Canning and preserving is fun but the cost of buying high quality fruit can add up quickly especially if you cannot resist the allure of more unusual varieties. Last night I picked up my weekly CSA share from Kawartha Ecological Growers and guess what I saw? Two half-pint containers of tiny black raspberries! Each berry is about the size of my pinky nail and it looks like a miniscule blackberry. Make no mistake, they taste nothing like blackberries. I would describe the taste as intensely raspberry with a wine undertone. I snapped up those last two containers quickly and could not wait to turn them into jam.
Most jam recipes call for large amount of fruit. After all, historically preserving is a way to, well, preserve the abundant summer harvest to be enjoyed throughout the year. Obviously modern city dwellers need not worry about the dearth of fruit in winter. The current trend of home preserving often stems from pure culinary interest. Those beautiful and rare black raspberries certainly sparked my culinary interest but one pint is far from the amount needed for typical jam recipes. Besides, getting three pounds of these berries would pose a serious hit to my wallet even if there are enough available.
Enter small batch preserving! I get to experiment with rare fruit and flavours with a much lower commitment to time and money. I supplemented my pint of black raspberries with another half pint of conventional red raspberries to make up one pound of fruit. The total time it took to transform fruit to jam was well under two hours, including clean up! With a yield of only two 200mL containers, I did not even need to break out the big canning pot. In fact, I can choose to forgo the water bath processing step and simply store the jam directly in the fridge. After all, how much time does it take to finish two small pots of such delicious jam?
Black raspberry is the predominant flavour of this jam (and rightly so). The deep wine flavour is intense and I want to balance it with something a bit savoury. I recall a black raspberry and sage honey tart by Chef Michael Gabriel of Aureole. That flavour combination really speaks to me and coincidentally I picked up a very fresh bunch of sage in my weekly share.
Unlike strawberry, the high level of pectin in raspberry makes them very easy to work with for jam beginners. Trust me, it’s immensely satisfying to serve and enjoy your own homemade jam every morning. Just imagine how much fun it is to reply nonchalantly “Oh this black raspberry sage jam? It’s just something I whipped up last night after dinner”.
Black Raspberry Sage Jam
makes two 200mL containers
- 454g of black raspberries (or a combination of black and red raspberries), about 1 1/2 pint, washed and dried
- 200g granulated sugar
- zest and juice from half a lemon
- 1 tsp unsalted butter
- 2 large sage leaves, chiffonade
- Place a small white plate in the freezer. You’ll need it later to test the jam set.
- Wash your canning jars in hot soapy water. In a medium pot, fit a metal trivet or steaming rack. Place the jars on the trivet inside the pot and fill half way with water. Bring to a rolling boil and boil for 10 minutes to sterilize the jars.
- In the mean time, put washed berries in another medium size heavy bottom pot with a tall side. Mash the berries with a potato masher. Add in sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and butter. Bring to boil at high heat, stirring constantly.
- Keep cooking and stirring until the fruit mixture thickens. It will bubble angrily and you just have to keep stirring. Due to the high level of pectin in raspberries, the jam will likely reach setting point way before it reaches 220F. I stopped cooking mine at 215F for a loose consistency. To test whether your jam is done, remove pot from heat. Using a metal spoon, drop a small spoonful of jam onto the cold plate you put in the freezer earlier. Leave the plate in the freezer for one minute. Nudge the puddle of jam with your finger. If the surface wrinkles a bit and the jam doesn’t run when you hold the plate vertically, it’s done. If not, cook the jam for another 2-3 minutes before testing again. You can read more about testing for jam set here.
- Stir sage into jam.
- Remove hot jars from the water bath. Fill each jar until there’s only 1/4 inch head room. Close with lid and leave at room temperature undisturbed until completely cooled. Store in fridge. If you want to process the jars to seal them, I recommend that you follow the manufacturer’s direction. I chose to use the jars you see in the pictures because they are completely made with glass (BPA-free and they’re awesomely pretty). This is how you process them. For more conventional canning jars with two piece lids, you can process them by following the direction for high acid food.