Introduction to Fruit Preserves

Fruit preserves are a fabulous way to enjoy the summer flavors year round. A bit of jelly on toast or a biscuit is a great start to the day or can be a sweet treat to be enjoyed at anytime. These delicious treats are easy to make and make for fun creative gifts for the holidays!

There are many different kinds of preserves that can be made from small variances of the jelly making process including: jellies, herb jellies, jams, butters, conserves, marmalades and preserves. The nuances that distinguish one type from another are small but it can be fun to experiment with the different delectable spreads. For example, jellies are made by extracting the juice from the fruit, straining the juice, cooking the mixture to the point at which a jelly consistency is reached, otherwise known as the jelly stage, and sealing the finished jelly in a jar. A good jelly should be clear, colorful and balance being firm enough to hold its shape and being spreadable. Whereas Jams are made by a similar process but are made out of crushed fruit rather than extracted juice.

Troubleshooting the Cooking Process

As with any baking process, the fruit preserve making process can go wrong. Some common problems in the preserve making process include cloudy, stiff, weak, spoiled, bubbly, or crystalized jelly. All of these issues can be remedied with a small adjustment of the cooking process. A Cloudy jelly usually is the result of improperly straining the juice. However, anything from squeezing the jelly bag while it is straining, using too much unripe fruit, delayed sealing in jars or overcooking can result in a cloudy jelly. Stiff jellies are caused by either too much pectin or overcooking.

Weak jellies, on the other hand, can be due to a number of things including too little pectin, too much water, not enough acid, or attempting to cook in too large of a batch. A weak jelly can sometimes be fixed by adding more pectin or cooking for a bit longer. Spoiled jelly either had too little sugar or was improperly sealed. Bubbles appear in jellies from issues in the pouring or sealing process. Crystals can form in jellies when the cooking time is too long or too short or from too low of a heat. Additionally too much sugar can cause the formation of crystals. Hopefully these jelly troubleshooting tips will help you create the perfect spread!

Here are a couple of recipes to try!

Berry Jelly

Blackberry, black raspberry, dewberry, elderberry, loganberry, red raspberry, strawberry or youngberry can be used.

3 quarts berries

7 ½ c sugar

1 bottle liquid pectin

Wash and crush berries. Extract juice by using a jelly bag. Measure 4 cups juice into kettle. Add sugar and bring to a full boil while stirring constantly. Reduce heat and add pectin. Reheat to full boil and stir for 1 minute. Remove from heat, skim, and ladle into hot glasses and seal. Makes eight 8-oz glasses

Note: ¼ c lemon juice may be added to blackberry, elderberry and black raspberry mixtures.


Strawberry-tarragon jam

5 c crushed strawberries

4 c granulated sugar

½ c minced fresh tarragon leaves

Combine the strawberries and sugar in a heavy, medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring gradually to a boil, stirring steadily. When the mixture boils, add the tarragon. Lower heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens. Remove from the heat. Skim off the foam. Put into five hot freshly sterilized jars. Seal. Process in a hot-water bath or keep under refrigeration.


Berry Jam (without pectin) – can use blackberry, black raspberry, blueberry, elderberry, gooseberry, huckleberry, loganberry, red raspberry, strawberry, or youngberry

2 lbs crushed fruit

2 lbs sugar

*lemon juice

Crush fruit and combine with sugar. Heat to boiling point, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and cook until desired consistency is reached. Add ¼ cup of lemon juice to blackberry, elderberry, and black raspberry mixtures. Mix thoroughly. Ladle into sterilized jars and seal. Makes seven 8-oz jars.


Apple butter

6 lbs apples (~24-36 medium apples)

2 quarts water

1 quart sweet cider

Cinnamon, ground

clove, ground

Wash the apples and cut into small pieces leaving the skins and cores. Add water and boil the apples until they are soft (~30 minutes). Put the mixture through a food mill or rub through a sieve. Boil the cider down to ½ its original volume, add the hot apple pulp, sugar and ground spices to taste. Cook until thick enough to spread. Stir occasionally. Once the desired consistency is reached, ladle into hot, sterilized canning jars, leaving ¼ inch headroom and seal. Process in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes. Makes five or six pints.


Strawberry preserves

3 pints strawberries

5 c sugar

1 ½ c lemon juice

Wash and stem berries. Add sugar and let strawberries combine with them for 4 hours. Bring mixture to a boil, while stirring frequently. Add lemon juice and cook until the syrup reaches desired consistency. Pour into a shallow pan and allow to cool overnight before ladling into hot, sterilized jars, seal, and process in boiling water bath for 5 minutes. Makes about four ½-pint jars.



“Jams, Jellies and Preserves” by Imogene McTague

More fun recipes can be found at DIY joy’s website: