Mmmm! It’s summertime, and that means berries! Blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, golden raspberries, blueberries – even plums and cherries are gettin’ their business done. So what does this mean? Either stains on your shirt from eating them while sitting in the sun, juice lusciously dripping down – or jam!
Traditionally we think of jam as this long, outrageous process that our grandmothers spent all of Sunday doing while darning their husbands socks and making fudge. The truth is, it doesn’t really have to be that way. You can do it with really minimal ingredients, no pectin and in about an hour.
You don’t have to properly can this (or “put it up” as they say) if you will use it within 3 weeks or so. Instead, just let the jam cool completely after boiling it, put it in a container (glass is best) and refrigerate it.
If you are canning it make sure to have your jars, lids and rings prepared and ready, and get your water bath going so it’s all ready when the jam is done; it will make the whole process move much more quickly.
For approximately 2 pints of jam, you will need:
- 2.5 lbs of fruit (whatever mix or single variety you desire; first time, I recommend strawberry for greatest simplicity)
- app. 3 cups of sugar, added 1/4 cup at a time, tasting along the way
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- jars, lids and bands (or some preferably glass holder, if not canning) to hold the finished product
- a ladle
- a spoon in the freezer (trust me, you’ll see why)
- Start by washing your fruit well and hulling you strawberries, stemming your grapes, etc.
- Any larger fruits (the size of a small strawberry) cut into quarters, smaller, cut into halves, anything as small as a blueberry or raspberry leave whole. Feel free to use a food processor for this, unless you are using grapes (it messes with the skin). Cut all grapes into halves and quarters.
- Plop the fruit into a heavy bottomed pot – preferably a dutch oven, or at least something short and stout – at turn the heat on medium-high. I like to smash the fruit immediately with a potato masher or fork, just a little bit, to help get the juices flowing.
- Once the fruit gets juicy and starts to heat, start adding the sugar and stir often to make sure the sugar and fruit doesn’t burn.
- Add the lemon once the fruit is nice and juicy and begins to boil, and still continue to stir often.
- Continue to stir, letting it boil and reduce for 15-20 minutes (some fruits take longer, some take less). To check to see when it’s done, you can do the spoon test:
Use the cold spoon that you have in the freezer and put a tiny dollop of jam on the spoon and stick it back in the freezer for a minute until the jam cools a bit and then use your finger to wipe a stripe down the middle. If it doesn’t run, it’s good to go. Take it off the heat and get ready to can it up. If runs, continue to boil and reduce, and try the spoon test again in 5 minutes or so.
Though I don’t strongly recommend it, if you do have any troubles with getting it thick and gooey enough, you can use:
- cream of tartar
*note: if you use any of these, use very little and dissolve in water first (make a “slurry”), otherwise you will have lumps and it won’t do it’s job, it’ll just be a weird mess.
Once it’s thick to your liking, it’s ready to jar. If you’re not going to can it, let it cool and put it away in the fridge. If you are going to can it, make sure you have your water bath boiling, your jars, lids and rings hot. Fill the hot jars with the hot jam, wipe the rims clean with a paper towel, secure the lids and rings and get them in that water bath, lid side up, fully submerged.
Once the water is back up to a serious rolling boil, process for 5-10 minutes, depending on the size of the jar, remove, and leave to cool on a towel for 12 hours.
And you’re ready to enjoy! (I like mine on toast with peanut butter…mmmmmm…..)