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Monday, July 21, 2014

The Boy is in a Jam

I fully believe that one of the best things you can give to anyone in this life is a new skill. As I tell my son often, things can be taken away from you at any moment-your job, your house, your family- but once you develop a skill, it is yours to keep forever. So I was delighted when, after he tasted my sour cherry jelly, he said very enthusiastically that he wanted to make more jelly with me this weekend.

There is always something more fun to do than

That was, of course, until the time actually came to make jelly and cartoons were on.

Needless to say, I got his little butt up and we made a batch of sour cherry jelly. For all his complaining, he was very proud of himself. As soon as his father came in, his eyes lit up and he announced that his jelly would be ready in the morning to be put on toast and it would be delicious.

Teaching my son life skills is so very important to his father and I. At fourteen, he can do his own laundry, make some simple food items, clean a bathroom and living room, mow the lawn and now, make jelly. Life is uncertain. The economy is no where near as rugged as it was when my parents simply graduated high school and got a fantastic job paying good wages and benefits. No, instead, you can do everything right and still get laid off. The spouse you thought you'd be with forever morphs into someone you don't recognized. To use a quote from, The Incredibles, "Life favors the prepared".

So today, I'm going to show you how to make a jelly. My jelly may have a few little floaties in it as I didn't use a jelly bag but it's quick. With jelly and jam making, the process is quick, it's all in the preparation.

For cherry jelly you will need the following (from the Sure Jell measurements):

From Beginning to End

3 1/2 cups of cherry juice
4 cups of sugar
1 package of powdered pectin (Sure-Jell)


canning jars
canning lids and screw tops
jar lifter
Large pitcher
Strainer that fits in the pitcher
1 large stockpot
1 small stockpot
1 small saucepan
1 cookie sheet

To make the cherry juice:

Take at least 5 quarts of sour cherries and put them in your smaller stockpot. Crush them with your  hand in the stockpot. Add the heat and heat for about 10 mins crushing against the side of the stockpot periodically. Let cool a bit.
Crush berries (or cherries) with your hand. If they need
more liquid add water (these didn't). Boil for 10 mins.
Here Dixon is crushing the cherries against the strainer to get
all the juice.

Once cool, put your strainer over the pitcher and begin ladling your now cooked sour cherries into the strainer. With a ladle, mash the sour cherries against the strainer to get as much liquid out of them as possible. Dump out the mashed cherries and start with a new ladle full. Repeat until you have used up all your cherries.

If you have any left over from canning,
add equal amounts of sugar and juice
and make a delicious simple syrup for
fruit salad or drinks!

At this point if you don't have time to finish the process,
put it into the fridge. You can always can this the next day.   

This is what I mean about processing on the run!

Taking the large stockpot, boil the canning jars you intend to use. Boiling insures that the cans are sterile. There is absolutely no sense in doing all this work and then have to pitch the canned goods simply because the cans weren't sterile. Botulism is a serious condition and there is no real way of telling if it exists in your canned goods.  The best way to insure that your can goods are safe is by keeping everything clean.

Remove the jars out of the stockpot and put on your cookie sheet. Putting on a lipped cookie sheet ensures that any "drippage" is trapped in the cookie sheet and doesn't cascade down your stove front.

When you are ready to can, bring a saucepan of water to a boil and put in the lids (not the screw tops) that you intended to use. Take your sugar and measure it out into a separate bowl. Heat up 3 1/2 cups of cherry juice and mix with your pectin. Bring to a rolling boil and once there, add your all at once. Stir vigorously for one minute. Skim off any foam that comes up. After a minute, ladle into your sterilized jars. Wipe down the rim of the jars. This is an important step as you want to be sure that you have a good seal before you put these on your shelf. Removing the lids with tongs, put the lids on each filled can and quickly screw on a screw top. Using a towel around the hot jar, make sure the screw top is on as tightly as you can.

Now the canning part.

If you have a canner, please feel free to use that. Generally there in an insert in the bottom to prevent your jars from coming into full contact with the heat. If you don't have that, a small cooking rack can be used. I often don't use anything at all but it can be dangerous to do it that way so I can't recommend that. Fill your large stockpot with water and bring it to a boil. Once at the boil, gently lower your jars into the boiling water and boil for 10 mins. Once finished, carefully lift the now hot jars and place them on your cookie sheet to set.

Setting generally takes about 24 hours. Periodically you should hear a "pop" noise which tells you your jar has sealed. We call that the "Sound of Victory" in my house.

If a jar doesn't seal in 24 hours and you can remove the lid, place it in your fridge or freezer. Label your jars and place them in a proud part of your pantry so you can look at them and have the satisfaction that your work placed that food there for use by your family.


  1. Hi Stacey! Your jelly looks so delicious! I've never had sour cherries, I don't think, but I love love cherries so I'm sure I'd love it. How sweet your little son helped. What a memory this will be for him. Thank you so much for popping in to see my Barbie outfit. Yours sounds amazing!
    Be a sweetie,
    Shelia ;)

  2. Ooooo... cherry jelly! Yours looks wonderful! I can't wait until my cherry trees start to produce. We got a few this year, hoping for a small crop next year. I saw a recipe in another blog on how to can cherry pie filling - can't wait to try that one also! I'm so glad you are teaching your son the reality of life. I have three sons (no daughters) and tried to bring them all up to understand that life is wonderful, but sometimes it just isn't fair! Enjoy the rest of your week!

  3. I'm not familiar with making jelly or canning, but this post makes me want to try! Looks very delicious! And good for you for teaching your son! Thank you for stopping by #MerryMonday!

  4. Thanks everyone and Vickie, the cherry pie filling with the sour cherries is wonderful. Our tree is maybe 3-4 years old tops, and for the past two years, it's given us more sour cherries than we could possibly pick. The cherry pie filling is the best! I also canned marscino cherries for ice cream. We just planted two sweet cherry trees this summer but once hasn't survived so I'm waiting for a replacement this fall. Hope is ringing eternal that maybe sometime in the future we'll have sweet cherries as well. Best of luck with yours and enjoy your first harvest!

  5. Hi Stacey, I liked your comment ~ "but once you develop a skill, it is yours to keep forever." That is the truth... One never knows what skills will be a blessing to them in the future. Thank you for sharing your jelly tutorial on the Art of Home-Making Mondays this week. Please join us again next Monday.

    Have a peaceful Sabbath~~ JES :)

  6. love this and love that your child was involved. You are so right about developing skills and now have a new tag line
    come see us at

  7. Thank you for sharing your canning tutorial on Teach Me Tuesday Linky Party!