Hi there! This was so helpful to read! I bookmarked you right away. I have never canned jam before, but would love to give 4oz mason jars full of a couple different kind of jam for my wedding favors. I am of course going to try this out before I get closer to the date, which is November, but I had a couple questions for you. How far in advance can I make the jam and store it safely? I have a fear of canning incorrectly and my jam being all moldy or disgusting (I actually dreamed this the other night!) Do you have any tips for me? Any books I should read up on before embarking on this journey? Thanks! Danielle
First of all, please do not have any more nightmares about your jam going bad at your wedding. When I think back to all the weddings of which I have been a part, there are many, many other things you could fret about....for example, my best friend's own mother accidentally stepped on her train and tore the whole back end of her dress off (lesson learned: make sure your maid of honor carries needle and thread and yes, duct tape can fix anything) or another friend who gained 50 lbs in the 6 months before her wedding because she was so stressed out all she could do was eat (lesson learned: make sure you know an excellent dressmaker that can make alterations to a several sizes too small dress look like they were part of the plan). The good news is that traditional fruit jams have so much sugar in them, they aren't going to mold easily unless the seal is broken to your jar. And even then, it is a long shot - in colonial times, people would preserve jam with a disk of wax on the top. Sugar prevents mold growth because it is hygroscopic - i.e. it binds all of the water molecules, so the mold doesn't have enough water to live. My recipe for spoon fruit wouldn't fall into the same camp because it doesn't have enough sugars in it. But jams with added sugar are just fine.
All new canners worry about botulism, but I am here to tell you to rest easy, because it is impossible to get botulism from most canned fruit products. Why? Because most fruit is very acidic, and botulism spores can't live in environments where the pH is lower than 4.6. Most fruit falls in the high acidic range. Plus, when making jam, canners often add lemon juice to insure pectin formation, and that further acidifies your end product. So, there's no worries about food safety and making fruit jams for your wedding guests.
The USDA says that canned goods are good for a year after canning, and then after that, quality may degrade. So the time get started is NOW for your November wedding, because the fruit will be at it's best in summer. Over the course of the summer, you can make many batches every weekend and have lots of different flavors for your guests, and you and your sweetie can taste test them all. My favorite canning book, for veterans and novices alike, is Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.
It will teach you everything you need to know about canning, and it has many different recipes for you to try. Also, there's a great article in Martha Stewart about making jams for wedding favors. I also keep as board devoted to canning labels on Pinterest. Check it out! Happy wedding and don't worry, your wedding will be fantastic and it will be over in an instant. My wedding day was the fastest day in my life 20 years ago. Just remember the duct tape and everything will be okay!