The Ultimate Guide to Making Jams, Pickles & Sauces at Home

Preserving fruits and veggies at home through jams, pickles and sauces is a rewarding way to enjoy seasonal produce all year long. Read on for tips, tricks and recipes for making your own jams, pickles and sauces.

Why Make Homemade Jams & Preserves?

Making jellies, jams, marmalades and preserves allows you to:

  • Control the ingredients – no preservatives or added sugars
  • Highlight seasonal produce – make the most of summer and fall fruits
  • Reduce food waste – use up overripe fruits and veggies
  • Save money – homemade is less expensive than store-bought
  • Make great gifts – homemade jams make thoughtful edible gifts

Beyond tasting great, the canning process allows you to store homemade jams for up to a year when done properly.

Jam Making Tips & Supplies

Follow these tips for jam making success:

Choose the Right Fruits

Opt for fruits that are ripe and flavorful. Berries, stone fruits, and citrus fruits make great jams. Avoid fruits low in pectin and acid like figs and melons.

Add Pectin for the Right Gel

Pectin is what helps jams and jellies thicken up. Underripe fruits have more natural pectin. For others, use added pectin or add lemon juice which is high in pectin.

Use the Right Gear

A large pot, ladle, funnel, jar grabber, and mason jars are kitchen essentials for canning jams. A candy thermometer helps monitor the gel point.

Follow a Trusted Recipe

Research tested recipes that include details on jam gel stage, processing time, and seals. Improper home canning can allow bacteria to grow.

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Store Properly

After processing sealed jars, allow them to cool fully upright. Store in a cool, dark place up to 1 year. Refrigerate after opening.

Easy Homemade Jam Recipes

Strawberry Jam

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs fresh strawberries, chopped
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1 package powdered pectin

Instructions:

  1. Crush strawberries and combine with sugar in a pan. Bring to a boil.
  2. Stir in pectin and return to a rolling boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  3. Remove from heat and skim off foam.
  4. Ladle into sterilized jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rims. Seal lids.
  5. Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Cool upright.

Yield: 5 to 6 half-pint jars

Peach Habanero Jam

Ingredients:

  • 4 fresh peaches, peeled, pitted and diced
  • 1 habanero pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 1/2 cups sugar

Instructions:

  1. Combine peaches, habanero, lemon juice and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes until thickened.
  3. Ladle into jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rims, seal lids.
  4. Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.
  5. Store in refrigerator up to 3 weeks once opened.

Yield: 3 half-pint jars

Orange Marmalade

Ingredients:

  • 3 medium oranges
  • 1 lemon
  • 3 cups water
  • 5 cups sugar

Instructions:

  1. Cut oranges and lemon into thin slices. Dissolve sugar into water and pour over fruit. Cover and let sit for 24 hours.
  2. Bring mixture to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes until gel stage is reached.
  3. Remove fruit slices with a slotted spoon. Ladle marmalade into hot sterilized jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Seal.
  4. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Store in refrigerator up to 3 months once opened.

Yield: 5 half-pint jars

Pickling Basics & Tips

Pickling preserves vegetables and fruits in a brine solution. Follow these tips for crispy, flavorful home pickles.

Select the Freshest Produce

Choose firm, crisp vegetables and fruit without blemishes or soft spots for pickling whole or in slices.

Only Use Fermentation-Safe Jars

Use Mason jars designed for canning, not old jam jars. The lids must seal tightly.

Keep Everything Submerged

Weigh jars down to keep pickles fully covered by brine. Mold can develop on exposed surfaces.

Watch for Bubbles

Look for tiny bubbles as proof fermentation is happening. If none appear, restart the batch.

Sample Regularly

Taste pickles after 3-4 days to test flavor and texture. Enjoy them when they reach desired tartness and crunch.

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Easy Pickle Recipes

Refrigerator Dill Pickles

Ingredients:

  • 4 Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dill

Instructions:

  1. Combine vinegar, salt, sugar and dill in a small saucepan. Heat until salt and sugar dissolve.
  2. Pack cucumber slices tightly into a Mason jar. Pour hot brine over cucumbers.
  3. Seal and store in the refrigerator 3-5 days before eating. Keeps 2 weeks refrigerated.

Quick Kimchi

Ingredients:

  • 1 head napa cabbage, chopped
  • 3 carrots, cut into matchsticks
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes

Instructions:

  1. Toss all ingredients in a large bowl. Transfer to a Mason jar and pack down tightly leaving 1 inch of space.
  2. Seal jar and let sit at room temperature 2-3 days to ferment.
  3. Transfer to refrigerator. Enjoy up to 2 weeks.

Bread & Butter Pickles

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound pickling cucumbers, thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon celery seeds

Instructions:

  1. Combine vinegar, sugar, garlic, mustard seeds, turmeric and celery seeds in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil stirring to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat.
  2. Pack cucumber and onion slices into a clean Mason jar. Pour hot brine over. Seal jar.
  3. Let cool on counter 2-3 hours then refrigerate. Enjoy chilled pickles in 1 week.

Homemade Sauce Basics

Transform fresh produce into flavorful sauces with these easy steps:

Start with Quality Ingredients

Overripe or flavorless produce makes blah sauces. Seek out ripe, flavor-packed fruits and vegetables.

Roast Vegetables First

Roasting concentrates flavors for richer flavor in sauces like tomato sauce or pumpkin puree.

Season to Taste

Sample sauces as they cook. Adjust herbs, spices, salt and acidity until desired flavor is reached.

Use an Immersion Blender

Puree sauces to desired consistency right in the pot with an immersion blender.

Jar and Refrigerate

For short term storage, ladle sauces into jars or containers and keep refrigerated up to 1 week.

Simple Homemade Sauce Recipes

All-Purpose Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 2 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt, pepper, dried oregano or basil to taste
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Instructions:

  1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until soft. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more.
  2. Crush tomatoes by hand as you add them to the pan along with juices. Add seasoning.
  3. Bring to a simmer and cook uncovered for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened.
  4. Cool slightly and puree with an immersion blender or in a food processor until smooth.
  5. Use immediately or transfer to jars and refrigerate up to 1 week or freeze up to 6 months.

Yield: About 4 cups

Spicy Pumpkin Seed Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Salt to taste

Instructions:

  1. Toast pumpkin seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat 3-5 minutes until lightly browned. Transfer to a food processor or blender.
  2. Add jalapeno, cilantro, lime juice, garlic and water. Puree until smooth, adding more water if needed. Season with salt.
  3. Transfer to a jar and refrigerate up to 5 days. Enjoy as a taco topping, salad dressing or veggie dip.

Yield: About 1 cup

Mango Chutney

Ingredients:

  • 3 ripe mangos, peeled, pitted and diced
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 onion, diced
  • Salt to taste

Instructions:

  1. Combine mango, sugar, vinegar and ginger in a saucepan. Simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes.
  2. Add garam masala, onion and salt. Cook 10 minutes more until thickened.
  3. Remove from heat and transfer to a jar. Cool completely before refrigerating. Keeps 2 weeks chilled.

Yield: 2 cups

Tips for Canning Sauces Safely

While jams and pickles often use a water bath canning method, the different pH of savory sauces requires pressure canning to kill bacteria that can grow in low-acid foods.

Follow these tips for safely canning tomato sauces, salsas and other homemade condiments shelf-stable:

  • Only use evidence-based, tested recipes from reputable sources
  • Use a pressure canner and follow all manufacturer’s instructions
  • Ensure your pressure canner has a working pressure gauge for accuracy
  • Sterilize all canning jars and equipment before use
  • Only use Mason jars specifically for home canning. Old jam jars can shatter.
  • Carefully monitor time and pressure. Over or under processing can allow bacteria to survive.
  • Check jar seals are complete before storing

Improperly canned sauces can lead to serious foodborne illness. Follow trusted recipes and guidelines to enjoy your homemade creations safely.

The Takeaway

Home canning allows you to create your own jams, pickles, sauces and more using peak seasonal ingredients. Follow proper techniques and recipes, use the right equipment, and enjoy your homemade preseves all year round. Jams make great edible gifts or appetizer additions. Pickled veggies add flavor to sandwiches, charcuterie boards and bloody marys. And flavorful sauces like pizza sauce or salsa are easy DIY pantry staples.

The key is finding trusted recipes, the best local produce, and practicing proper home food preservation methods. But the effort pays off with safe, affordable homemade condiments your whole family will love.

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