Wild Jam Session!
The brief, glorious part of the New England summer known as Strawberry Season is fading away. A few plants may bloom and fruit again, though. Last year I had one strawberry bloom in November. There is no need to feel sad- we had an extraordinary season this year.
Also, the next sub-season is beginning: wild raspberry season. We have a huge clump of thorny, tangled raspberry canes along one fence in our yard. There is another clump behind the garage. Other than cutting them back every fall (or every third fall…) we do absolutely nothing for them, but they produce plenty of fruit. This year they are producing even more than usual. I managed to pick about three and a half pounds of ripe berries over two days. That just happened to be just enough for a batch of home-made raspberry jam.
That is correct. It is time to dust off the big black kettle, find the tongs in the back of the kitchen drawer, and use some mason jars as they were originally intended. Like all canning projects jam making is not hard, but it is time consuming and requires careful attention. Jam is made from smashed fruit, sugar, and a thickener called pectin. Pectin is a polymer of glucose found in the cellular structure of many plants. You can extract it from apples, or you can buy it in the baking section of of the grocery store. I bought mine. Specifically, I bought a type that can be used in reduced sugar recipes. I find adding less sugar lets the fruit flavor come through. Here is the recipe I used.
FYI: Jam is made from whole crushed fruit, jelly is made from strained fruit or fruit juice. Here is a complete list of preserved fruit definitions from Serious Eats. I had no idea the definitions were so specific.
I smashed the berries in a large measuring cup. I got three and a half cups from two pounds of fruit. Since the recipe requires six and a half cups, and we never ever ever deviate from canning recipes, I put this batch in the refrigerator. I picked the rest of the fruit the next day. Finally, it was time to jam!
The next instruction is very important. You can not start timing your one-minute pectin boil until the fruit is at a Full and Rolling Boil. (Yes, that phrase requires capitalization. It is that important.) Observe:
See how the bubbles go away when I stir? It is too early to start timing.
There it is! You can pull out a timer for your one minute boil, but I usually just count to 60 Mississippi. You could also count to 60 alligator. The important thing is that you keep stirring the entire time. After that minute is up kill the heat and mix in the rest of the sugar. Again, keep stirring. This time you are going to stir until all the sugar has dissolved. Fill and cap your jars, then process for 10 minutes.
I got nine half-pints plus part of a tenth, which will sit in the refrigerator awaiting use as toast enhancer. That is a little more than the yield noted in the recipe, but I skipped the option to strain out half the seeds.
After 24 hours of cooling, I will store these babies away. They will make excellent Holiday gifts for co-workers.
Making jam is not hard. If you have never tried canning before it is a good place to start. Give it a try! What is your favorite summer treat to preserve? Share in the comments!