The B Life: August 2014

Grandma's Easy Black-Raspberry Jam

Recipe makes approx 8-9 250mL jars.
Cooking Time: 45 minutes

It has been so very long since I have done a recipe post. With all the commotion involved in moving back across the country and finally settling in, I haven't been as adventurous in my cooking. However, with the bountiful harvest of wild black-raspberries from Nick's, I was recently able to spend some quality time with my Grandma learning how to jam. It was pretty great. She taught me how to can food the way she used to do it in, what she calls, "the olden days" and I taught her how to work an iPhone. How's that for bridging a generational gap?

Before we begin, I am going to be completely up front and let you all know that there is a LOT of sugar in this recipe. It is sweet - very, very sweet. Now, I like sweet. Sweet and I get along just fine. However, if you don't have as wonderful a relationship with sweet as I do, you can cut down on the sugar content and add more berries instead - just make sure it's a 1 for 1 swap (so, getting rid of 1 cup of sugar means you'll need to put in 1 extra cup of berries). 

Before you begin:
1) Make sure that you have thoroughly cleaned your jars. I washed mine in hot soapy water and dried them completely earlier in the morning. You can also put them through the dishwasher or wash them the night before and leave them out to air dry. They do not have to be hot, yet. 

2) Gather a large pot, a few measuring glasses, spoons you aren't afraid to stain, metal bowls or casserole dishes, a metal strainer, your canning funnel, and a potato masher. You'll need these. 

Making the Jam

Step One:
Begin by mushing up your berries with the potato masher. Although you began with 8 cups of berries, you will eventually have only 5-6 cups. You will need to have 2.5-3 cups of mashed berries and 2.5-3 cups of strained berries. 

The berries all need to be mashed before they can be strained. Once mashed, add your berries to the strainer, and push down on them with a spoon, allowing the juice to be saved, and removing some of the excess seeds. 

Step Two:
Once your mixture is half and half, measuring to be between 5-6 cups, add it to your large pot. Place it on medium-high heat and stir continuously until it comes to a boil. 

G-Ma's first attempt at taking a picture on an iPhone was a success!

Step Three:
Once boiling, allow to bubble for 1 minute. After the minute, add your package (or 4 tablespoons) of pectin crystals. Allow to come back to a boil for 1 more minute.

Add 6-7 cups of white sugar. Continue stirring until the mixture comes to a boil again. This time, stir frequently while it continues to boil for another 5 minutes. 

Step Four:
Take this time to get your cans ready. In your pan bring water 3 inches deep to a boil. Place cans in upside down so that only the rims are submerged. Place lids in, making sure they are completey covered by the boiling water. 

Continue stirring your jam mixture. You'll begin to see a foam appear on the top of the jam. This is from the caramelization of the sugar, and is a good sign.

Step Five
Once your jam mixture has boiled for 5 minutes, turn the heat off. Begin skimming off the foam and place in a container off to the side. You can rinse this down the drain later. Once it's sufficiently skimmed, get your tongs ready: it's time to can jam**.

**Side Note: Nick's brothers have a game they call 'can jam' which involves drinking beer and flinging frisbies at empty garbage cans. You successfully 'can jam' when the frisbie goes into the garbage can, and then you all take a swig of beer in celebration. 

Step Six:
Because you don't have the entire jar immersed, you can use your bare hands to grab a jar. Flip it right side up on a large plate or tray, and place your funnel at its mouth. Use a ladel to scoop the jam into the jar, filling it right to the rim. 

Place another jar beside this one, and move the funnel on it. 

Next, use the tongs to grab a lid set from the boiling water. Then, once the water has dripped off sufficiently, use the tongs to manoevre the lids upon the opening of the jar. Once you have done this, use a towel to screw the lid on as tight as you can, and place jar aside. 

Repeat this step until all your jars are filled. 

Step Seven:
Allow your jars to cool on the counter for 24 hours. About half an hour after they have been filled and tightened, you should hear a 'POP'. This means the seal has taken and the jam will preserve. Sometimes the 'pop' won't be very loud, so make sure you check that all your seals have taken before storing them. 

Step Eight:
Create beautiful labels for your jam. Make sure to add the date you made the jam to the tags - that way, you won't forget how fresh it is. The jam should keep for 2 years. 

Make sure to check the seal on your jams every few months to ensure they have remained tight. If any jam has unsealed, dispose of the jam as it should not be eaten.  

There you have it! 

I adored spending the time with my grandmother, learning a few of her tricks and having the opportunity to teach her a few of my own. She learned how to take pictures with an iPhone ('I remember when you couldn't take a telephone with you, and now you can take pictures on them!' she laughed) and I learned all about canning, making jam, and how she used to work in a cucumber field when she had just immigrated. 

We even made plans to make some applesauce come the fall harvest. I cannot wait.

**This jam goes so well with my homemade bread recipe!

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