December 2017
Homeplace & Community

Preserves: A Great Idea for Holiday Gifts

Involve kids in the fun and science of preparing jams and jellies for seasonal sharing.

As the holidays approach, spend some time in the kitchen with kids and make some jams and jellies or other items for them to give as gifts. You will be giving them a gift that will last a lifetime, too, with some great memories.

Do you have a hard time buying gifts for family and friends during the holiday season? Here is an idea for this holiday season: Grab your kids and head into the kitchen to prepare some homemade preserved gifts. Food preservation is a science allowing kids to explore and understand the science of safe food preservation, so lifetime skills are being learned and experienced in the kitchen. Starting with jams and jellies is a great way to begin preserving with youth. Jam’s high acidity, large amount of sugar and lack of available water slow the growth rate of microorganisms such as mold, but freezing or boiling-water canning is needed to fully stop spoilage.

There are a wide variety of recipes available allowing you and your children to select favorite flavors to prepare for homemade gifts. You want to make sure to use recipes from a trusted source such as the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service and National Center for Home Food Preservation. Other websites such as Pinterest or Facebook might not have USDA-tested recipes and they may not recommend to water bath can your jams and jellies after filling your jars. A safe jellied product is one that is water-bath canned to create a vacuum seal allowing jellied products to be set on the shelf and not mold or create yeast that will spoil the product.

It is also critical to remember, when teaching youth, to use current, research-based methods for preserving food at home. Paraffin or wax sealing of jars is no longer considered an acceptable method for preserving any jellies. Any pinholes or cracks in the wax paraffin can allow airborne molds to contaminate and grow on the product.

For proper texture, jellied fruit products require the correct combinations of fruit, pectin, acid and sugar. The fruit gives each spread its unique flavor and color. It also supplies the water to dissolve the rest of the necessary ingredients and furnishes some or all of the pectin and acid. Good quality, flavorful fruits make the best jellied products.

These are a few of my favorite recipes for giving at Christmas time for gifts.


Ginger Pear Preserves

Pears with lime and gingerroot combine to make a delicately flavored preserve with an exotic island taste.

Yield: 7 (8-ounce) half-pint jars

5½ cups (about 8 medium) finely chopped, cored, peeled pears
3 limes, grated, zest and juice
2-1/3 cups granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon freshly grated gingerroot
7 (8-ounce) half-pint glass preserving jars with lids and bands

Prepare boiling water canner. Heat jars and lids in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside.

In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine pears, lime zest and juice, sugar and gingerroot. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and test gel. If preserves break from spoon in a sheet or flake, it is at the gel stage. Skim off foam. If your mixture has not reached the gel stage, return the pan to medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, for an additional 5 minutes. Repeat gel stage test and cooking as needed.

Ladle hot preserves into hot jars leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band until fit is fingertip tight.

In a boiling water canner, process jars for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.


Apple Preserves

Yield: 6 half-pint jars
6 cups peeled, cored, sliced apples
1 cup water
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 package powdered pectin
½ lemon, thinly sliced (optional)
4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg or cinnamon or allspice

In a large saucepan, combine apples, water and lemon juice. Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Stir in pectin and bring to a full rolling boil, stirring frequently. Add lemon slices and sugar. Return to a full rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; add nutmeg. Pour hot preserves into hot jars, leaving ¼-inch headspace. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened, clean paper towel; adjust two-piece metal canning lids. Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.


Angela Treadaway is a Regional Extension Agent in Food Safety. For any questions on food safety or preparation of vegetables, contact her at 205-410-3696 or your local county Extension office.