Friday, August 24, 2007

Raspberry Jam

If you haven't made your own jam, you're missing out on a nicely rewarding experience in the kitchen. Jam is simple and fast to make, and, since you choose your own fruit, you can be sure to get the best flavor, too.

Every year we make raspberry jam. In our house, no other jam is better for a pb&j than raspberry jam, although rhubarb comes close. It's pretty simple, except that we make it complicated by making seedless raspberry jam. Who likes having raspberry seeds stuck in their teeth anyway, especially when you're supposed to be enjoying your sandwich?

This is our third year picking our own raspberries. I should have brought the camera, since it's pretty funny seeing a 3-year-old wanting to fill his bucket but never getting more than a few in there before eating them up. Have you read Blueberries for Sal? It reminds me a lot of that book. My daughter is 8 and was significantly more helpful, but that still left me with a lot of raspberry picking. It's worth it to me, though, because while I love raspberries and raspberry jam, I have noticed that they mold very quickly, even refrigerated. If you pick some up at the grocery store or the farmer's market, be sure to look inside several berries before choosing a container. They often have small mold spores in them and this seriously affects the flavor. And also my desire to eat them.

So we picked a bit over a gallon of raspberries. Aren't they beautiful?

And then we got to work. If you want to make seedless raspberry jam, you have a lot of seeds to remove. First, you need to mash the berries (my son and I did this in about 2-cup increments), and then you need to push them through the sieve.
Normally, making any kind of jam may take about half an hour tops, but this part is time consuming. It probably takes about an hour and a half, but I may be overestimating. Just make sure you have some time carved out in your day.

From this point on, it's pretty straightforward: just follow the directions on the package. I used Sure-Jell pectin, which called for 5 cups of mashed fruit and 7 cups of sugar. That may seem like a lot if you've never made jam before, but it's not unusual. I used to use "Lower-Sugar" pectin, but it's hard to find these days.

So, wash your jars and lids and caps, then keep them sitting in hot water while you follow
the instructions to boil the jam with the sugar and pectin. Pour the jam into the jars, placing the lids on, screwing the caps on, and turning the jar over after each one is filled. The jar should seal after a while. I usually just leave it there until it's cool enough to handle and turn them over to check. If you push in on the lid in the middle and it pops out at you, it's not sealed. You have to be sure to fill them and turn them over while the jam is very hot or they won't seal, in which case you can either store it in your refrigerator or process them in a water bath according to the directions.

I think you know the rest. Fix a piece of toast, butter it, add jam. Grab a slice of bread, add peanut butter, then jam. Buy a croissant, slice it open, add jam. You get the idea.

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