If you have made or want to make some homemade jam, you might be wondering whether you can preserve jam without a canner.
If you don’t have a water bath canner, don’t be tempted not to process your jam. This is not safe. You can preserve jam by freezing it. But if you don’t have a canner, you can consider making your own. This is something you can do cheaply and relatively easily, using items you may already own.
Putting jam through the canning process is certainly the safest way to preserve it. But you do not necessarily have to have expensive equipment to do so. In this article, we will cover some questions you might have and guide you step by step through what you need to preserve jam without a canner.
Is It Safe To Store Jam and Not Follow a Canning Process?
In the UK and certain other parts of the world, it is common to follow a type of jam making that involves ‘open kettle canning’ or ‘open kettle bottling.’ This involves simply making the jam and then putting it into sterilized jars with no further processing.
But modern science tells us that this is most definitely not a good idea. Jams that have not undergone a further process are not safely preserved, and there is great danger in consuming jams that have been simply put into the jars in this way.
It is very important to preserve jam safely that you follow the most recent scientific advice and process the jars. This is usually done by placing them in a hot water bath canner for a proscribed length of time.
This length of time has been determined scientifically, and it is important that when canning at home, people follow the specific guidelines that have been laid out for different foods by reputable and trustworthy canning authorities.
Remember, the processing time given for the recipe will be for jars of a specific size, so this is also something that is important to bear in mind. You cannot assume that a processing time will be applicable to larger jars too.
The only time when you don’t have to process canning jars of jam is when you plan to eat the jam right away. Put the jam into your fridge once it cools, and it should keep for 4-6 weeks. However, bear in mind that ideally, it is still always safer to process jams to preserve them.
Can You Preserve Jam By Freezing It?
If you do not want to eat the jam right away, you can, in fact, freeze it for later. Again, there are no guarantees if you just freeze jam, and it is always better to process it first.
If you do want to freeze jam, you can do so as long as you have strong, freezer-proof jars. It is best to freeze jam in glass containers that have straight sides. This is because straight-sided jars allow the jam to expand during the freezing process.
However, the freezing jam will often result in changes to the texture of the jam. Once it is defrosted, fruit pieces may have broken down or become a little mushier. And the jam maybe a little more watery than it was before it was frozen. So this is not the ideal way to preserve the fruit.
If you plan on making and canning jam later, you can freeze the fruit to deal with later. This is probably a better option in terms of preserving quality over time.
How to Can Jam When You Don’t Have a Water Bath Canner
The basic goal to preserve jam without a canner is to make something that resembles a water bath canner. A makeshift canner can do exactly the same as a specially purchased canner and should allow you to safely process your jam in exactly the same way.
Below, you will find a step by step guide that will allow you to find or make the things you need without buying the specialist equipment.
Find a Large Pot To Use as a Make Shift Canner
You do not necessarily need to use a specialist water bath canner to preserve the jam you have made at home because many large kitchen pots can serve the same purpose.
You may well already have a large stockpot or another large pan that you can use for the purpose. Many people already have one of these in their kitchens.
The pot must be large enough to accommodate some of your jars, with space to add an inch of water over the top of them. Make sure that there is space for this and that the water does not come too high up the sides. If the water level with the jars inside is too high, you will have issues with it over-spilling when you bring it to the boil. Remember, it is a good idea to have a rack at the base of the pan (more on this below), so be sure to take the height of this into account when working out how deep the large pot needs to be.
When finding a pot, it could be an idea to see how many of your jars you can fit in the bottom. A kitchen pot will usually be a little smaller than a specialist canner, but you should find a pot that can accommodate as many jars as possible since it is more efficient to process more jars at one time.
Make sure that the pot you choose has sturdy handles, so you can easily move it. And that it is sufficiently sturdy in its construction for the purpose.
Make Sure The Pot Has a Snug Fitting Lid
Another important thing is making sure that the large pot you choose has a snug-fitting lid. This is important during the processing and will make it easier to ensure that the contents stay hot enough for the required period of time.
If you have a pot but not a lid, you may be able to source one online. Don’t forget that lids might often be picked up very cheaply or even for free from those clearing out their kitchens. Just make sure, if you need a new snug-fitting lid for a stockpot you own, that you measure very carefully to make sure that you source a lid of exactly the right size.
Make or Source a Rack to Hold Jars Off the Bottom of the Pot
Once you have sourced a suitable pot with a snug-fitting lid, the next stage is to make or source a rack to place in the base to stop the jars from making contact with the bottom of the pot. If the jars bump on the bottom during the canning process, then they may break.
Some people use a ready-made rack that came with an Instant Pot or similar. Some use some kind of trivet that they might have for another purpose in their home already.
But if you do not already have a rack, there is a very simple hack to help you make one for yourself. Simply take some jar lid rings (jar bands) and join these with wire, staples, or the metal rings you sometimes find around the top of a loaf of bread. Then just place them in the base of the pot.
Another idea is to simply place some cookie cutters in the base of your pot. If you are the kind of person who likes to bake cookies, then you might have a whole lot of cookie cutters at the back of a kitchen drawer. So you could press these into action.
You could also make a rack for the base and basket to lift the jars in one from some old wire. You might use old fencing wire, or old wire coat hangers, for example. Snip this wire into lengths and make a grid across the base and two handles at the sides. The jars will sit on this and can be lifted easily out of the pot with the handles. Just make sure that the structure is strong enough to hold your jars.
Optional: Find Or Make Something To Lift Cans in and out of the Pot
If you do not have a specialist canner, you may also not have the other tools that are usually used for canning jams. One of these tools is a jar lifter – a pair of tongs with coated ends that grip the jars safely. Having a tool like this makes it easier to get the jars out of the canner or makeshift canner once the process is over.
But if you cannot source a specialist jar lifter tool, then you could simply use a pair of tongs you already have in your kitchen or for barbecuing. The problem with this is that metal tongs can easily slip, and jars could break. One hack for this is to wrap rubber bands around the ends of the tongs so they better grip the jars and will be less likely to damage them.
You’ll also need a tea towel handy to put the jars into – but that is something, surely, that we all already have lying around.
Optional: Find Or Make a Magnetic Tool To Make It Easier to Handle Jar Lids
Another piece of canning equipment that some people will have is a tool with a magnet on the end that will make it easier to lift and handle jar lids during the process.
You may well already have a magnet in your home – a fridge magnet perhaps – that you can repurpose by fitting it into or into the end of a long stick or another long implement to reach into hot water.
This is not absolutely essential, but it is one thing that could make your life just that little bit easier and help you preserve jam without any specialist canning equipment.
Optional: Find or Make Something to Use as a Funnel To Fill Your Jars
Another thing that comes in handy when it comes to filling your jars is a funnel. Of course, this is a cheap and readily available piece of equipment. And many of us will already have one in our kitchens.
But if you do not, you can make your own funnel from items you may already have lying around your home. If you don’t have a funnel, you can also simply make do by using a ladle to scoop your jam into your jars – though be warned. This can make a bit of a mess.
Optional: Find or Make Something to Use as a De-Bubbler
One final tool that those canning jam or other preserves will often buy is a de-bubbler. This is just a slim spatula that can be inserted around the edges of the jars to get rid of air pockets.
Again, this is not essential, as you can simply use kitchen items that you likely already own. For example, you can use a chopstick or skewer to get rid of bubbles around the edges of your jars. Or just a small plastic spatula that you already own.
Select Your Canning Jars
One thing that you cannot and should not skimp on or try to substitute in the process is the canning jars themselves. It is important not to use any old jars to safely can and preserve jam. You do need special canning jars for safety. These are rated to withstand the heat and seal properly to exclude air and keep foods fresh.
Make sure that you choose jars from a reputable and well-known brand such as Mason jars or Ball jars, for example. And remember, you can reuse the jars and bands, but the flat lids should only be used once for canning before they are relegated to other uses, such as pantry storage.
Process Your Jam in Your Make Shift Canner
Now that you have everything together that you will need for the process, all that remains is to choose your recipe, make your jam, and process your jam in your makeshift canner.
As you can see from the above, it is relatively affordable and easy to makeshift and preserves jam without a specialist canner. Canning high acid foods like jams and jellies is something anyone can do and is a great gateway into the world of preservation. Just remember that if you are canning low-acid foods, that will require a specialist pressure canner, so do bear that in mind and always be mindful of food safety whenever you want to preserve any foods from your garden or that you buy in your local area.
Why Might You Want to Preserve Jam Without a Canner?
So, we’ve established that it is a good idea to preserve jam in the best and safest way, to preserve it with a hot water bath canner. But do you need to buy this specialist piece of equipment to preserve jam? The good news is that the answer is no. You can still preserve jam without a canner – you just have to use some simple items to make something that will serve in the same way.
There are a number of reasons why you might want to preserve jam without a canner.
To Save Money
You might not have the funds to invest in a water bath canner for your home. We don’t all have lots of money to spend on new things – or we might just have other things that we would prefer to spend our hard-earned cash on in the short term.
Because You Cannot Get a Canner
You might also find that there are difficulties in sourcing a water bath canner. Some people have recently found that it is more difficult to get their hands on canning equipment because there has been a rapid rise in interest in the activity over recent months. This has led to the rapid growth of the market, and due to high demand or supply chain issues, some manufacturers and suppliers have struggled to keep up.
Due to Limitations of Your Stove Top
Another reason that you might wish to avoid using a specialist water bath canner is that you have a glass stovetop or another stovetop not ideally suited to their use. If you do, you may have to find some simple hacks to help you carry out the processing in a similar way – but with less specialized equipment.
To Limit Consumption in General and Live in a More Sustainable Way
Finally, you might simply be trying to move towards a more sustainable, eco-friendly, zero waste lifestyle by limiting your consumption in general. Of course, everything we buy comes at a cost (not just a financial one). So you might decide that you would rather try using what you already have or can source second hand, rather than buying something new.