Thursday, July 3, 2014

Black Raspberry Jam

The lighting was pretty good in the kitchen the other evening so I did my best to try and capture the layout and strategy behind my jam making events.  I did pretty good up until I started cooking the fruit, so you will just have to assume that the fruit did in fact get cooked before it ended up in my 9 pint jars and 2 half pint jars.

J and I went black raspberry picking at Spencer's twice this last week.  The first experience was less than pleasant to be totally honest.  It was hot as Hades and the air was so thick with humidity that you could practically spread it on toast.  Sweat beads, that's right, sweat beads suicide jumped off my brow and into the quart boxes where I was also plunking my berries.  It.was.gross.  At the start we were confident and took a whole flat that fits 6 quart boxes of berries.  Two were filled pretty easily since we were still high on optimism and our blood had not yet been drained by the mosquitoes that waited in ambush under the canes that held the juiciest fruit. That third box though, was a bitch.  It took what felt like three hours, three wet, crotch-dripping hours to fill that third quart box (it may have actually been more like, eh, 15 minutes).  With our tails and our damp wedgies tucked between our legs, we headed with our half-filled box, back to the weigh station.


That's me, trying to avoid the mosquitos with my long sleeved safari shirt from another life
We vowed, of course, to return, assuming there would be better weather...in Indiana...in June.  I swear we aren't naive or impaired, just the kind of people where hope springs eternal, at least when it comes to berry picking. We did end up returning on a Saturday morning.  The heat had not yet reached the peak for the day and it was slightly rainy which meant the sun wouldn't be bearing down on our backs and the sprinkles would keep the West Nile infested bloodsuckers at bay.  The experience was a definite improvement over Thursday's trip and we were able to pick 5 more quarts before the sweat and the bugs got the best of us.  In all we were able to pick about 11 pounds of berries.

While J was at work that Saturday night, I began (and finished) processing the berries into jam.  I like to lay out all the equipment while the water in the canner is heating to a boil.  Jam making can go pretty quickly once the fruit reaches the right stage and you don't always have time to scavenge for a piece of equipment when the sugar is threatening to scorch the bottom of your pot so its helpful to have everything out already.  I spread out a towel and above it I place my sugar, lemon juice, calcium water, and sugar bowl.  On the towel I place measuring spoons, 1/2 cup measure, wooden spoon (the one already dyed purple), Pomona's pectin, metal jar funnel, large ladle, and my jar tongs.  I dont yet have the magnetic wand for retrieving my jar tops so I also get out my tongs which suffice for the time being.

I rinse my jars and place them in the warming water, put my jar lids in a small pot on the stove (hot water to be added once the jam gets close to ready), and set my 8 quart wide sauce pan on the stove.  The berries get weighed (3 pounds per recipe), rinsed, and added to the sauce pan.  Lemon juice, lemon zest, and 1 cup of sugar gets added to the pot.  1/2 cup of sugar goes into the sugar bowl and gets mixed with 1.5 tsp of Pomona's pectin powder.  1.5 tsp of the calcium water gets added to  the sauce pan which is bubbling away at this point.  The berries get gently stirred to keep the fruit from breaking down too much.  I really like texture in my preserves so sometimes I will reserve a pound of fruit and add it only when the rest of the fruit is at the right jamy consistency.  I find this late addition of fruit works well with retaining the structure of some of the raspberries and the little gems end up suspended nicely in the jam.  When the fruit juice released during cooking has thickened (about 15-20 minutes depending on your pan), I add the sugar and pectin mixture and stir like crazy with the heat on really high so its achieves a full rolling boil for about 2 minutes.  Failure to heat and stir adequately at this stage will not affect flavor but you will end up with jewels of undissolved pectin in your jam.
 

The boiled jars are carefully removed from the water bath, boiling water is added to the small pot holding the lids, and the jam is added to the hot jars.  The lids are placed after the rims are wiped and they go back into the water bath for 10 minutes.  During the processing time, I like to wash all the dishes so the sugar and fruit juice do not get a chance to cement onto my gear, also, what else are you going to do for 10 minutes?!  When all the dishes are drying, remove the jars and allow to cool.  Consider the popping of the lids to be an applause of sorts for your hard work and slaving in an already hot, and now, humid kitchen.


Black Raspberry Jam
3 pounds rinsed black raspberries
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1.5 cups sugar, divided
1.5 tsp Pomona's Pectin
1.5 tsp Calcium water

Process as stated above - makes 5 half pints or 2 pints and a bit left over to eat for dessert.

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