Is It Safe to Make Jam in a Copper Pan?

Some preserving experts swear by the centuries-old French practice of using unlined copper pans to make the finest preserves. Others swear it off, calling it unsafe. When I outgrew my old 6-quart stockpot, I heard a copper jam pan calling my name, but then I got hung up worrying about poisoning people. (I hate it when that happens.) So is copper safe or not? It took some time to unravel the mystery, and here’s what I learned.

Why Use Copper?

There’s one big reason to use a copper jam pan: You won’t find a better heat conductor anywhere. Great heat conduction equals shorter cooking time — that means you spend less time boiling away the flavor, color, and texture of your fruit.

There are other features of a jam pan that will help you cook your mixtures quickly and evenly, most notably shallowness and slightly flared sides. (The slant helps moisture evaporate; it doesn’t run back into the mixture as with vertical sides.) Copper jam pans have it all.

I admit that I was also caught by the romance of using a gorgeous, heavy copper pan to make my jams. While I was shopping for copper, more than one person said to me, “This pan is something you’ll pass on to your heirs.” I don’t yet know who my heirs will be, but I was intrigued. We’re talking tradition here.

Finally, a good copper pan really lights up the kitchen. For a practice like jam making — as much art as science — investing in a tool that inspires you every day is a legitimate consideration.

When Copper’s Safe — And When It’s Not

Getting right to the point, an unlined copper pan is safe when you use it to cook a mixture of fruit and sugar. It’s not safe for fruit without added sugar. The road to this conclusion was a long one, and I’ll give you only an abbreviated version of the journey. (I know it doesn’t look abbreviated, but trust me.)

Confession: I somewhat impulsively spent a good chunk of this year’s tax refund on a copper pan without giving a thought to safety. But not long after I made my first batch of copper-pan jam, Stewart started pinging me with little emails about copper toxicity. He’s careful that way.

The more I read about cooking with copper, the more I worried about sickening myself and my loved ones with symptoms like fever, vomiting, and convulsions. (Here’s one source for more than you want to know about how too much copper can screw you up.)

When I turned to my preserving guides to learn more, I got confused. Christine Ferber, in Mes Confitures, states that she always uses a copper pan because of the superior heat conduction. On the other hand, in The Joy of Jams, Jellies, and Other Sweet Preserves (a book I love and use a lot), American expert Linda Ziedrich says copper’s not so smart:

The interior surface of the pan should be made of a substance that won’t react with acidic foods. This excludes iron and aluminum. Although French preserving pans were traditionally made of unlined copper — because copper would react with acid and thereby enhance gelling — such pans are frowned on today, at least in the United States, because copper can be toxic.

What’s the deal? Clearly, copper jam pans have been used for centuries without causing a mass die-off of jam eaters. But fruit is acidic and we know that acid and copper shouldn’t mix. Help!

For the final word, I contacted Rachel Saunders, proprietress of Blue Chair Fruit and maker of jam that the Bay Area is raving about. Rachel herself makes all of Blue Chair’s small-batch preserves in unlined copper kettles — and she had the clearest, most practical answer to my question:

The key to using a copper pan is to put only the jam mixture in it — put the fruit in the pan only after it has been combined with sugar. Putting fruit in the pan on its own will cause the fruit to react with the copper and can be dangerous. I have made thousands of jars in our copper pans, and the results are excellent. The high concentration of sugar in the mixture prevents toxicity.

So there you go. Sugar prevents the acidic reaction. That’s why you should never prepare or macerate your fruit in unlined copper. Use glass or ceramic instead.

The truth about copper was good news and bad news for me. Good, because I can use my new copper pan for lots of preserves. Bad, because some won’t work.

I sometimes make jam with Pomona’s Pectin — a citrus-based pectin that allows you to dramatically cut the sugar in a recipe. The catch is that you add the sugar to the mixture very late. You prep and boil the fruit well before you add the sweet stuff — exactly what you don’t want to do with a copper pan. Boo. I still needed a pan I could use with my Pomona’s recipes. Soon, I’ll post what I learned about good alternatives to copper and share information about the non-copper pan I chose, but I’ll wrap up here with some more information for folks who want to ride the copper train.

How to Care for a Copper Pan

When it comes to cleaning copper pans, it’s fine to keep things simple. The jam makers I talked to keep their pans clean and dry, but they’re not fussy about a little natural, penny-colored patina.

Rachel Saunders advises rinsing your pan right after you use it, cleaning it with a very mild detergent, and drying it at once. These simple precautions will help to prevent any unwanted reactions. If you do ever notice evidence of oxidation on your pan — a sort of green, mustardy ick, as I understand it — you can use a very gentle scouring pad to get rid of it.

Copper pans can take some abuse. From a safety perspective, there’s no need to worry about some scratches or scorching. Feel free to crank your copper to the highest heat. That’s what it’s made for.

Of course, if you want to keep your pan pristine, there’s lots of information out there about how to do it.

Want Copper? Sources for Your Fix

If copper grabs you like it did me, you’ve got a few choices to make: What brand? What size? How much are you willing to pay?

The brands you can most easily find and order in the U.S. are Mauviel, Matfer Bourgeat, and Baumalu. The smallest pans are around 10 quarts (Matfer makes an 8.5 quart pan). None of them are cheap. Matfer is the lightest and least expensive of the bunch — you can find one for under $100 — but keep in mind that lighter weight means lower quality. The super heavy, hammered Mauviel 11.6-quart pan pictured at the top of this post retails for about $230. Splitting the difference, I found a very nice, new Baumalu 10-quart pan on eBay for $138, shipping included.

A couple of places to start your search:

For Mauviel pans, visit Metro Kitchen.

For an interesting assortment of new and used pans, it’s fun to browse eBay. Search for “copper jam.” You’ll have to sort through a few pairs of copper-colored Nike Space Jam sneakers, but those are the search terms that will bring up the greatest number of copper jam pans, kettles, pots — whatever the seller decides to call them.

If you want to walk into a store, you can usually find the 11.6-quart Mauviel pan in stock at Williams Sonoma or Sur La Table.

Of course you don’t need copper to make good jam but, without a doubt, a quality pan can enhance your jamming experience. I love my copper pan. I feel almost like it talks to me — offering recognizable sights and sounds to indicate the phases my jam goes through as it cooks, especially when it’s ready to come off the heat. My old, dark pot didn’t provide the same clear signs about what my jam was up to. I say if you want copper and you’re willing follow a few simple safety and cleaning precautions, go for it.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

73 comments to Is It Safe to Make Jam in a Copper Pan?

  • Denise | Chez Danisse

    Oh my… You really did your homework. Thanks for managing all of that for us. Happy jamming!

  • Shae

    Seriously, Denise! It took me six weeks to sort all this out. Thanks for at least browsing through it. :-)

  • kaela

    Such a nice write-up, thanks! I went down this trail at one point but decided against unlined copper, as almost all of the jams I make are very low in sugar. :( Which *is* a bummer, because they are so gorgeous, and I firmly believe that equipment that you use all the time should be beautiful as well as functional.

    One of these days I'll find a gorgeous LINED copper jam pot just for me and my finicky, low-sugar jams.

  • Shae

    Kaela, because we're both low-sugar fans — and I ended up with a stainless pot for some of my low-sugar recipes — I'll share this, too . . .

    Rachel's Blue Chair jams are *not* Ferber sweet. She does a lot of lower-sugar jams in her copper and advocates taking sugar as low as .4 lb sugar to 1 lb fruit. I find that to be a nice proportion, so I'm inspired!

  • thecosmiccowgirl

    thanks so much for this…i love the old pots and was also intrigued and perplexed at the benefits and risks of poisoning/reacting issues. i fell in love with blue chair jams when i bought jar in oakland last year and am a great fan of rachel. i wonder if she uses commercial pectin or pomona's. you really did your homework!

  • kaela

    I just saw the Blue Chair jam booth at the Ferry Market when I was out there a couple of weeks ago. I was sorely tempted; but carryon luggage (and 100 jam jars in my garage) dissuaded me.

    If I use sugar at all in a jam, it is usually about 1 to 1 and 1/2 cups for 3 to 4 lbs fruit. I think it's roughly 2 cups = 1 lb sugar so… probably not safe for me. I guess there are worse things than not *needing* to spend $250 on a jam pot! :)

  • Shae

    Thanks for swinging by, Cosmic Cowgirl! I'm still enjoying the crazy rio red grapefruit marmalade I made from your recipe this winter. I think BCF is a great company. Rachel's got tremendous integrity with her jams. She doesn't use commercial pectin or Pomona's. (We talked about that, too!) She doesn't have any kind of heavy judgment against it. I just got the sense that she doesn't find it necessary for what she does.

    Kaela, you're right — there are many worse things! I tried to talk myself off the copper, and I bet I could have done it if I worked with very-low to no sugar like you do. I guess I'm more of a mid-range girl. I don't even want to disclose what I spent on pots this spring. For research, right? :-)

    And are those jars empty or full? If they're empty, I know they won't be for long. I just put 100 empties under the house, myself. Summer is here!

  • laundryetc

    Really great post which answers the serious jam makers conundrum. I've just read that gooseberry jam made with green fruits is a tawny red colour unless you use a copper pan, in which case it will be green. Haven't got first hand knowledge of this but presumably a copper pan may affect other fruits in a similar and interesting way.

  • tigress

    finally i made it over here to read your great and very imformative post!

    i have been jamming with my copper pan – the one at the top of the post, for 3 years and i absolutely love it. i've never used added pectin, or played with the sugar content. (my low-sugar butter was done in a stainless lined copper). and i am in full agreement with you cats, when making jam, or anything really, beauty is a plus.

    kaela, i am going to give you this link: http://www.copperpans.com/facostpa.html
    don't hate me for it. they are pricey but the large one makes a perfect jam pot – lined in stainless.

    i mean, if your not going to go the traditional route.

    …and i will never divulge my cookware bill! ;)

    oh and laundretc – i may have an answer about the color of green gooses cooked in a copper pan this month! although i never use purely white sugar so the color is always altered somewhat in my jams.

  • Shae

    Gloria and Tigress, thank you both! So interesting about the gooses. (I just wanted to say "gooses.") But seriously, we don't get a lot of gooseberries in these parts, so I'm curious. And I love having all you dedicated jammers here conversing about copper. There's so much to learn from everyone's experience.

  • Julia

    What a well-written and informative post. I will have to admit at the risk of sounding like a loser, I've never lusted for a copper pan! I'm trash.

  • Shae | Hitchhiking to Heaven

    Ha! Julia, no, you have good sense. I have tasted your jellies and jams, and it's clear that whatever pan you're using works like a charm. :-)

  • Doris the Goat

    Hmmm. Helpful post, but I'm still confused! We all know that jams are still acidic–that's what makes them safe for water-bath canning. Sugar does not affect the acidity of a solution. It gives the impression of doing so by counteracting the tart taste, but the solution will still be acidic. So I'm not convinced that that's what makes it safe. It's possible that the sugar does something else useful, like starting to create a molecular structure that excludes the uptake of copper ions.

    Any other chemists want to chime in?

  • Shae | Hitchhiking to Heaven

    Audra, I'm so glad that Doris has joined this discussion. She's one smart goat, and she's so right that this post doesn't crack through to the hard science behind copper, acid, and sugar. I haven't yet found a source that does. My understanding is that it's the sugar that makes the safety difference (Williams Sonoma implies that, too, but I couldn't find anyone there who could tell me more) — but clearly it doesn't neutralize the reaction by making the mixture non-acidic. So, yes, we could use a few more scientists around here!

  • kaela

    I just surfed back here to ask Shae about a source for a non-copper jam pam, and found Tigress' link to the *gorgeous* lined copper pan. Thanks, ladies!

    But, assuming that I want to pay the rent this month and am looking for a >$400 jam pot… Shae, what did you find that was suitable in stainless or other metal? I'm not finding much on Ye Olde Internets.

    And, to Doris' point: I'm not a chemist, but we know that sugar affects both jam texture and mouth feel. My assumption (given that the sugar = safety is true) is that the sugar is protecting the fruit in such a way that the acids do not react (or react as much) with the copper. Perhaps I'll have to break out my old general chem textbook and see if I can sort it out!

  • kaela

    Thanks! I've seen that one, but the swinging handle throws me off. Well, after my knife splurge it's going to be a while, but at least I've got some non-copper options.

    Fusionwood knife arrived DULL! I was so incredily disappointed; they were nice enough about it at New West Knifeworks, and shipped me another one pronto (so I wouldn't have to wait to ship it back, get it sharpened, etc.), but I was bummed. So…. I felt the need to get on Amazon and order this:
    http://www.amazon.com/Global-8-Inch-20cm-Cooks-Knife/dp/B00005OL44/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=home-garden&qid=1279220754&sr=8-1

    I can tell you 2 things: 1) this puppy is SHARP, SHARP, SHARP! I chopped a ginormous pile of parsley, just 'cause. 2) Amazon Prime is a dangerous thing.

    Verdict is still out on the Fusionwood knife, although it certainly looks like a gorgeous piece of art; nicely balanced, if a little heavier than most knives on the market these days. Time will tell how sharp it arrives from the factory and how well it holds the edge.

  • Shae | Hitchhiking to Heaven

    Kaela: Thanks for the knife reviews. I'll look forward to a Fusionwood update.

    I wasn't sure about the swinging handle on the stainless pan either, but as it turns out I love it. It doesn't get in my way, and it makes it very easy to pick up the pan for pouring.

    The bottom is nice and heavy and the heat distribution is good, too.

  • Shae | Hitchhiking to Heaven

    Kaela: I absolutely love this stainless-steel maslin pan by Demeyere. It has become my go-to pan, even more than the copper.

    I do want to sort out that last piece of research for this post. What exactly is that sugar doing?? If your chem text helps, let us know!

    How's your knife?

  • kaela

    Good to know; I will keep it bookmarked. Thanks!

  • Diana

    I've had one of those gorgeous copper pans for ages, but only in the last year or so have I actually decided it was for use and not just for looking at. I've been mixing the fruit and sugar together in it – yikes!

    I poked into Harold McGee's exhaustive book, On Food and Cooking: the Science and Lore of the Kitchen. He has this to say:

    "…copper cookware can be harmful. Its oxide coating is sometimes porous and powdery, and copper ions are easily leached into food solutions. Copper ions can have useful effects: they stabilize foamed egg whites and the green color of cooked vegetables is improved by their presence. But the human body can excrete copper in only limited amounts, and excessive intake may cause gastrointestinal problems and, in more extreme cases, liver damage. No one will be poisoned by the occasional meringue whipped in a copper bowl, but bare copper isn't a good candidate for everyday cooking."

    So somewhere between "occasional" and "everyday" seems to be a bit of a gray area.

  • Shae | Hitchhiking to Heaven

    Hi Diana: Even though I make a lot of jam, I consider my use of the copper pan for jam making "occasional." Maybe that's because I can only eat so much of it! Seriously, though, I trust the guidance I was given — Rachel's business depends on the use of these fine copper pans. I do believe in caution, though, and if I'm concerned about an acidic reaction with a particular mixture, I use my stainless steel pan.

  • Sandigee

    Shae — Regarding your info below:

    Rachel's Blue Chair jams are *not* Ferber sweet. She does a lot of lower-sugar jams in her copper and advocates taking sugar as low as .4 lb sugar to 1 lb fruit. I find that to be a nice proportion, so I'm inspired!

    Do I read that right? .4 lb means 4 ounces to 1 lb of fruit? I would way favor that over the 1 to 1 ration!!! Just as long as the sugar and fruit are mixed pre-copper, eh?

  • Shae | Hitchhiking to Heaven

    Hi Sandigee:

    You read that almost right. For a lower-sugar jam, she suggested we could go as low as .4 lb sugar to every 1 pound of fruit. But .4 lb is 6.5 ounces. It's still a serious reduction in sugar. I think whether or not you want to go that low depends on the fruit.

    I did well with a blackberry jam at .5 lbs sugar to 1 lb fruit, and have been able to cut strawberry jams way down, too. Keep in mind that less sugar will mean a jam that's not necessarily as pretty. It won't be as "shiny" and if you go too low, you might also get a softer set.

    You might put your hands on Rachel's new Blue Chair Jam Cookbook. She has some really nice discussions on the natures of different kinds of fruit, not to mention amazing recipes. (And no, I don't work for her!)

    And yep, make sure to mix your sugar and fruit pre-copper, or in the copper but immediately.

    Have fun with your new pan!

  • Sandigee

    Thank you so much Shae! I do have that cookbook already — it does have lots of information and there are great lower sugar recipes. My first raspberry jam set wonderfully and it is gorgeous, but it was 1 to 1 and for me, well, I had to name that batch "Toot Sweet." I will experiment a bit, but your information is incredibly helpful to that end.

  • Shae | Hitchhiking to Heaven

    Sandigee: If you try a reduced sugar raspberry, would you let me know how it works for you? When I took the sugar down from 1 to 1 in my raspberry jam, I had trouble with the set. And I notice both of the BCF raspberry recipes are high sugar. Of course I could have had a poor set for some other reason. I'm a bit suspicious of my organic sugar. I want to investigate to see whether it may sometimes compromise the set of a preserve.

  • Sandigee

    Shae: It will be a while before I do that one again — the raspberries were on sale for 99 cents for 6 ounces and so it cost me less than $9 for that batch as opposed to over $35!!! I really scored. I'm sure those were pretty much the last of the season. Although sweet, it sure tasted great this weekend on toast with a little butter! I've considered organic sugar, but I've only found it in small quantities.

  • Jim

    Good post! I came to the same conclusion but didn't know why the sugar buffered the acid (if that's what it does.) I also am using mine for low acid dishes like paella. See http://eatingchile.blogspot.com/2010/11/chilean-copper-cookware.html

  • Shae @ H2H

    Jim: Fascinating — our posts are siblings! I found this line from your post very interesting: "The acidity of the unlined copper causes some of the sugar to 'invert,' or split into glucose and fructose, which helps resist the sugar's tendency to recrystallize. The pans are also unlined because a traditional tin lining would come too close to melting temperatures in some cases….[3]" It seems to add to the body of information about why copper pans are used for jams and jellies.

    In any case, it's nice to see that we came to the same essential conclusion — but isn't it frustrating not to be able to pin down exactly why the sugar works the way it does? Someone must know!

  • Elizabeth

    This summer my very good friend brought me a copper jam pot back from France, Mauviel. It made my summer and winter! This, and the book “Preserving the Taste” by Edon Waycott, allowed the quality and taste of my preserves to improve markedly. Waycott’s simple explanations of evaporation allowed by the copper pan made sense. I’ve been using stainless steel stew pots, and the jams were inconsistent–sometimes they jelled, sometimes there was a lot of strawberry syrup. The copper has heated quickly in our altitude and with a propane stove (inadequate burner output).

    One of the questions that no one seems to ask is whether we have enough copper in our diet. Some people I’ve discussed this with said that we are not getting enough, especially in the west, with our alkaline water. I would not cook with copper every day, but I think this particular dance away from copper pans is not about a question of safety, but one of marketing the dominate stainless steel/nonstick cookware.

  • Shae

    Elizabeth: I can’t speak to the issue of the sufficiency of copper in our diets. It’s an interesting question, and I assume the answer depends, as you suggest, on many factors. I love my copper jam pan. I also have a stainless steel jam pan (wide, heavy bottom with fluted sides) that works almost as well — though not quite. I use the stainless steel pan when I am concerned about the possibility of a copper reaction. If the reaction of a metal is not buffered (say, by the inclusion of sufficient sugar in the mixture) the metal may leach into a preserve and negatively affect its taste. (This has happened to me with cast iron and I have no desire to repeat the experience.) When it comes to ingesting added metals in my food, I prefer to be cautious — but, for me, even the impact on taste is sufficient reason to be mindful of reactive metals.

  • Maybe this is a silly question, but what about all the other copper pans that are on sale (non-jam pans)? The super-expensive gorgeous ones in Williams Sonoma, etc? I know that these are lined, but then why don’t the manufacturers just line the copper preserves pan just lined as well–since at least in some cases it’s the same company? Or is it just the “centuries old French practice” as you say? But what is supposed to be the benefit of unlined vs. lined? (I know with copper there is heat conductivity and the shape of the pans is better, etc.)

    • Shae

      Sara, I think this is a great question. When I was shopping for jam pans — that is, traditional, large, shallow pans with fluted sides — I looked for a lined copper pan and didn’t find one anywhere. Wondering why, I made up an explanation, which is that the heavy, hammered copper with no lining allows completely unfettered heat conduction. But I suspect there’s more to it. I have read (and damn if I can remember where right now) that there’s a kind of chemical magic that happens between the copper, sugar, and fruit acid that just doesn’t happen with other kinds of metals. (Of course, this implies that there’s some kind of reaction involved.) In a book called Kitchen Mysteries, food scientist Hervé This poses a number of questions that he considers to be as yet unanswered. One of them is “When preparing jam, does the kind of metal the saucepan is made out of matter?” (This is the only jam-related question on the list, which includes other mysteries like “Is it true that a suckling pig served at the table must have its head cut off immediately, or its skin will not be tender?” Hmm.) Many copper fans believe the metal makes all the difference, but it seems that food scientists don’t yet have an exact response to the question.

      • Could be…after all, beating egg whites in copper pans is known to be best because of some sort of reaction between the copper and whites. Why not. I have McGee at home, I should look at it more. I am sure he has some thoughts!

  • Steven

    Thanks for such an informative post! As someone who makes lower-sugar jams, and am in search of a non-copper pan, are you still loving the Demeyere Maslin pan you referenced in a previous response? Or have you found another non-copper favorite? I’m looking forward to lots of jam making this summer and am trying to get some better equipment. Thanks!

    • Shae

      Hiya Steven! Yes, I do still love my Demeyere Maslin pan. I find myself split almost 50/50 in terms of when I use that and when I use the copper. I also know a lot of folks who love to use Le Creuset (or similar) enameled cast iron pots as a copper alternative for smaller batches. (I like the larger size of the Demeyere.) Don’t think you could go wrong with either. :-)

  • Late to this blog, but very timely indeed. I’ve just bought the Blue Chair Jam Book, and am about to embark on this summer’s round of jam and preserve making. I’m a sucker for a pretty face, so have been very tempted to shell out the big bucks for the Mauveil jam pot. Reading your post and the comments has convinced me that I can live quite nicely without that particular piece of equipment, though I will likely get the Demeyere Maslin pan. I love making jam with as little sugar as possible – in fact, I got into jam making originally by following Barbara Kafka’s instructions for microwaved jam – one part sugar to four parts fruit, zapped on “high” for about 15 minutes (that’s from memory, so I may have skipped a step or two). The results are good, and very acceptable for an instant jam, but they’re not preservable — a lesson learned the hard way!

    I’ve downloaded your book, will bookmark your page, and have very high expectations for a long and productive relationship with your expertise. Thanks so much for valuable information, great pics, and much inspiration.

    • Shae

      Thank you, Sandra. I’m glad you found this discussion useful and I wish you a bountiful summer with whatever pan you choose. (The Demeyere is awesome. They should pay me for how many times I’ve said that!) I visited your blog this morning, too. It’s a treat to read your wonderful writing.

  • [...] results though it takes care and experience (that I am woefully shy of).  For such experience, turn to Shae at Hitchhiking to Heaven who wrote a master-level tome on the subject and is just awesome.  She is a proponent of copper – and I’m very curious to [...]

  • Sue

    Hi Shae, I know this is a late response but re your reference the stainless maslin by Demeyere, I’m just wondering, was yours the unlidded straight sided type..or..the combined mussle and maslin lidded variety?

  • Sue

    Hi thanks for your response, however, when I click onto the link you give it doesn’t take me to the maslin pan??

  • Sue

    Hi found it thanks…it must be a server thing as it would only let me view the image after i’d clicked onto UK (as a destination) and yes, it is indeed the combined maslin/seafood pan thingie :)

  • Suzanne d'Coney

    Hi Shae, I so appreciate your blog. I just came home from a lovely, independent cookware store with a Mauviel copper jam pan. I went shopping to find a broader, shallower pan than I have always used because of the evaporation issue. I did not expect to spend $253, but this copper pan was so beautiful, and I was feeling blue, and I was seduced by it! Coming home to do some learning (Mauviel does not provide a nice brochure with it, I came across your blog and am so grateful for the info, and all the research you did. Thank you!

    And now a question. I assume one cannot make chutney in copper (or can I?) because there is vinegar in it as well as lots of sugar. Thoughts?

    Warm Regards and A lovely canning season to you,
    Suzanne d’Coney

    • Shae

      Hi Suzanne: I’m sorry it took a couple weeks to get back to you on this. First, congratulations on your new Mauviel pan. They are the best, I think. (Mine is of slightly lower quality, not as heavyweight — but still, I love it.) I don’t make much chutney, so I haven’t had occasion to research the question you ask. I can only answer from my gut, which says that next time I do make chutney, I will choose my stainless steel pan. The copper may be okay, but somehow the extreme acidity of the vinegar added to the fruit makes me nervous — on balance the sugar is less. I’d opt out, but there are still so many wonderful uses for the copper. Enjoy!

    • julie

      i used a copper measuring cup whose lining had worn away for measuring vinegar once, and noticed that the cup had drops of the most lovely, intensely green vinegar on it right afterwards…

  • [...] taught me that! I use the copper pan (for the safety of using unlined copper for jam-making, see Shae’s post on the subject) for most preserves, but sometimes the stainless steel Maslin pan is just the [...]

  • Melody

    HI
    I just read your article on copper jam pots…wow it sure opened my eyes since I have been saving like mad for one! Would you know of a good completely stainless steel pot preferably made in the U.S.A.?
    Thanks……..

    Melody
    Southport, NC

    • Shae

      Hi Melody: I do love my copper pot, but it’s not right for every preserve. I talk about (and link to) my favorite stainless steel preserving pan in the comment thread above. Look for one that has the some of the same qualities as copper: a wide basin, fluted sides, and good conductivity. The stainless steel pan I have has a good heavy bottom, too. Good luck!

  • ed

    Lots of copper info, but what about a brass pot? Would that be safe? Would it work as well as copper?

    Thanks

  • Mike from Sudbury

    Thank you for great information!
    I am a quince lover – we have a number of quince bushes, and this is the time when I am cooking quince paste/jam.
    I used a big enamel pot for several years and finally burned it to the point I don’t think we’ll be able to recover it.
    That’s why I am researching what pot to get now.
    I saw a 12qt Cuisinart hard anodized. I like the size, but is that kind of surface OK?
    Its sides are actually go the “wrong” way: its bottom is bigger than the top.

    • Shae

      Mike: Hello from a fellow quince lover! I think you would be fine with the surface of that pot, but I wouldn’t recommend the shape you seem to be describing. You’ll definitely do best with something that has a broad base and is wider at the top than across the bottom. Best of luck!

  • dan

    Thanks. This was a long series and maybe this is in there already. However, one should note that shiny copper is safer than verdigris — this dissolves easier and is more toxic to humans. So keep it clean and dry.

  • Shae, what do you think of the Kilner jam pot. It is stainless, heavy slant sided but taller than the copper ones. Also, it has measurement lines inside.

    • Shae

      Hi Tegi: I’ve never met the Kilner jam pot in person. Its shape is very similar to the Demeyere stainless steel maslin pan that I use and really love. The Kilner is smaller and doesn’t seem to have the same heavy base — it probably doesn’t conduct heat as well as the Demeyere. But it looks like a nice pan. It has gotten some really great reviews on the Williams-Sonoma website.

  • Richard

    Hello Shae: What a great thread. I have just finished polishing my untinned copper jam pan. It has been in use since bought new c1850 and to my knowledge not a single person in the family died of copper poisoning. I loved reading all the comments and may be able to explain the reason why you never see a tinned jam or sugar pan. Tin has a low melting point 231.9 degrees C. Sugar has begins to “melt” at 186 degrees C but continues to get hotter, up as high as 355 degrees C. So in theory, the tin could melt before the sugar. I think this is mentioned in Elizabeth David’s cookbooks.

  • Catherine

    Hello Shae,
    Thanks so much for giving your time and writing that post, I am literally just starting out making jam and have been looking at the lovely copper jam pans and would love to get one as they look so gorgeous! And I hear from your article that the flavour and colour of the jam will be better from the reduced cooking time. As I’ve never made jam before I have just been doing some research and was terrified to read about all the poisoning issues and some people writeing ‘never use copper for jam!’
    Your article has cleared it up for me, thank you. Can I just ask as I’m a beginner and didn’t totally understand what you meant with your ratio of sugar to fruit. Am I right in thinking I shouldn’t go below equal weight of sugar to fruit to be safe? 1:1 I have a strawberry jam recipe: 2000g strawberries, 1600g sugar, 8tbsp lemon juice. Is that too little sugar and is the lemon juice safe? Also am a right in thinking that I just need to mix the ingredients in another bowl and then put them in a copper pan? I don’t need to start the cooking process in another pan do I?
    Sorry to be a pain, I’m just a bit wet behind the ears when it comes to making jam, I’m eager to try though as it looks like such a lovely thing to do!

    • Shae

      Hi Catherine: You can go well below a ratio of 1:1 fruit to sugar and still be safe in a copper pan. Personally, I have gone as low as 1 part fruit to .25 parts sugar in my copper pan. (For example, four pounds of apricots and one pound of sugar.) The only thing you really must remember is not to put the fruit into the pan before mixing it with the sugar. (It’s good to mix them first anyway — and let the mixture sit a good long while. Maceration creates a flavorful, pectin rich liquid and facilitates the cooking process.) The lemon juice isn’t a problem, either. I suggest adding it to your fruit and sugar mixture and then transferring the whole thing to your pan, but it’s fine if you add the lemon juice later — just not before the sugar. Enjoy making your jam this summer!

  • jennifer

    I have been making the most glorious jams for the last year with my Mauviel copper jam pan. It is a wonderful cooking experience. That said, today I was preparing to make a peach jam and accidentally turned on the burned (to high) under the copper jam pan ( I thought I was heating the water to sterilize the jars). By the time I realized my faux-pas the pan had taken on a grayish hue. I let it cool and when I did get it into the sink and put water on it the gray coloring started to crackle off into light little particles. I proceeded to wash it and then got out the copper cleaner and It looks fine (like new). My question is it safe to cook with the pan and what was all the gray chards from…like many I worry that I have taken of a coating that might be necessary.

    • Shae

      Hi Jennifer: My understanding has always been that, whereas some copper cookware comes with a coating that should be removed before use, Mauviel’s copper does not have any coating. But I have no understanding of what just happened to your pan! I’m encouraged that it seems like new now. Maybe someone else who stops by this post will know what that reaction was about. If it were me, I’d probably try to connect with the manufacturer to ask about it. Good luck!

  • Nathalie

    I’m so excited to have found your site!! I’ve just started making jams. My French mother made fabulous jams, marmalade, and chutneys using her big copper jam pot. I’ve been wondering why her jams always cooked quickly and were so much better, but have also wondered about the copper leaching. Thanks so much for the information.

  • Anusha

    Shae,

    I am new to jam making and all and would really like to buy an unlined copper jam pot in the future.I do have a question though. Is it okay if I make acidic food like tomato chutney and low sugar jams and jams using pomona pectin in a lined copper pot?

    • Shae

      Hi Anusha: It depends on the lining. I believe most copper cookware is lined with aluminum or tin, which is also reactive, so that’s no good. I still think the best option for acidic foods and pomona recipes is a heavy bottomed stainless steel pan.

  • Anusha

    Hello Shae,
    Thanks for the information.How about copper pots lined with stainless steel? Are they okay?

  • Sarah

    So reading through all the comments above(!) I think I’ve unfortunately decided that copper is just not right for me, at least right now. I can only get one jam pot, and i want to make sure I can make recipes with Pomona pectin. I already own a big Le creuset enameled Dutch oven, so my question is should I a) stick with the Le creuset; b) get the demeyere pot; or c) is there some stainless lined copper pot I should look into? Thanks and happy new year!

    • Shae

      Hi Sarah: Happy New Year to you! I haven’t yet seen a lined copper pan that looks suitable, but that doesn’t mean one doesn’t exist. I’d say if your Le Creuset dutch oven is working for you, there’s no need to switch. If you need a bigger pan, I do still love the Demeyere and have also seen some others like that one — wide and heavy bottom, slightly fluted sides, sturdy handles.

  • [...] to fix a grape jelly for the third time). For more on copper preserving pans, check out this great blog post I found through [...]

  • [...] of heat so many people use it for jam making.  I cannot comment on this as I have no experience.  This site gives good advice regarding use of copper pans for [...]