smoothies and added the sauce to the smoothies Yummy! It is so much better homemade than store bought. I did add Lemon juice also. I am not worried at all because I didn’t water bath. This is how my Granny did hers and we are all still living. Thank you for your advice.
I had to remake my prickly pear jelly 3 times. The last one worked like a charm. I just put it back into the pot I used my camping pot this time added lemon juice and boiled it until 220. Then I did the jars in the oven and poured the jelly into the jars and flipped them over. And it worked! Thank you for the advice this is the way I will do my jelly now and all the seals went pop! So excited.
Laura, I’m glad it worked for you. Sometimes the old ways really are the best.
PHEW!!! I was so happy to see this info. because I too ama a contrarian and an RN!! I’ve been doing the fill hot jars and put hot lid on method forever and NEVER bathed the filled jars and have never killed anyone- but was starting to feel like I was just lucky so did a search-like “Jefferson’s Daughter” I am always suspect of “research” put out by anyone with a vested interest so sites like Ball etc. ??? but to get the go ahead from many older experienced canners was priceless! thanks!
Glad to be helpful, Carole. I think too many people are so panicked by the thought of “organisms” in their food that they go to excessive lengths. I operate on the principle that if research says ABC and my personal experience is XYZ, the research can go hang. Thanks for stopping by!
I have never used a water bath and I have jelly that I know is at least 8-years old and they have a great seal. Actually, I have never heard of water-bathing jelly.
Now could someone enlighten me on the inverted seal system?
JC, I don’t know when water baths for jams and jellies first came into vogue (I use that terminology on purpose, as I suspect it came from the sort of laboratory scientists who think we’ll all die if a single bacteria touches our lips), but it’s a pretty common recommendation from home extension offices these days. However, as our experience proves, it isn’t necessary as long as you know you have a good seal. The idea behind inverting jars for five minutes is that the hot jelly reheats the jar lid, since it’s cooled a touch in the process of getting it out of the hot water and onto the jar. It may not be necessary either, it’s just one of those “that’s the way I’ve always done it and it works, so why change” things.
I have also done this for years and do not invert my jars…still works great and they seal perfectly and my family is still living : }
Thanks for commenting, Marlene. Yes, it’s very interesting how the old ways often still work just fine …
I never water bath my jams and I don’t do invert. Just finished making 22 jars of strawberry tonight and more than half already sealed. Been doing this for years and haven’t killed anyone yet. Haha! Just pour hot jam into hot jars and seal with hot lids immediately. I still use a ladle and a wide mouth funnel to fill jars. Love listening to them pop as they seal. Happy canning!!
Yes, that “plink, plink” is music to the ears. Thanks for adding your comments, Judy!
That’s how I’ve been doing mine too exactly same as yours
Have been doing canning fruits, making jellies, jams, all kinds of pickled products and over 40 years and no one has ever died. Water baths I do for certain things only. Friend did water bath and cracked her glass top stove.
I like it! I will try and remember this the next time I make jelly!