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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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  • [January 15, 2016] - It's National Soup Month so this month's posts will focus on soups. Yum!
  • [February 1, 2016] - An interesting report on why you should always choose organic tea verses non-organic: Toxic Tea (pdf format)
  • Sticky Post - Warning: 4ever Recap reusable canning lids. The reports are growing daily of these lids losing their seal during storage. Some have lost their entire season's worth of canning to these seal failures!

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Jams and Jellies

Frugal Kitchens 101
Ontario strawberries and cherries are in season signifying the start of the jam and jelly making here. Unless you grow your own berries, there are little savings in home canned jams but the finished product is far superior to what you can buy in the grocery store. There are no preservatives or artificial flavours or colors and certainly no HFCS in homemade jams or jellies.  There are three main costs for jams and jellies: berries, sugar, and pectin. If canning the jam, the cost of lids need to be factored in as well. There are ways to save on the costs of making homemade jams and jellies. Here are a few of the things I do to keep the costs in check:

  • berries or fruit - Berries or fruit for jam making are available at farmer's markets, roadside stands, U-picks and the grocery store.  By far the cheapest is if you grow some or all of the berries or fruit you will be using for making jam.  If buying berries, know the current prices.  For example, I recently bought strawberries as my strawberry bed has just been planted.  A local roadside stand had theirs priced at $4 per quart or $20 per flat (6 quarts, $3.33 each) while a local grocery store had strawberries on sale 2/$5 or $2.50 per quart.  However, the quality of the berries were better at the roadside stand making them a better deal as there is no point making jam with poor quality berries.  The local U-pick is coming in at $2.25 per quart but factoring in the cost of gas and time, the frugal choice between the two is the in town roadside stand or the grocery store.  A trick to stretching more expensive fruit is to make a mixed berry or fruit jam.  I made strawberry kiwi because kiwis were on sale and I made a mixed berry jam because blueberries were on sale. 
  • sugar - Sugar ranges in price from about 10¢ to 17¢ per cup depending on where you buy it.  Traditional jam recipes tend to be very sugar heavy, usually between 4 to 8 cups of sugar depending on the recipe.  On the low side sugar will cost to 40¢ to 80¢ and on the high end 68¢ to $1.36.  This cost can be reduced by making healthier, sugar reduced or low sugar jams.  There is a lower yield for the healthier versions as sugar adds bulk but the final product is well worth it, more of a gourmet jam.  The second way to save is to buy sugar in bulk for the lowest price per lb.  The third way is to watch the sales.  Sugar seldom goes on sale but some grocery stores will put sugar on sale for holiday preparations (mid-November) so take advantage of those sales if you can.
  • pectin -  Surprisingly, store bought pectin can be one of the biggest costs of jam making.  Pectin is available in crystals, liquid, quickset or low methoxy granular.  Each has its advantages and disadvantages.  Be aware that all by the low methoxy pectins have a use by date.  Liquid and crystal pectin cannot be interchanged. 
    • homemade pectin - If you have access to free green apples or crabapples you can make your own pectin.  You will need 10 lb of either to make about 2 cups of pectin.  It can be home canned if desired.  Be warned this is a long cook process requiring overnight straining to use the juice only.  Each batch of jam will use ½ to ¾ c to 4 c of fruit so a batch of pectin will give a yield in jam of 3 to 4 batches.  Do consider the cost of energy to cook down the pectin.  We now have time of use electricity pricing which is one reason I switched to natural gas for cooking when we moved.  A large electric burner (2100 W) costs just over 25¢/hour so a long time cook can actually make homemade pectin more expensive than store bought.  Cooking it on natural gas will cost about 8.3¢/hour. 
    • crystal - The common brands are Sure-Jel and Certo but I did see a store brand recently.  Certo crystals are currently selling for $1.99/box.  One box is required for each batch of high sugar jam.  The store brand was $1.19.
    • liquid - The most common brand is Certo.  It comes in a box of two pouches for the current price of $3.49.  Depending on the jam being made, one or two pouches are needed.  Liquid pectin really is the most expensive form of pectin and it has a lower shelf life than either crystal or low methoxy pectins.
    • quicksets - Redpath has a pre-mixed bag of quickset that includes the sugar and pectin.  The beauty of this is pretty much a dump and use with only measuring the fruit.  It currently costs $2.99 but was recently on sale for $1 a bag.  A one kilogram bag makes 5 - 7 cups of jam, consistent with crystal and liquid pectins.  Since you don't have to add sugar, the cost using a quickset is lower than crystal pectin on the high range end of sugar and considerably lower than liquid pectin even at the regular price.
    • low methoxy - Low methoxy does not require sugar for the set meaning you can use sugar substitutes, make low sugar jams and create your own recipes.  Of all the pectins, it is the most versatile.  There is a higher initial outlay at $49.70 per lb which works out to about 35¢ per tsp.  Each batch will use ½ to ¾ tsp per cup of prepared fruit.  The average batch of jam will cost 70¢ to $1.05 as well as the savings on using less sugar.  It does not have an expiry date either so is a great product to have in your pantry.
  • lids - There are two type of lids. re-usable and single use.  Single use metal snap lids are the only lids officially endorsed by the USDA.  The reason being, those companies paid the big bucks to get the endorsement.  Re-usable lids are available in glass (vintage) or plastic and while they work just as good as the metal, in fact even better, they aren't USDA approved because the companies have not paid for the testing.  I use all three.
    • metal snap lids - These range in price from $1.50 per box of 12 in the local dollar store to $2.79 in the grocery stores.  A couple of years ago, the boxes were $1 in the dollar store, then last year $1.25 and now $1.50 but they are the cheapest price around even with the HST.  The dollar store lids are brand name Bernardin lids coming in at a total cost 14.5¢ (12.5¢ lid, 2¢ HST).  This is a considerable increase for those doing larger scale home canning.  The same lids will cost you 23.25¢ plus 3¢ HST in the grocery stores.
    • Tattler and 4ever Recap lids -  Tattler and 4ever Recap lids are a plastic disc version of the metal snap lids but they have a separate gasket and they are reusable.  Unlike the metal snap lids, they are BPA free.  My last purchase of Tattlers cost me $29.63 including tax for 36 at a cost of 82¢ each which means I need to re-use them 6 times to break even compared to dollar store prices or 3 times grocery store prices at which point each additional use costs me nothing and are in fact saving me money with each use.  Some of my Tattler lids have already paid for themselves!  The plastic lids are guaranteed to last a lifetime but the rubber gaskets may need replacing after using about 20 times.  The 4ever Recap lids are slightly less expensive.
    • glass inserts - By far these are my favourite lids!  Like the Tattlers they consist of a disc that fits on the jar with a rubber gasket.  They look good on the jars and they perform like a dream.  They come in at about $1.50 per lid and they require special rings.  The gaskets are thicker and smaller than Tattler and while they can be used multiple times, they can be hard to find.


1 food lovers commented:

LindaG said...

I had never heard of glass lids before I started reading your blog.
Thanks for all the canning and jelly/jam information, GG. :o)