I wish I had a romantic story and photos of me skipping through a berry farm swinging a woven basket full of hand picked berries but unfortunately I don't. In reality fresh berries in Sydney are stupid expense so unless you have the garden of my dreams, frozen berries are what you're left with. As long as their 'Australian grown' I think you're doing pretty alright. So instead of a romantic montage of photos, I have a really great jam recipe from a book that makes you wish for a pantry the size of a walk in wardrobe.
The last time I made jam was for my year 9 Food-Tech assignment where I successfully turned sugar and berries into toffee and the only way to get it out of the jar was to microwave it. To say I haven't been super confident to jump back in is an understatement. But then over the last long-weekend I read Michelle Crawford's book, 'A Table in the Orchard' and fell in love with her story, her garden, her kitchen and it was like jam called to me from it's pages. I wanted that homey feeling of warm toast, salty butter and sweet homemade jam with a steaming cup of tea. I wanted to stand over a stove and stir jam, pour it into jars and label them as my own. Recently on her blog, 'Hugo & Elsa' she wrote about a book she co-wrote with Matthew Evans, an ex-food critic turned farmer called 'Not Just Jam'. It had me at the name and when I found it in my local library I instantly put a hold on it and picked it up that Saturday morning. I never want to give it back. It's full of recipes that you wish you could grab a spoon and dig in straight from the jar. I was still a little hesitant to jump two feet first so instead of going for one of the more complex sounding recipes, lets me honest jam making still scared the pants off me, I went with 'The Quintessential Raspberry Jam'.
Having stirred about 1000 pots of bubbling sugar, it's second nature to be precaution but I still felt out of practice, it's been nearly 2 years. Was it going to bubble over? was my pot too small? do I need to roll my sleeves down? will it spit at me or splutter and cover the cooktop and me with sugary jam goop? Every type of bubbling sugar acts differently and I don't think you can classify my year 9 attempt as a successful jam making venture.
I don't know what I was nervous about!?
With my plate in the freezer and my jars sterilised, I stood in front of my pot of raspberries, sugar and lemon juice armed with a candy thermometer and spatular, I felt a buzz, this was exciting. I was making my own jam. I precariously watched the temperature climb, ready to ditch my stirrer any second and run to the freezer in a panic but it all happened so smoothly. I gave it the wrinkle test as well as making sure it came to the correct temperature and turned off the heat. Filled my jars with hot jam, screwed on the lids and I was done. A couple of hours later the lids had inverted and they were sealed, waiting to be labelled and stored. Ok one jar didn't get stored, it was instantly opened with a satisfying pop and toast happened. I had to make sure it has set right before I could give the rest as gifts right??
We've gone through one jar already and on to the second. I had grand plans to gift this first batch of jam but I don't know how much will make it out of our apartment, more likely to end up on our morning toast. Might just have to make another from this delicious book before I return it to the library.
The Quintessential Raspberry JamMakes about 1.8kg
very very slightly adapted from 'Not Just Jam' by Matthew Evans and Michelle Crawford
(there are 2 different methods for making this jam, I have only put the one I used below)
1kg raspberries (if using frozen, thaw completely)
900g sugar, warmed gently in the oven
juice of 1 lemon, strained
- Wash and sterilise six 300ml jars (or equivalent capacity). **see notes below
- Place a small plate in the freezer to chill and warm your sugar in a moderate oven, in a heatproof dish until warm to the touch.
- Heat the raspberries with the warm sugar and lemon juice in a wide-based pan over high heat. Stir every minute or so using a flat-edge heatproof spatular.
- After about 9 minutes start to test for a set. Dribble a little jam onto the saucer which has been chilling in the freezer and leave for 30 seconds. Run your finger across the drop of jam, if it wrinkles it has reached the setting point. Alternatively if you have a candy thermometer handy, it needs to reach 105C (220F).
- Once at setting point, remove the jam from the heat immediately, pour into warmed jars. If jars are not warm when filling them they can crack. Wipe down any messy edges with a clean cloth and seal the lid immediately.
The jam should keep well for up to 2 years in the pantry.
Once opened, store in the refrigerator.
** Sterilising jars.
If you have a dishwasher, this is the easiest way. Place jars and lids in a dishwasher on a hot cycle, remove them once done without touching the inside of the jars or inside of the lids. Make sure jars are still warm (but not wet) when filling them with hot jam.
Otherwise if you don't have dishwasher like me, wash jars in hot soapy water and rinse well. Place rinsed jars on a tray in a preheated, low (120C) oven for about 30 minutes. Place the lids in a pot, cover with water and bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. I take the jars out of the oven just before I am about to fill them so they are still warm.
Or you can go to any home-brew shop and they sell sterilising chemicals which you can also use.