How To: Make Homemade Jam Favors

We haven’t had a serious how-to post in a long time, so I’m delighted to introduce Christina (you remember her wedding graduate posts) writing about canning jam for her wedding. I can personally vouch for this jam, as she sent you some as a thank you, and I’ve been thoroughly enjoying it at breakfast. I used to make jam with my grandmother when I was small, and this post has me dying to try it again (and I’m usually a lazy girl). So here are some lessons in (not so lazy-girl) canning. Enjoy.
DIY wedding favors

Canning is not necessarily cheaper than buying your own favors and it’s certainly more time intensive, but it is unique and awesome. It keeps for a long time, so you can do the majority of the work for the favors well before the wedding. Also, who doesn’t like jam? No one, that’s who.


  • Canning jars with lids and rings
  • Fruit
  • Sugar
  • Pectin (optional)
  • Fruit Fresh (optional)
  • Lemon juice
  • Canning pot
  • Jar lifter
  • Supplies for tags (sticker paper, merchandise tags, etc…)

Step One: Pick Your Fruit

Decide what kind of preserves you want to make. Are you apple people? Peach? Strawberry? Raspberry? Or are pickles something that call to your soul? When selecting your fruit, you have to consider price, growing schedules and your preparation needs. Raspberries are delicious, but they’re $5 a pound at my local pick-your-own and start to mold in the blink of an eye. Cherries are OMG so addictive, but do you want to pit enough cherries to make jam for eighty people? It takes me twenty minutes to get enough to make a cobbler. Apples, peaches and pears are good, durable fruits with a lot of possible recipes you can try. Yes, you have to peel, chop and core them, but all in all, the prep work is not that bad.

Step 2: Do the Math

Once you pick your fruit, you have to go and… pick your fruit. Well, you don’t have to, but the prices at a pick-your-own are far better than the farmer’s market and the fruit is usually riper, fresher and more flavorful than what you would get at Costco or the supermarket. It’s also more environmentally friendly and a ton of fun (and addictive. Join us.). Pickyourown is a great website to find a farm near you.

The amount of fruit you need is determined by how much jam you need and how many people you’re having. I set myself up to have a quarter pint (4 oz) jar per guest. That holds around half a cup of jam. If you want to do pickles or are feeling generous, consider half pints (1 cup) or pints (2 cups). Six cups of prepared, slightly smooshed fruit makes around 80 ounces of jam (or around 20 quarter pints). So how much fruit do you need? Well, it really depends on the size of the fruit, but for the apples, peaches, etc… probably about 10 pieces (or 3 pounds) per batch. When I made jam for my wedding, we got somewhere around 35 pounds of peaches for 96 quarter pints and ended up with a little leftover. If you’re making your own apple butter, the amounts will be different. If you’re really concerned about under- or over-buying, do a test run with your first flat and let that determine what you want to do with the rest.

Step 3: Make your jam!

The beauty of making your own preserves is that they’ll last around a year before spoiling, so you could pick the fruit in September, make your jam and then give it out as favors in your May wedding! This is especially helpful when thinking about winter and spring weddings, when very few fruits are in season. Some fruit has a short shelf-life off the tree, so if you don’t think you’ll be able to make massive amounts of jam quickly, consider freezing what you need. I picked peaches in September, made some jam and then skinned, chopped and froze the remainder to jam in January and February. This also gave me a shorter sitting around time for the May wedding, so I was less concerned about spoilage. Apples will last for a few months in the crisper of your refrigerator.

Some tips about making jam:

  • Use an established recipe to ensure a safe finished product. “The Ball Book of Canning” and pickyourown both have good instructions. Experimenting is fun, but can result in botulism, which is not how you want someone to remember your wedding.
  • Pectin is a thickener that is used to make your jam less runny. It is also very bitter, so you’ll have to increase the sugar you add to the recipe. You can make jam without pectin; it’ll probably be less firm. Again, follow a recipe.
  • Fruit Fresh is a preservative used to keep peaches, pears and apples from browning. You can use lemon juice instead (usually ¼ cup for the 6 cups of fruit). Lemon juice is also a part of the jam making process regardless of what you use. The USDA recommends using bottled lemon juice to ensure 5% acidity levels for safety’s sake.
  • If your recipe calls for vinegar, check the label to ensure 5% acidity before adding it to your jam for safety’s sake.
  • Since you’ll be processing your jam for less than 15 minutes in a water bath canner (I assume), make sure you sterilize your jars shortly before putting your jam in them. I usually add the jars to the big canning pot while I bring it to a boil and let it simmer while I continue cooking the jam and simmering the lids (in a separate, smaller pot).
  • Jam should be made in small batches. Don’t double your recipe, unless you want to spend hours waiting for your jam to gel. On the bright side, this allows you to try different recipes and offer different kinds of jam (we did peach, peach vanilla bourbon, peach bourbon, low sugar peach and peach ginger). Consider your guests’ tastes with these recipes—I think peach basil jam is bananas, but my friends have more traditional tastes.
  • Keep the cardboard boxes your canning jars come in. It’s the easiest way to store them.
  • Your finished jam should be stored in a cool, dark location with the rings off. You can stack your boxes, but leaving the rings on will make it harder to see any potential spoilage or leaking. (We stacked ours in the back of a closet.) It’s simple enough to have someone screw on rings if you do a wedding sweatshop the week before.

Step 4: Label Your Jam

Once everything’s set and your jars have cooled, you should definitely label them (if for no other reason than you don’t mix up which jar is what). You can buy canning label sticker paper to print and stick on the lids. There are also some great custom designs you can buy on etsy. Keep in mind most canning jars have raised designs and cannot easily be labeled on the sides.

DIY wedding favors

We printed our wedding “logo” on paper, cut it out using a 2” circle punch and ran the circles through a Xyron (what we had). Then we added the brown paper labels tied on the rings with ribbon. If you do something like this, keep in mind you may lose labels in transit.

Making more jam than you need means having some to give to vendors, coworkers, etc… or your own furtive stockpile, depending on your jam consumption. Happy canning!

Photography by: Kelly Prizel Photography and Christina

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  • yummmmmmmmmm! peach basil jam? pretty sure I would love that.

    I haven’t canned jam since high school, when my dad taught me to do it. it’s a family tradition to can basically everything imaginable, but I am not so good about it lately! will have to finally get around to it soon, maybe apple butter or apple sauce this fall…!

    thanks for the tutorial! homemade edible favors are the best.

    • You can can applesauce? Brilliant! Have you seen Smitten Kitchen’s “first applesauce” recipe? I’ve made (and eaten/frozen) 3 batches already in the first couple weeks of apple season!

      • Kyla, not only can you can applesauce, it’s wicked easy. Fill crockpot with peeled & cored apples & some spices, leave for 8 hours, pulverize w/ an immerision blender, add lemon juice, can! If you want to make apple butter, leave it in the crockpot for another 8 hours after you blend it. SO EASY.

  • Jen M

    I would totally do this if I weren’t the laziest person alive. seriously.

  • I made jam for the favors for a friend’s wedding, and it was quite an adventure! We used 2 oz jars, and because I didn’t want to use pectin, I made strawberry apple jam — the apple having more natural pectin than a lot of other fruits and berries. It wasn’t the firmest jam in the world, but it was delicious! People were popping jars open at the reception to snack on, and no one got sick (my biggest fear during all of this).

    I definitely recommend breaking it up and doing small batches over a long period of time. We did 1-3 batches a night spread over a bunch of weeks leading up to her wedding, and then did the labeling/ fabric-topping/twine-tying one night in front of a marathon of the X-Files. Scully and Mulder definitely made a tedious task more fun :)

  • Yum, thanks for sharing your tips Christina! Another tip I do for my own jam consumption: prep, measure, and freeze fruit in freezer bag batches to cook throughout the year (this would work especially well with big guest lists). This splits up the marathon canning sessions I used to do, and now I cook every couple months as I need it (for weddings, you can cook as you have help/energy/time/etc. without worrying that your fruit will spoil).

  • I had the enviable task of “having” to help Christina and Meigh get rid of some of this deliciousness, so there’s a few cans of it in my cupboards, and it’s effing delicious. Every guest at their wedding commented on how awesome they thought it was and were super-impressed that they’d made it themselves. If you go this route, be prepared for adoration!

  • What a delicious idea for wedding favors – and so pretty, too! We had an excess of blackberries this summer and I’ve been making jam and canning since mid-August (my first canning adventure!) I was a little surprised at how easy it was – lots of prep work, certainly, and it took some time, but the steps were pretty straightforward. I’d recommend “Putting Food By” as a good resource.

  • Great instructions and a perfect DIY favor!

  • Englyn

    We just did this! Spiced Tangelo and Grand Marnier Jam. It’s winter, and what was in season and therefore not horrendously expensive was… citrus. So, to make it less ordinary than breakfast marmalade, the tangelo jam idea was hatched. Therefore, more tips:
    – You can use mini jam jars instead of canning jars. These are about $5 each at a kitchen supply shop (prohibitive) or about $0.65 at my nearby wholesaler/manufacturer that also sells to the public as long as you buy the whole tray (woohoo!). Call around.
    – The flat or round sides enable you to print a cute label on address label paper, although you may have to trim the thing. We then tied labels like in this post on with ribbon, these had people’s names on and were used as placecards. A single hole punch from a scrapbook shop and some hole reinforcers for file paper from an ordinary stationery shop that I’d had lying around for years came in very handy.
    – Get the fruit that’s in season when you have time to make the things. It took a few days and I only had 50 guests. Enlist a helper – my mum did all the sterilising, cleaning drips off side, and labelling.
    – We get jamsetta which is a brand of pectin but does not seem to be bitter at all. Just use it. It will save you many headaches of jam that just won’t set.
    – Make a test batch. My first one, I followed the recipe and just chopped the fruit. It turned out very bitter with all the pith, the expensive vanilla bean was totally lost, and it was sloppy. The second batch with pith removed, jamsetta, and vanilla extract was much improved.
    – Do eeet!! it wasn’t nearly as painful as I’d feared, it turned out great, we had so many delighted comments (and they hadn’t even tried it yet, mwuhaha), and I was so happy to have favours that meant something to me.

  • Gift something homemade especially these kind of things are unique idea.

  • North

    Two things about jam, which I love and love to make:

    1. If you get the seal right it’ll last a looooooong time. I’m still eating marmalade from a year and a half ago and it’s still great. Do this in advance, when the fruit you like is in season or you have time.

    2. People who are flying in may not be able to take this with them, because of the liquid rules. It might be worth having a place to stack jam jars that people can’t take with them so that people who are in town (or you!) can keep the extras rather than having them get lost.

    • North, TECHNICALLY, the USDA says you should only keep & eat preserves for a year. TECHNICALLY.

      And yes, a 4oz jam jar is above the 3oz liquid restriction for carryons. We took the leftovers home with us (and I shipped some out to relatives who didn’t check luggage).

      • North

        I know, I know. I did keep the marmalade carefully in the dark, I live in a cool climate, and I would worry about the quality if I were making a really delicate jam. All I’m saying is there’s no reason to worry about making marmalade in January for your September wedding.

  • EmKate

    LOVE IT!!

    I’m a rabid jam maker (part makes me feel like a cool organic fruit I know where my ingredients come from chick, part my fiancee’s mom always has so he really loves it when I do) but was struggling with the 3 ounce carry on rule when pondering its practicality as a wedding favor.

    That being said, jam makes the perfect gift for pretty much anything. Also, look for mason jars at yard sales (make sure the rims aren’t chipped or cracked at all), develop a slightly manic craze of anyone you feel like you could say, ‘Hey, if you want more jam, give me back my dang jars,” do so, and after the initial investment (Jars, rims, jar grabber thingy, big ol’ pot), I can now make a batch of jam for the $2 lid tops cost (yes, you need new ones) plus some pectin plus the fruit (which I try to get for free as much as possible. Wild blackberry-raspberry? crabapple jelly anyone?).

    My current gift for prettymuch anything is a jar of jam and a jar filled with all the dry ingredients for homemade scones (layer like you see in fancy pants stores) with a label with directions and a jar of jam with some cloth napkins/a nice dish towel all. Extra points if you can put them in either a little brown shopping bag or a basket or something else awesome. Thoughtful, homemade yet practical will be used gift for less than 5 bucks. More money for other practical/worthy/awesome things.

    • My aunt is also a jammer and I never understood why she kept asking for jars back. I TOTALLY GET IT NOW. The Wife worked a wedding where they were going to throw out 12 flats of mason jars (that had been used as candleholders). They are mine now. Mwa ha ha.

  • Marissa

    Hi! I am a canning novice. But I was thinking of doing this for my wedding next summer. I was thinking that I might be able to get around the 3oz carry on rule by putting 3 oz in the 4 oz jars?? Or will this mess up the canning process?

  • This article is amazing as it helps me to get the sort of information that i needed. I am thankful as i got your article when was searching. Thanks for sharing about useful information. I am always looking out for wedding favors

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  • madison

    This is most likely too late for Marissa, but to any like me finding this post now, first: fill jars to where they need to be filled for the recipe otherwise it will not keep well. Second, since I just checked with TSA, it’s the size of the jar, not the amount of liquid (same reason you cannot take a mostly empty toothpaste tube). I am planning on finding 2 oz jars, which has the bonus of less jamming to do!

  • Danielle

    I’m seriously considering doing this! Is there any advice anyone would give a canning newb?

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