Food Tips

10 Steps to Perfect Preserves and Expert Tips to Succeed

10 Steps to Perfect Preserves and Expert Tips to Succeed
Food Tips

10 Steps to Perfect Preserves and Expert Tips to Succeed

  1. Fill boiling water canner or large saucepan two-thirds full of hot water. About 30 minutes before filling jars, start to boil.
  2. Use only new lids and canningjars that are free of nicks and cracks. Heat lids in small saucepan of water until hot and sealing compound is softened.
  3. Wash, rinse and air-dry jars. Ten minutes before filling, place jars, metal funnel and 1/2-cup measure in canning rack; boil for 10 minutes.
  4. Fill jars using funnel and measure; be sure to leave recommended headspace. Wipe rims with damp paper towel.
  5. Remove air bubbles with rubber spatula, gently stirring preparation. Adjust fill height as needed. Centre lids on jars; screw on bands until fingertip tight.
  6. Return jars to canning rack. Add boiling water to cover by at least 1 inch. Return to boil; boil for specified time.
  7. Turn off heat. Let water stop boiling before removing jars. (If you remove jars too early it may cause leakage due to change in pressure.) Lift out rack with jars and let coolon rack for 24 hours or gently remove from rack with canning tongs as specified in recipe.
  8. Check that lids curve downward. Refrigerate those that don’t and use within 3 weeks.
  9. Label and store jars in cool, dry, dark place for up to 1 year or as specified in recipe.



Alcohol, acid, salt and sugar in high concentrations are used to preserve different foods because they create environments that prevent the growth of microorganisms or, in the case of alcohol, destroy them completely. Naturally acidic fruit is usually preserved in a concentrated sugar solution or alcohol. Vegetables, which are more alkaline, are preserved in acidic vinegar or a salt solution, or a combination of both. The recipes featured in these pages contain ingredients with a high acidity level—such as fruits, fruit juices and pickles—and are best preserved using the method described.



To measure the headspace in the  jar accurately, use an ordinary ruler or a transparent plastic preserving ruler. It’s essential to maintain the headspace—the air between the top of the  preserves and the rim of the container—in order for the jars to seal securely. If the jars are overfilled, they may overflow during heat treatment. If there’s not enough headspace, the recipe can be altered. As a general rule, jams, jellies and marmalades require a clearance of 1/4 inch, while pickles, relishes and chutneys use a 1/2-inch space.



1. Wash your hands, then clean all the equipment needed for preparation and canning in hot soapy water. Do not reuse utensils without rewashing.

2. Wash and sterilize a few additional jars, in case the recipe yields a bit more than stated.

3. Always follow the recipe. Changing the ingredients, proportions or timing could cause spoilage. Even a tiny variation in the degree of acidity could alter the safety of your preserves.

4. Label each jar clearly, indicating the contents and the date of preparation.



Pectin is a gelling agent found naturally in certain fruits. It’s essential for making jams and jellies as it allows cooked fruit to set and gives it its spreadable consistency. Pectins specially designed for different types of jam, from very sweet and low sugar to no-cook and freezing, are available. But they’re not interchangeable, so be sure to purchase the correct one for your recipe or you may end up with preserves that are either too soft or too firm.



There’s a simple ‘set test’ you can do to ensure your concoction is at the right stage for pouring into jars. Before beginning, place 2 or 3 small plates in the freezer to chill. Remove the pot from the heat while doing the test, and when you’re ready, place 1 tsp hot jelly or jam on one of the chilled plates and return to the freezer for 1 minute. Remove the plate; the surface of the jam or jelly should wrinkle when the edge is pushed with your finger. If it doesn’t wrinkle, continue cooking the jam or jelly and repeat the test every few minutes until you get the desired result.



Always use the freshest ripe fruits (even including a couple of under-ripe fruits is a good idea, as it means the natural pectin content in the produce is at its peak). Fruits and vegetables that are even slightly damaged can affect the set of the jam, and may lead to your preserves spoiling quickly. Plus, you’ll get the best flavour from perfectly fresh, in-season crops!


Share X
Food Tips

10 Steps to Perfect Preserves and Expert Tips to Succeed