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I am trying to dertermine what kinds of jam are particularly cost-effective to make at home.

I have been given a few bits of equipment for jam making, and am looking forward to getting started.

We don't have a garden at the moment so can't grown our own fruit. I have seen blackberries growing wild near us so I will be trying that, but I would also like to try other kinds of jam.

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@Bluebelle, questions that call for a "list of X" should always be created as community wiki. I changed this for you. –  hobodave Aug 27 '10 at 19:09
    
Separately, I don't think this is a suitable question for this site. Cost efficient is entirely subjective, and localized to wherever you live. I'll wait for more feedback, but will likely be closing this question. –  hobodave Aug 27 '10 at 19:15
    
@hobodave - That kind of comment really puts a damper on the conversation. :) –  Sobachatina Aug 27 '10 at 19:45
    
@Sobachatina: It's the only method I have to indicate that I think this should be closed short of outright shutting it down. –  hobodave Aug 27 '10 at 19:54
    
@Soba: Also, this isn't a place for "conversations", but objective questions/answers. :) –  hobodave Aug 27 '10 at 20:11
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3 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Costs to consider when making jam:

One-Time Costs

  • Pressure canner
  • Water-bath canner
  • Large pot for making jam in
  • Strainer (can use a colander-type item or something like a Squeez-o)
  • Jar rack that goes inside the canner
  • Jar lifter
  • Funnel
  • Jars
  • Freezer-safe containers
  • Jar rings

Recurring Costs

  • Jar lids
  • Fruit (you can often get pretty cheap fruit in bulk from an orchard)
  • Pectin
  • Sugar
  • Spices
  • Energy usage (stove)

Compare costs for freezer jam (no canner required), pressure-canned jam (pressure canners are expensive), and water-bath canned jam. Also compare for recipes that do vs do not contain pectin.

If you can get a lot of the one-time cost items free (from grandma's attic, most likely), and if you can get the recurring cost items on sale (or from your own garden), then you can probably come close to commercially priced jam.

Personally, here's what I look at:
A) The cost of the item I would normally buy at the store - generic, cheap brand. Let's call that price X.
B) The cost of the item I wish I could buy at the store - the really good stuff. That price is usually about 2x to 3x.
Then, my goal is to be cheaper than 2x.

Another Cost Consideration If you give homemade jam as holiday gifts, spending less than you otherwise would on a gift, there's additional savings for you.

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As a footnote: for me, apple butter is the cheapest. I was given most of the equipment free, and I can get super-cheap orchard apples (30 cents per pound, bought by the bushel). Then, it's just the cost of lids and jars. Bonus: I give it out as Christmas presents and then do not buy a present for those people. –  JustRightMenus Aug 27 '10 at 20:45
    
This is interesting, but I was really just looking at how cost efficient different fruits are. As shop bought jam is obviously cheaper than making your own, I was just interested in comparative cost efficiency. I think your footnote is the kind of answer I was looking for! Thanks! –  Bluebelle Aug 27 '10 at 20:56
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Jars are very expensive but they are a one time cost (if you don't break them or give them away). If you ever see them on sale or at a garage sale snap them up.

Pectin is a relatively expensive reoccurring cost. There's no way around this one. It doesn't go on sale. Ever.

The fruit can be expensive or not. Use what you have available. Fruit that goes on a very good sale or that can be gathered in your area is obviously the best.

I gather wild grapes and dewberries here in Texas. I also have a peach tree. We will sometimes go to strawberry farms that let you pick your own and do that.

As for economy- unless you get the fruit for free, store bought jam will be cheaper. We make jam often because we can make homemade jam that is better than anything in the store. For example- when we pick our own strawberries it ends up being more expensive that cheap store brand strawberry jam but we get to pick all over-ripe berries and make a jam that makes the store bought inedible in comparison.

Blackberry jam is very easy to make and the recipe and directions that come with the pectin are sufficient. When you cook down the fruit into syrup strain out a bunch of the seeds. Delicious.

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Here is Washington State it is now BLACKBERRY TIME! Most of the year I hate them, trying to kill back the vines (this year the Himalayan blackberries went nuts, probably some vines grow a foot every night--of our 2 acres, over a half acre is no inaccessible because of them). HOWEVER, right now the berries are ripe! So if you can get the berries for free, especially in large quantities, perhaps it is more cost effective. I say this because the high-quality 'boutique' jams you see in the store for $4-$6 / small jar can be duplicated with really good freshly picked fruit. Overall expense may exceed buying it in the store, but there is nothing as good as jam made from truly ripe good quality fruit.

I grew up helping my grandmother make the hot-water bath canned jam. Wonderful.

edit: I should add, you might be able to get the overall cost below what you would pay in a store if you can create a large enough batch, especially if you can get some supplies through (ahem) C****sList for cheap.

one more edit: someone mentioned using these as gifts, which can be a truly wonderful thing. If you spend $5 at a store for a trinket, and give as "the" Christmas gift, it would probably be pretty cheesy (and received as same). Spend $4 and some labor of love making a half pint of personal label designer jam--with no label, frequently--and your loved ones will be thrilled. It especially goes a long way for giving at extended family parties, where you are expected to bring something for lots of people you rarely see.

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