January 23, 2008
bumbleberry jam recipe
i take the kids berry-picking in the summer, clean and freeze the berries and then make jam the old-fashioned way (in a hot and steamy kitchen) without artificial ingredients, additives or preservatives. why bother?
well, for one, the berry-picking is pretty fun for all of us (the aisles are wide enough to fit a stroller) and eating-while-you-work provides motivation and/or distraction for the kids to continue on while i power-pick my way up and down the rows.
there’s the health factor – picking fruit at the height of freshness and freezing/canning it helps to preserve nutrients, and lets me control exactly what goes into each jar – less sugar, no crap. (of course, the flip side of this is that it also makes me responsible for not poisoning my family with botulism, but this isn’t as hard to do as you might think).
most of all, there is the yummy factor. homemade jam bursts with flavour and knocks those wussy, store-bought jams out of the park. well worth the effort and appreciatively received as gifts (delicious and consumable – just remind the giftees that jam etiquette requires prompt return of empty jars).
this recipe was inspired by Mary Anne Dragan’s Well Preserved – a well-thumbed cookbook around here.
prepare the jam jars (sterilize them in boiling water for 10 minutes). sterilize the screw lids. boil the round lids enough to soften the rubber rings. (tip: a jamming tool with a magnet at one end is quite useful for getting these out of the water without burning yourself).
in one of your biggest pots, combine:
2 cups blueberries
2 cups strawberries (sliced)
2 cups raspberries
4 cups sugar
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
crush berries a bit with a potato masher. bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat and stir frequently for the next 20 minutes, keeping an eagle eye on things to make sure that it doesn’t stick and burn or boil over (nasty mess).
do the test to check for doneness: put a small plate in the freezer for a few minutes to chill it. put a small spoonful of your jam concoction on the plate and wait a minute. tilt the plate – is it still runny? keep cooking. is it jam-like? you’re about there (this approximates what your jam will be like when it cools and sets – don’t wait until it springs back when you press it because this will result in what we call “the jam wedge” which you must carve up into slices to serve).
remove from heat, skim the foam off the top and use a ladle and a funnel to fill your sterilized jars, leaving about 1/2 inch headspace between the top of the jam and the top of the jar. wipe any splashes, etc. off the rim and just inside with a clean cloth before sealing to fingertip tightness (not as hard as you can turn – you don’t want to overtighten).
use tongs to put the jam jars back into the boiling water bath for another 10 minutes, take them out and let them cool on a rack. you will know that they have sealed when you hear the “ping” of a vacuum being created (the lid gets a nice indent). check them all the next morning. if any haven’t sealed properly, put them in the fridge and use those ones first. for the rest, store them in a nice cool, dark place and use them up within the next 6 months.
i’ve made all kinds of jam this way, and they’ve all worked out pretty well. the only exception is the no-pectin strawberry jam recipe – this sucker takes forever to gel properly and i usually give up in frustration and label it “dessert sauce” instead.