Raspberries, blueberries, blackberries — summer fruits of all types are at or almost to their peak and beckoning to be preserved. One quick and easy way to capture the essence of summer in a jar is to turn those fruits into jam. All you need is the fruit, pectin, sugar, jars and a hot-water-bath canner.
“The most tedious part of making jam is the stirring,” said Donna Poelstra, who owns Taste of Life Natural Market & Prepared Meals in Monument, Colo. “You have to get the fruit puree, pectin and sugar to a full boil. A boil that cannot be stirred down. When that happens, add a bit of butter to prevent foaming. There’s something about jam making that is so much fun.”
According to Eugenia Bone in her new cookbook, “Well-Preserved — Recipes and Techniques for Putting Up Small Batches of Seasonal Foods,” there are four steps to making jam and other high-acid foods in a hot-water-bath canner.
— Prepare the food.
— Sterilize the jars if processing is 10 minutes or less.
— Pack the jars with the food and wipe the rims.
— Process the jars in boiling water.
“That’s it,” she said.
Pick the berries or other fruit (or buy them picked). Right now, Puyallup and other local berry farmers are entering their peak season for raspberries, and blueberries are just starting. Buying berries fresh in bulk is easy this time of year. (See accompanying stories about which berry farmers will sell berries at upcoming farmers markets.)
If you want to make jam on the cheap, here are tips:
Find a recipe: Included here is one recipe for jam with proportions of berries and sugar, but use these tips to make any of your favorite jam recipes.
Mash the fruit: “I just use a potato masher to break up the fruit,” said Julie Trout, a master food safety adviser for the Colorado State University El Paso County Extension Office. “For jam, which should have a thicker consistency than jelly, I like to have a few pieces of fruit.” If you want seedless jam, you can run the crushed fruit through a food mill.
Pectin: Pectin is a natural, water-soluble substance present in ripe fruits. You can buy it at the grocery store where you’d find other canning supplies. It works only when properly mixed with the correct balance of sugar and acid. Directions that come in the pectin boxes will give you the correct amount of sugar to use for various types of fruits.
Skip the sugar? “It’s possible to make no-added sugar jams,” Poelstra said. “Be sure to buy the pectin that is for making jam without added sugar. It will say on the box.”
To sterilize the jars: Place jars meant for canning (available at many home and grocery stores) in a large pot of boiling water. Have water boiling in the hot-water-bath canner. Boil jars for 10 minutes. Reserve lids.
Have a small pan of water boiling to soften the rubber on the jar lids. Do not put the lids into the water until about 5 minutes before sealing the jars.
Mix in pectin: Stir sugar and pectin mixture into the berries in a large pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. “Add a 1/2 teaspoon of butter,” Poelstra said. “This is supposed to help prevent the fruit mixture from making a foam.” Add the amount of sugar required by your recipe and bring the mixture back to a hard boil for 1 minute. If foam does develop, just skim it off with a sterilized spoon.
Lids: Place the gummed lids into the small pan of boiling water. This will soften the gummed area so it will stick to the clean jar rims for a good seal.
Remove jars from water: When the jam has reached its second boil, lift sterilized jars from hot water and place on a tea towel. Fill jars to within 1/4-inch of the top. Wipe off the jar rim and top with a gummed lid. Tighten a ring over each jar.
No processing? Poelstra does not process the jam; however, Trout thinks it’s a good idea. “We don’t recommend using paraffin to seal the jars or not processing the jam in a hot water bath,” she said. To have a true seal and to be safe, the jam should be processed in boiling water. Then, the jam can be stored on a shelf for about a year.
To process: Put the jars into the rack that comes with the hot-water-bath canner. Then lower the rack into the boiling water and time the processing. According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, you should boil the jars for at least 5 minutes after water begins to boil. Water should be one to two inches about the top of the jars. Be very careful not to tilt the jars, they need to remain upright.
Cool jars: When the processing is done, carefully lift the jar rack out of the water and let the jars cool. As they cool, you’ll hear a popping sound as the lids suck down to complete the seal. “This is just so much fun when the lids start popping,” Poelstra said. “When you feel the lids, they will have sunk down. If for some reason the lid isn’t sunken, that means it’s not sealed. Just put it in the fridge and eat it first.”
Remove jar rings: Trout recommends removing the jar rings once the jam is cooled. “They can rust from the water that may be trapped inside the ring,” she said. “It just doesn’t look as pretty.”
For more instructions: Visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation at www.uga.edu/nchfp/index.html.
Jam didn’t set up? It happens to the best of everyone. Just call the jam “ice cream sauce” and serve over ice cream or any dessert, or drizzle into oatmeal or serve over pancakes. And be sure to tell everyone you did that on purpose.
Red Raspberry Jam
4 cups raspberries
61/2 cups sugar, measured into separate bowl
1/2 teaspoon butter
1 pouch fruit pectin
Prepare jars as described in story. Mash raspberries completely. Press fruit through a sieve to remove seeds, or use a food mill. Measure out 4 cups of the prepared raspberries and add to saucepan. Stir in sugar. Add butter to reduce foaming. Bring mixture to boil over high heat. Following directions on your pectin package, add pectin to the mixture. Return to full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil for one minute. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam that may have formed using a sterilized metal spoon. Follow directions in story above to finish and process jam. If you do not process, refrigerate jam and use immediately.
Adapted from a recipe from Kraft Foods/Certo Fruit Pectin.