I am taking a quick break from Road Warriors, which will return to it’s regularly scheduled time in a few days in order to take care of some much needed business. Raspberry jam. If there is anyone out there with raspberry bushes like mine, they will know what I am talking about when I say I’ve got raspberries coming out my eyeballs.
This is a no pectin recipe that I also categorize as low sugar, but that needs to be clarified: low sugar is a relative term when it comes to jam. This recipe is low sugar when compared to other jam recipes, namely, any that use pectin. (One sentence in and I’m already making excuses for myself.)
I’ve been making this jam for years and I continue to tweak it. I’m sorry I can’t give absolutes, but the amount of time needed to cook the berries changes even as the weeks progress. I should do a video to show you the sound it makes when I consider it “done.” But maybe I can try describing it for now. Next time I’ll video it.
Use 8 cups berries to 4 cups sugar for a 4 1/2 – 5 quart heavy pan. A Le Creuset 24 is a perfect fit if you have it. I have a really big one (7.25 qt Le Creuset 28) and can fit 16 cups of berries in at a time, which I do quite often. There is a trade off for doing a big batch at once though, and that is that you end up having to cook it a bit longer than with a smaller batch. Some would argue that the longer the berries cook the less “fresh berry taste” you will have. I disagree. I even made a pectin batch to see if it had a brighter flavor, since you only have to boil jam made with pectin for a minute or two. It really didn’t taste any “fresher.” It was sweeter though. But that makes sense since you use only 4 cups of berries to 6 cups of sugar plus a packet of pectin. YOWZA!
I have also been experimenting with using less and less sugar. So far, so good. I’m down to 16 cups berries to 6 1/2 cups of sugar. We’ll see how that keeps on the shelf. But to be safe, stick with the 2:1 ratio.
I pour the berries into a bowl, or into the pot they will cook in, if that pot is available for most of the day. I put it in a sunny spot if it happens to be sunny out and stir it up every time I pass by. For whatever reason, I seem to always can jam at night, so the berries sit most of the day. This allows the sugar to dissolve and the berries to break up without cooking, which I think helps the flavor in the end.
When it’s time to cook it, I make sure I have clean and sterilized jars ready. I used to be gonzo mental about this. Now I just run them through the dishwasher and call it a day. I put the berries in a pot on a low to medium low heat. You can go ahead and put it on high, but don’t come crying to me when –within a matter of seconds — the liquid foams up and boils all over you stove and into your burners. Have fun with that one. It’s medium low for me. And I don’t leave the kitchen until it has been gently boiling for a few minutes.
Skim as much of the foam off as you can. Don’t be mental about it, it’s not that big of deal. More an aesthetic thing.
It will boil merrily along for a while and you can get some other stuff done. Just be sure to stir with a rubber spatula every few minutes. My latest recipes were this: After reaching a gentle boil, an 8 cup batch took 12 minutes to be done and a 16 c batch took 20 minutes.
You are looking for a change in consistency from a watery boil to a thick boil. Not a spluttering boil, where globs pop up at you when you stir, just a change in the sound and a visible consistency shift to thicker. If, however you go too long, it isn’t a disaster, it will just be thicker and darker and you won’t get as many jars out of the batch.
Then, while the jam is still hot and simmering, fill the jars to 1/4″ from the top, put the lids and bands on and screw tight. USDA will tell you that you need to process these in a water bath for 10 minutes. I used to do just that. Now I don’t. The jars are warm, the jam is boiling and I still get a nice, tight seal. I can vouch for the fact that my jam, when processed this way, is good for 2 years, as long as the seal is intact when opened. Obviously, store it in the the fridge once it’s been opened.