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Friday, July 16, 2010

Raspberry Jam to Celebrate Another Great Raspberry Year

Time to restart my blog! No sense wasting space to explain why the gap here. Instead I’m back online with sharing some ways to help feed your family well, quickly, inexpensively, and enjoyably.
How better to start than with a wonderfully easy raspberry jam recipe. I had mentioned long ago that raspberries were long a luxury food for me, and I know that this recipe will not be a “frugal” one for those who have to buy their berries at the store. For you, we’ll come up with some other ideas, but for those of us with a treasure of rubies in the back yard, this recipe is a winner.
Fast? Not counting picking time, this recipe can be made start to clean up in well under an hour.
Frugal? By not using pectin and using “recycled” containers (more on that in a moment), the only cost to those of us with a fruit source is the sugar and lemon juice.
Fun? There is absolutely no greater pleasure for a back yard gardener than to be able to share the bounty, especially when it is as attractive and tasty as homemade jam.
So how do I get by without the pectin and the canning jars?
No pectin
As you may already know, pectin is the substance in fruits that gives jams and jellies their characteristic consistency. Too little and you will end up with syrups, yet many (most) fruits do not have a lot of pectin. Generally, you have to add pectin (Certo and Sure-Jell are two common brands) or cook for long periods of time to get the right consistency. This recipe gets by without adding pectin because raspberries have a moderate amount and the added apple and lemon juice help provide the boost needed to thicken the mixture. In addition, there is some amount of cooking time added to reach the jelling stage. In addition, you should try to use the least ripe berries from your picking, since riper fruit has generally lower pectin levels than those that are less ripe.
PLEASE NOTE—because of the differences in pectin from one kind of fruit to another, don’t try to substitute other fruits for the raspberries. Each kind needs its own recipe. I hope to be able to test some recipes for other fruits as the summer proceeds and will post any results that I come up with.
No canning jars
This batch is really quite small, ending up with a little less than three pints. I have everbearing raspberries, so I can make a batch now and then another in September or even October, storing it in the refrigerator rather than keeping it in the pantry. As long as you have sparkling clean glass containers, you should have no problems with the jam keeping until you use it up. I buy a store brand of salsa in 24 ounce jars with wide mouths and straight sides. This recipe fills two of them, with just a little left over.
I also like to put a part of each batch in small glass containers (odd stemware purchased for next to nothing at a garage sale or an attractive little pickle jar) for giving as fresh gifts. Just let the recipients know the jam is to be refrigerated.
If you wish, you can store this jam outside the refrigerator, but you will then need to use standard canning jars and lids and process in boiling water. More information on the right way to process jams in this way can be found at http://foodsafety.psu.edu/canningguide.html - a good overall reference site to bookmark!.
Fresh Raspberry Jam
4 cups crushed red raspberries—I started with about 5 1/2 cups before mashing them down with a wood spoon
4 cups sugar
1 packed cup finely chopped apple—use a tart variety (Granny Smith is what I had); core but do not peel the apple
2 T lemon juice (may be reconstituted, like ReaLemon)
Combine all ingredients in a large stainless steel pot and stir well. If you have a candy thermometer, attach it to the side of the pan. Heat the mixture to boiling, stirring well to be sure sugar is dissolved. (If there are sugar crystals up on the sides of the pan, use a silicone scraper or wet cloth to wipe these down)
Bring the mixture to a rolling boil and continue to cook until the temperature reaches 220 degrees—about 8 minutes or so after it begins to boil. If you do not have a candy thermometer OR if you don’t trust the one you have, hold the spoon up and watch how the jam drops off the side. If it “sheets,” ie, the droplets begin to form a single wide “drip” as it falls back into the mixture, it is beginning to jell. Put a few drops on a glass or ceramic plate and place in the refrigerator for a minute or two. It should be holding together as a soft jelly at this time.
Remove from heat, skim off the foam, and pour into clean jars or glasses.
Glass breakage hint: either keep the containers in a dish of hot water so the glass is already warm OR put only a tablespoon or so of jam in the bottom of each. Let them sit for a few minutes until the glass warms and then continue to fill.
FOAM ALERT: Do NOT discard the foam! This is a wonderful treat to give the kids on a slice of bread while it is still warm from the pan. The only reason you will skim this is because of appearance, but the foam is just a nice thing to share when the jam is at its freshest.

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