Best Ever Berry Jam

Friday, July 15, 2011

Within 5 miles of our house we have three U-pick operations and several Farmer’s Markets where we can find a good selection of seasonal berries. And, although there is nothing better than jumping in the car, combing fields for the freshest produce and ripping it from the soil, the place I like the best is my neighbor’s backyard.

We watch Fran and Joe’s place, feed the chickens and water the gardens when they are on vacation. Our payment…anything that’s ripe.

It was cloudy and a slight westerly breeze blew when Brianne and I walked down the street to check on things. As Brianne went about her chores, I headed for the berry patch. The huge, dark blackberries clung to their canes like gems. I filled my colander. I had a plan. That afternoon I would take these little gems and cook them slowly on the stove, filling the house with their sweet aroma. Mmmm.

Making any kind of Berry Jam is easy. All you really need is berries and sugar. You can use pectin (liquid or powder) if you like, but I prefer not to. I just fill a large pot with 9 cups of berries and 6 cups of sugar, turn the heat on and slowly bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, until all the sugar is dissolved. At this point I either mash the berries with a potato masher or lightly whirl them with an emersion blender, making sure to leave a bit of chunkiness. I continue cooking and stirring the jam rapidly until it reaches the gelling point. When the jam is gelled enough I remove it from the stove and ladle it into hot jars. The jars are dropped into the water bath canner for 15 minutes then set on a clean dry cloth to cool. When you hear the tell-tale POP of the lid, signaling the proper seal, you know you’ve done it right.

The whole process, from first wash of berries to the last lid POPPING takes less than an hour. And, for that you get enough berry goodness to remind you of summer all winter long. I made 9 pints of jam. That’s a lot of jam, folks! And, what a bargain, too. For the price of a few jars and lids, and free berries from friendly neighbors my pantry is stocked with something way better than Smuckers. Not a bad deal!

For detailed instructions, pick up a copy of the famous Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving, at any hardware, farm store, book or discount store. It covers everything you need to know about canning and costs less than a case of jars. Enjoy!


Creative Commons License photo credit: Price Finder

2 Responses to “Best Ever Berry Jam”

  1. Jason says:

    Hi there. I was wondering why you might not use pectin in this particular jam recipe. Is it because of a texture preference or something more serious?

    I ask because I hear there’s a growing trend where home canners are avoiding using pectin and there are rumors out there in cyberspace about some secret “added chemical” in commercial pectins. I’ve not been able to find anything concrete about this rumor at all — mainly just a lot of well-intentioned people who are loathe to trust pectin for some reason.

    From what I’m able to determine, it seems as though some people avoid using pectin simply because they prefer a softer set jam/jelly OR they prefer to use less sugar than is required for a product like Sure-Jel.

    Personally, I use a pectin called Pomona’s Universal Pectin which isn’t activated by sugar at all, so I can use as much or as little sugar, honey, fruit concentrate, etc. as I want and still get a jam that gels.

    BUT — if there is something just plain awful in pectin — I’d really like to know about it so I can stop using it. 😀

  2. Author says:

    Jason, I’m not aware of anything “plain awful” about commercial pectin. They are made from either apple skins or citrus peel. But, I am not familiar with the specific processing that turns skins or peels into power or liquid. This may be where the “added chemical” comes in.

    I make jam without pectin because that’s how I was taught. And, I have to admit I like the texture and flavor of jam made without commercial pectin. More of the fruit comes through with less gumminess.

    Since many fruits that I prefer for jam making (primarily berries) are good sources of pectin, the commercial version is not needed.

    Since I’m not in a hurry while making jam and I don’t care about the jam setting up quickly, the old time method is what I use.

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