Summer jams

Raspberry jam jars

In the middle of January, I found myself buying a lot of cans of whole tomatoes for a series of pasta sauces and hearty winter stews. These canned tomatoes often worked fine enough in meals where I over-spiced dishes to compensate for somewhat lackluster tomato bases, but at some point I decided to try to can ripe summer tomatoes — when the time came — for the winter.

As such, I began canning earlier this summer, but not with tomatoes. The process of safe water bath canning seemed to be laborious enough, and I figured that I’d tackle food preservation one process at a time, leaving scoring, blanching and peeling tomatoes for another day. So I started with a full bag of Washington apricots instead. With my apricots, water bath canning tools and a meticulously calculated recipe in hand*, I was set! With much thanks to Geoff, who served as sous jam chef and checked and re-checked our recipe math, we ended our first canning session with nine half pints of apricot jam. A few days later, I opened a jar and spread some bright, sunny apricot jam on a buttered English muffin. The tart, flavorful apricot jam was absolutely delicious, and I was bitten by the canning bug.

Thus, it was unsurprising when I came home from a farm in Carnation, Wash. with a flat of freshly-picked raspberries, and far too many that could be reasonably eaten by my family in a week, I didn’t think twice: time to can some raspberry jam!

* Though my fear of clostridium botulinum was mostly unwarranted as most varieties of apricots are confidently on the safe, high acid side of the pH spectrum, I had some initial paranoia that I was going to kill myself and everyone I knew. Alas, canning is both an art and a science, and now I rest (and eat) assured that canning high acid fruits is indeed safe.

Raspberry jam close up

Small batch raspberry jam
From Ball’s Low or No-Sugar Needed Pectin label

Makes two half pint jars:

1 1/3 cups raspberries, crushed one layer at a time with a potato masher (Straining approximately half of the raspberries through fine mesh strainer reduces the overall seediness of the jam.)
1/3 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons Ball Low or No-Sugar Needed Pectin
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Prepare water bath: Place can rack and empty mason jars in a tall pot. Fill pot with water such that the top of your jars are completely covered. Bring pot to a boil, then turn off heat. Fill a neighboring, small pot with water and throw in your jars’ lids and rings. Bring the small pot to a boil, then turn off heat, just enough to keep the rubber on your lids warm and ready for jars.

Cook jam: In a separate pot, combine raspberries and water over medium heat. Gradually stir in pectin. Bring contents to a rolling boil (a boil that cannot be stirred down), add sugar and bring to a rolling boil again. Once a rolling boil is achieved, keep your contents boiling for a minute while stirring constantly. Perform a gel test to see if your jam is of the consistency of your liking. Turn off heat.

Process jars: Carefully remove jars from water bath. Ladle jam into your jars, keeping a half inch of headspace. Circle your jars’ contents with a chopstick or plastic spatula to remove air bubbles. Top your jars off with warm lids and screw rings on just until you meet resistance. Return filled jars to water bath, ensuring there is at least an inch of water above all of the jars, and bring your water bath to a boil. Once a lively boil is achieved, cover your water bath and process jars for ten minutes. Afterward, remove your water bath from heat, but leave the pot to sit for five minutes before carefully removing your jars. Allow jars to sit for 12-24 hours on a cool counter. Check your lid to confirm if your jam was canned successfully. If the lid can be easily removed or convex (or pops), you can still safely eat your jam in the short term if you store your jam in the refrigerator. If the lid is concave and tightly stuck on the jar (e.g., you can lift your jar by just the lid), then your vacuum seal was successful; remove rings, store jars in a dark, cool place, and enjoy jam at a later date!

Great resources to learn more about safe food preservation (especially canning):
Ball and Ball’s Pectin Calculator
The National Center for Home Food Preservation
USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning
Approximate pH of Foods
Food in Jars
Seattle Tilth

One Thought on “Summer jams

  1. DAT JAM.

    These photos are awesome! I am inspired to try this once my furniture / kitchen supplies arrive :)

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