I reluctantly made a batch of red raspberry jam this morning. I put so much heart and soul into this jam so now I’m reluctant to part with even a single jar. And I’m usually the sharing type! It all started with three pints of red raspberries I bought from my CSA Kawartha Ecological Growers.
Last week I had the great fortune of turning some precious black raspberries into Black Raspberry Sage Jam which is a huge success. When my CSA announced the arrival of more raspberries this week, I jumped at the chance. I’m normally not terribly enthusiastic about raspberries but I was surrounded by raspberry-this and raspberry-that last weekend in Montreal. Somewhere between a raspberry mille-feuille at Kitchen Galerie and a raspberry danish from Kouign Amann, I clued in to the fact that it is the height of raspberry season and I must Must MUST make the most of their fleeting presence in the market.
I pre-ordered three pints of Kawartha’s tiny yet flavourful red raspberries thinking it would be another quick small-batch preserving project. My conversion skill must be rusty because three pints measure to approximately 1kg of berries. That is far from my definition of small batch. No matter, I thought it’s still manageable until I began to clean the berries.
As much as I love the concentrated flavour of these berries, their miniscule size meant picking over and examining the berries were a chore best left for someone with more patience than myself. Unlike the conventional raspberries we buy at grocery stores, each berry is at most the size of my pinkie nail. It took me close to 45 minutes just to sort through. My neck was stiff by the time I was done! The cooking was by far the easiest step. Raspberry contains decent amount of pectin so the jam reached gelling point quickly and without incident. However, there was a ridiculous proportion of seeds. Must be another side effect of their small size. Once again, that’s a trade-off for their great flavour.
Unlike everyone else in my family, I don’t generally mind seeds in raspberry jam. But staring at the heavily seeded jam in the pot, even I was a bit turned off. I took out a metal sieve and set it over the pot of hot jam. I ladled most of the cooked jam inside the pot and pressed hard with a spatula to strained out large amount of seeds. The strained jam fell back into the pot with only a small handful of seeds dotting here and there to remind us of the true identity of this jam. This is a quick and easy way to strain seeds without dirtying another container. Actually, forget that I just called it quick and easy. It is only quick and easy by comparison to other options out there. There is still much elbow grease involved because you want to extract every last bit of precious jam clinging to those seeds.
With all the cleaning, picking over, and straining, this raspberry jam is truly a labour of love. One kilogram of berries only yielded 700mL of jam, just under 3 cups. I flavoured my jam with aged balsamic vinegar to add some depth. The taste is at once sweet and tart with a complex warm undertone. I adore the glistening crimson colour when I hold the jar in sunlight. The set is not overly stiff but definitely not runny either.
approximately yields one cup per pint of berries
- red raspberries, preferably between 3 to 6 pints
- granulated sugar
- unsalted butter, optional
- good quality balsamic vinegar
- Weigh the berries before washing. Rinse in a colander and carefully pick over any leaves or stems.
- Put a small white plate in the freezer. It will be used later to test jam set.
- Sterilize your jars according to amount of berries you have. For example, if you have 3 pints of berries, you probably need 3 half-pint/one cup/250mL jars. Just to be on the safe side, sterilize an extra jar.
- Measure the amount of sugar you need base on weight of pre-washed berries. I prefer to use 50% weight. That means if you have 1kg of berries, you need 500g of sugar.
- In a large heavy-bottom pot with tall sides, cook raspberries and sugar over medium low heat. Add one teaspoon of butter for every pint of raspberries that you have. The butter helps to minimize foaming. Crush the fruit with a potato masher until sugar has melted.
- Turn up the heat to high and bring fruit mixture to boil. Stirring frequently, cook until the jam reaches gelling point. You would notice the bubbling changes as the jam thickens. Depending on your preference for the final texture, the temperature may range anywhere between 215F to 218F. To test for doneness, remove pot from heat. Drop a small spoonful of jam on the cold plate and return plate to freezer for one minute. If you nudge the cooled jam with your finger and the surface wrinkles, the jam is done. If not, return plate to freezer and cook jam for another 2 minutes before testing again.
- Once the jam is finished cooking, remove pot from heat. Set a fine-mesh metal sieve over the pot and ladle most of the jam into the sieve. I don’t mind keeping a small amount of seeds in the jam. Using a rubber spatula, coax and press the mixture to strain the jam. Ideally, the seedy mass that gets left behind is pretty dry so you’re getting as much jam as you can. Discard the seeds.
- For every pint of berries that you have, add 1/2 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar to the strained jam. For example, if you started with 3 pints of berries, add 1 1/2 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. Stir to blend.
- Fill the hot sterilized jars with jam leaving 1/4 inch head space. Put on lids and process for 10 minutes to seal.