Autumn is nearing and now is the time to learn and master shelf storage, while the bounty is still plentiful! That means flash-boil greens, pickle whatever sounds appetizing, and jam the fruit like a mad man. Do what Grandma did and take advantage. The smells that hang around in your kitchen during the process will shine through your memory in February, like that last ray of hope that winter really truly eventually ends. We eat a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at this house, but I’m turned off by jellies at grocery stores. Added sugar and corn syrup don’t just contribute to bad health, they agitate attention and mood disorders too. Canning supplies can be very expensive. So with those circumstances addressed, here’s my own interpretation of jam-making. And by that I mean the “totally old school Great Depression” method. My goal was not to buy a single thing for this recipe, and it worked – because I literally didn’t have any money to spend! 😀
Materials & Ingredients
2 large recycled jars with their lids
8 oz beeswax (I buy 1 lb bricks of it from this local merchant — and use it for everything.)
1 cup raw honey (Check in your area here for bee farmers)
8 cups blackberries, some ripe and unripe (Any berries should work because they are naturally high in pectin)
1/4 cup lemon juice
Clean and sterilize jars and lids. This can be done by keeping them in a pot of boiling water while you cook, or keeping them hot in the dry cycle of the dishwasher until they need to be used.
It is recommended to use two-part canning lids these days, for food safety reasons. Up until the last century however, women like my grandmother used the wax-to-seal method without issue. Sterilizing and proper waxing will better assure alleviating mold. Also, I am on a budget. Beeswax is not only accessible, but is 100% natural and reusable.
Wash berries in cold water, letting them soak for 1 minute to ensure any bugs are killed. Strain them and pick out leaves/stems/weeds/etc. Place them in a pot and mush them with a potato masher. This part is great for involving children in the jamming process. ❤ Memories!
Add lemon juice to berries over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Let it boil for 1 minute, then add the honey. Lower to medium heat and let the mixture boil for 25-40 minutes, stirring every 6-8 minutes only to be sure no fruit is sticking or burning to the bottom. Skim the scum from the top, and offer it to a child. It doesn’t give a lot of flavor to the finished product but works as an excellent treat for children to keep them occupied!
While the jam is cooking, place the beeswax in the top part of a double-boiler. Beeswax is highly flammable. Do not heat over high heat. It will likely take about 10-15 minutes to melt such a large amount of wax.
Double boilers are easy to makeshift if you don’t have one. Just make sure whatever you’re melting the beeswax into is a container large enough to dip the sterilized jars in 1 inch.
Jam is at the right consistency when you can drag a spoon across, and leave a clear trail on the bottom of the pot. If you’re jam still isn’t thick, you can add a little cornstarch. Be careful though as cornstarch burns easily. Remove pot from heat. When that point has been reached, remove the jars from dishwasher. Dry them and dip their openings into melted wax 1 inch deep for 2 seconds. Bring them out, and wipe all wax from the rim and outer edges with a clean cloth. After the jam has cooled and no longer bubbling, dish it into jars with a large spoon or funnel.
After jam has firmed, pour the melted beeswax over it to the rim. Tilt the jar so the wax runs up the rim and leaves a good seal. Place the lid after the wax has turned an opaque color. As the wax hardens, it will pull on the lid and seal the jelly in. Whatever wax you don’t use, store it away for something else.
Woo! Now that is saviness. Just saved myself a lot of money for over-priced jellies at the farmer’s market. *pats self on back* Now here’s to hoping my first wax-to-seal actually sealed… I’ve got confidence, but there’s always a possibility for mold. For that reason, I would strongly suggest the water-bath preserving method. It makes things much simpler.
Wax-sealing is indeed greener, cheaper, and a great skill to learn and master! But it should be used to preserve things that will be used within a couple months. I used all my two-part canning lids last week, but I can’t turn my back on all the blackberries out here in Washington right now. If I had the time and materials to can them all before season’s end, I’d never have to buy jelly again!