Author of the highly acclaimed Blue Chair Jam Cookbook, Rachel Saunders is an expert on all things preserves. We sat down with her to learn the basics of this old-school skill.

By Megan Bingham

Q. Canning can seem intimidating—is it something we all can do?A. Yes, absolutely. When I teach classes, my message is that anyone can successfully make a delicious jam or marmalade.

Q. Why do you think this traditional method is gaining traction?A. There's something beautiful about using your hands to reconnect with nature. It's nostalgic and appealing.

Q. When did you become passionate about preserves?A. I started making jam when I moved to California. I was so inspired by all the beautiful fruit—I couldn't resist!

Q. Where should novices begin?A. Start with a single-fruit jam—like blackberry or strawberry. Concord grapes make a simple yet stunning jam.

Try This

Packed with canning jars, lids and more, the Ball Canning Discovery Kit gives you everything—short of the produce—to get you making your own chutneys, jams and salsas. $11, available at Walmart stores nationwide.

Blue Chair's Concord Grape Jam

4 pounds Concord grapes, stemmed

2 1/2 pounds sugar

3 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice, strained

Zest of 1/2 orange, finely grated

1/2 ounce freshly squeezed orange juice, strained

  1. Working over saucepan, squeeze grapes, catching the flesh and juice in pan. Set the skins aside.
  2. Over medium heat, bring grapes to a simmer, cover and cook until soft, to 5 minutes. Push through fine strainer; discard seeds.
  3. Combine cooked grapes, sugar, lemon juice, orange zest and juice, and grape skins in 11-quart kettle. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until done, stirring frequently, 20 to 30 minutes. Begin testing for doneness after 20 minutes.
  4. To test, transfer jam onto a frozen spoon. Freeze for 3 minutes, then remove and tilt the spoon. Jam is done when it doesn't run.
  5. Using a stainless steel spoon, skim foam from the surface. Pour into sterilized jars and process according to manufacturer's instructions.

Canning for Greater Shelf Life

Dust off the Mason jars—canning is a great way to stock your shelves. Begin with high-acid foods (fruits, jams, salsas and pickles); they're easy to prepare and don't require a pressure cooker. Whether you're cooking marmalade or bottling tomatoes, these steps will help you lock in this season's freshest flavors.

  1. Wash jars and lids with soapy water. Then place in a large pot of water. Bring to a simmer to sterilize.
  2. To process (seal) the jars, you will need a boiling water canner or a large, covered pot fitted with a rack in the bottom
  3. Lift jars from hot water, emptying water inside jar. Fill jars, leaving room at the top as directed in recipe.
  4. Remove air bubbles with spatula; wipe food from jar rim. Place hot lid on each jar and secure with band.
  5. Place jars in boiling water (there should be at least 2 inches of water over jars). Process according to recipe directions.

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Originally published in the September 2011 issue of Family Circle magazine.