Homemade jams are one of life's little luxuries. An abundance of raspberries, can be found at farmers markets right now which can be enjoyed as is, but if you want to extend the pleasure of these summer berries, I suggest making a bit of jam so that you can stir some into a bowl of yogurt or oatmeal for breakfast, or to have on buttered toast with your tea. Because it is homemade, you don't have to worry about preservatives, corn syrups or other unpleasant ingredients that are often found in supermarket jams and jellies.
Here at home we've been having a bumper crop of raspberries, and now it appears as if we'll have an abundance of blackberries in the near future. We picked a few blackberries a couple of days ago, but there are many more waiting to be plucked.
Can you blame us for being tempted just to eat these raspberries in their natural state? Small, dark red and very juicy, the wild raspberries that grow on the property are always anticipated by us every single summer. Picking them isn't so much fun because of the thorny nature of the brambles, but as soon as my basket is full of these beautiful ruby gems, I forget any discomfort when I bring them indoors.
This small tray of berries was picked the other afternoon right before dinner. Delicious!
As much as we've been enjoying these tasty fruits every single day, it is impossible to eat them all, so there is only one thing to do with such an abundance.
Make some jam!
Some quick notes before we begin. When making jam, I like to cook no more than two pounds of fruit at one time, and I use the 'quick chill' method when testing for proper consistency. I do not use pectin on my wild raspberries because they are very tart and set up well with just sugar.
When choosing your raspberries, in order to ensure a good shelf-life of the jam, choose fruits that are slightly underripe to just ripe. Pick through your raspberries and remove any that are blemished, squashed or rotten. Give them a rinse to remove any dirt.
Using overripe berries will increase the likelihood of spoilage once the jam is done, thus reducing its shelf life. This is fine if you're only making a small batch that will be eaten right away and won't be canned for longer storage.
Raspberry & Sugar Ratio for Jam
This can be scaled up to four times.
For best results do not cook more than two pounds of fruit at one time.
2 cup raspberries (8 oz. or 227 grams) to 3/4 cup sugar (5-1/2 oz. or 155 grams)
Yield: approximately 1/2 pint for above measurements.
1. Put one or two freezer-safe saucers or plates in the freezer. Place your fruits and sugar in a nonreactive pot and give the ingredients a good stir (if making a large 2lb. batch, use a 10" wide pot for this purpose). Over medium low heat, stir the contents until the sugar has dissolved.
2. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook the jam until it's boiling, stirring to make sure the ingredients don't scorch. Have a pastry brush and water nearby to wash down the sides of the pot if you notice any sugar crystals forming.
3. Important: using a long-handled spoon, remove the foam that surfaces to the top as you're cooking the jam. I keep a small bowl nearby to discard the 'scum'. The reason it's removed is to keep the jam as clear and as fresh as possible, and to increase the shelf life of the ingredients once they're done.
4. Continue cooking and stirring until the jam has jelled properly. Use the 'quick chill' method for testing. When testing, remove the pot of jam from the heat source to avoid overcooking.
5. To check for consistency, remove one of the plates from the freezer and drop a small amount of jam on the plate. Immediately put the plate back in the freezer for one minute. Remove it from the freezer, and using your index finger, push the contents to make a trail. If the jam wrinkles and your finger leaves a clear wake (see photograph), the jam is done. If the jam pools back against itself, continue cooking. Cooking times will vary.
6. Once the jam is done, have a proper funnel and prepared canning jars at the ready, and seal shut. For full instructions on proper canning, visit: National Center for Home Food Preservation (USDA Publications).
If you're not canning your jam, set the bowl or jar of jam over a rack to cool and refrigerate when ready, making sure it's sealed.
As much as I love my favorite store bought jam, there is nothing like homemade.
I know that many of you are way ahead of me and have already been canning pints after pints of fresh summer berries. There is something soothing in watching the fruits and sugar bubbling on the stovetop waiting to be placed into jars. Knowing that you'll be preserving something that comes from the land, even if it's for a brief moment, makes the task of 'putting up preserves' that much more rewarding.
You don't have to have raspberries growing in your yard to enjoy making a pot or two of jam. Visit a farmers market or a reliable supermarket and buy some good-quality, organic raspberries to make a pot of your very own jam. You might as well get a loaf of bread and sweet butter while you're there, because you're going to want to use the sweet spread as soon as possible.