It’s July. Which means, if you are a gardener, that you probably have more zucchini than you know what to do with. (And if you are not a gardener, that you have probably been gifted someone’s excess.) Zucchini bread, zucchini fritters, steamed zucchini, skewered zucchini, stuffed zucchini and zucchini jam. Yes, I said zucchini jam! I came across this recipe on an email group for moms of big families and I modified it a bit to suit our family’s preferences. I will explain a little bit about canning jam after the recipe.
Peel a large zucchini. You can use the biggest monster zucchini you can find. Scoop out the seeds. Put the flesh through a food processor, or finely shred using a hand held grater. I process all my extra-jumbo zucchini at once and then divide up the shreds into 6 cup portions and freeze what I won’t be using right away, in freezer bags, for future jam making sessions.
Cook 6 cups peeled, shredded zucchini with 1/4 cup water until translucent.
- 6 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup bottled lemon juice
- 1 cup fruit of choice
Bring to a boil. Boil 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove from heat. Add one 6-oz or two 3-oz packages of flavored gelatin (i.e., Jello)
Stir well to combine.
Pour into clean, hot Mason jars, leaving 1/4″ head space. Wipe rims of jars. Add lids and rings. Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes, or store the jam in the refrigerator. Or, do what I do and turn the sealed jars upside down on a towel for 1 hour. Turn right side up and leave to cool for 12 to 24 hours. Yield: About 8 cups.
There is a lot of flexibility in this recipe. Choose whatever fruit you have on hand, and then select a flavor of jello to match or complement the flavors. For example: Strawberries and strawberry jello, Strawberries and peach jello, strawberries and orange jello, orange pulp and orange jello. Chopped peaches and raspberry jello, Pineapple and lemon jello. There are many possibilities.
Just in case it freaks anyone out that I don’t always process my jam in a water bath, I will explain currently recommended protocol and why I choose not to follow it for jams and jellies intended for my own family’s consumption. First, my reasoning for skipping the water bath for jams: I happen to have personally observed canners from previous generations doing things this way. The “old-fashioned” way. With no ill effects.
Actually, my mom used to use plain jelly jars, the kind that don’t have threaded tops for lids. She put jam in them, topped with paraffin wax. The jam contains so much sugar that it is rare to have any sort of spoilage. In 20+ years of canning, I have never had any spoilage in jams and jellies. Because I am careful to avoid contamination, doing it this way is within my comfort level. It saves me time and keeps my house cooler. I inspect the jars upon opening, and we go through jars of jam in this house like nobody’s business, so they don’t sit around very long.
If I intend to give the jam as I gift, I do process it in a water bath because I have no control over the manner in which it is stored, or for how long, once it leaves my home. Educate yourself on canning protocol and decide for yourself your comfort level. I will list a few resources that I have found helpful at the end of this post. But nothing beats learning hands-on from an experienced canner.
Quick canning overview
There are two ways to process home canned food: water bath and pressure canning. The water bath method is used for high acid and high sugar foods. Fruits, jams, jellies, pickles, and tomatoes are all safe to process using the water bath method. The pressure method is used for vegetables, meats, soups, chili, salsa, spaghetti sauce, etc.
Both methods use the same preparations techniques. One must wash the canning jars and keep them hot. This can be done by running them through the dishwasher, simmering them in a large pot on the stove or placing them in a warm oven. The two piece lids/rings must be placed in a pot and brought to a simmer. Prepared food is ladled into jars (usually done hot, but sometimes cold or room temperature with boiling water poured over). Any air bubbles are forced out of the jars by running a spatula or non metal knife around the inside edge of the jar. The jar rim is wiped clean with a sterile (boiled) cloth. The lid is placed on the jar and tightened down with a ring. There is a handy magnet tool for removing the lids from the pot of simmering water.
For water bath canning, the jars are then placed in a large kettle/pot of boiling water that has a rack on the bottom to keep the jars from direct contact with the bottom of the pan. Water is added to the pot after the jars are in place until the water level is above the tops of the jars. The jars must remain covered in boiling water for the entire time of processing.
For pressure canning one needs a pressure canner, which is a large pressure cooker designed for canning. A small amount of water is added. (There are usually markings on the pot to indicate how much water to add.) The jars are loaded into the canner (again, on a rack to keep the jars from direct contact with the pot). The lid of the canner is placed tightly on the pot and heat is turned up on the pot to bring it up to the desired pressure. I have used both a dial gauge and a weighted gauge to regulate what pressure I need to cook at. I vastly prefer the weighted gauge. With the dial gauge, you have to be right there looking at to to be sure it stays at the proper pressure; but the weighted gauge makes a sound, so I can be busy doing other things while the food processes and still oversee the operation. Once the correct pressure is reached, it is simply a matter of maintaining that pressure for the amount of time needed to safely preserve the chosen food. Then the pressure is allowed to reduce slowly (no quick release). The times and pressures for various foods are found in the Ball Blue Book and other canning resources.
When the processing time for either method is complete, jars are removed with canning tongs and placed on a towel or other stable, heat-proof surface and allowed to sit until completely cool. One of the most satisfying sounds ever is the “ping” from the lid of a home canned jar as it cools and seals. Once cool (usually 12-24 hours later), you gently remove the rings from the jars. Wipe the jars off if necessary. Check that they actually sealed by observing whether the middle of the dome lid has pulled down. Any jars that didn’t seal should either be reprocessed, or refrigerated and used promptly. Label and store the sealed jars in your pantry until needed.
- Ball Blue Book
- Stocking Up
- Putting Food By
- National Center for Home Food Preservation
- “Getting Started” guide from Ball
- Simply Canning
- Canning Granny
- Canning & Preserving For Christians