Making Jam: Choosing the Fruit

Fresh Fruit
The best quality fruit will give you the best jams and jellies. Strawberries from California, peaches and plums from Argentina or Chile may look attractive, however, they are often hard, dry and low in acid and will therefore not make good jam. Wait for local fruit to be in season. Contact your local U-Pick farm or your provincial Department of Agriculture for fruit picking and retail availability times in your area.

Always use firm, ripe fruit. The better the fruit, the better the jam. By using only the best fruit, you help to ensure a proper set and the best possible taste.

  • Overripe fruit has lower levels of acid and pectin and will result in a soft set.
  • Underripe fruit has less juice and will result in poor flavour.
  • Taste the fruit first. Fruit with a good flavour will produce a jam with similar characteristics.
  • Wash and prepare each batch of fruit as you need it. The quality of fruit deteriorates rapidly once prepared, even if refrigerated.
  • Do not make double or large batches.

Frozen Fruit
Jams & jellies can be made from fruit you freeze yourself or frozen unsweetened fruit (no syrup) purchased from the freezer section of the supermarket. If you're freezing your own fruit, use Canadian grown fruit in season. If you're planning to use frozen fruit from the supermarket, we still recommend frozen fruit that's Canadian grown.

How to Freeze & Use Fresh Summer Fruit

  • Place washed berries or peeled sliced peaches, on a tray
  • Do not add sugar
  • Put it in the freezer until frozen completely
  • Package the fruit in labeled freezer bags or tightly sealed containers, removing as much air as possible
  • When you are ready to use, thaw the fruit in refrigerator (do not drain juices)
  • Crush or chop as required and measure as you would for fresh fruit.

Fruit Varieties

For apple butter or jams use firm, tart and juicy apple varieties such as Cortland, Spartans or Ida Reds. Fall is the best time for preserving apples. MacIntosh are fine to use in the early fall while firm and juicy, however they lose their acidity after months in storage.

There are two types of blueberries. The low-bush are wild, small with tender skins and have the best flavour for jams. High-bush berries are cultivated on very tall bushes, are much larger and the skins will give jam a different texture. They can be crushed in a food processor but do not purée. Imported blueberries are always high-bush and may lack flavour or juice.

The Blue Concord is an excellent grape variety for jams and jellies. The grapes should be firmly attached to the stem, which should be flexible not brittle. Keep refrigerated, loosely covered, up to two days. Wash just before using.

Wait for mid season freestone varieties, such as Red Haven, Vivid or Loring to make jam. The early varieties are not freestone. When selecting, look for firm peaches with smooth skins, sweet aroma and clear peach colour. Avoid any with wrinkled skin or green tinges at the ends. Keep peaches at room temperature until their skins yield slightly to gentle pressure.

Bartlett are the best all round pears for eating and preserving. They are normally picked green so buy them that way and allow them to ripen to a yellow tinge at home without bruising. Most imported Bartlett pears can be used for preserving as well. Pears are especially nice when made into spiced jams or partnered with raspberries. This is an example where fresh and frozen fruits work well together.

This classic jam fruit with its fragile berries is second only to strawberries in popularity for jam making. Boyne, Festival and Killarney are well known varieties. There are now varieties that bear fruit later in the summer like Heritage. Look for firm, dry raspberries, not showing any juice or mildew. Refrigerate and use immediately. It is important to rinse gently just before using. Spread out on paper towels to dry before crushing. They freeze well, whole, without sugar.

This early spring fruit can be made into jam alone or look for Certo Rhubarb combinations with strawberries or pineapple. Greenhouse rhubarb appears first in the season with bright green leaves, rosy stalks and a milder flavour. Outdoor rhubarb is more robust in flavour. Look for crisp firm stalks, not too large and coarse. The colour may vary from green with red tinges to deep ruby red, depending on the variety. Wrap and refrigerate. Rhubarb freezes well for later use if cleaned, cut into 1" pieces and stored in plastic freezer bags without sugar.

The strawberry is the most popular and versatile fruit for making jams alone or with other fruits. There are many varieties and the U-Pick farms offer different selections than those shipped to retail. Veestar and Annapolis are two of the tender sweet early varieties favoured at U-Pick farms. Kent, Mic Mac and Honey Eye are popular mid season varieties at U-Pick and at retail. Look for completely red berries, shiny and firm with no green or white areas. Size does not matter. Overripe, soft, bruised fruit will not make good jam. Store unwashed berries in the refrigerator, lightly covered with paper towels. Use within a day after picking or buying. Do not rinse until they are to be used. Freeze some to make jam later rather than keep too long.