Today was a cooking whirlwind. It was the first day of our Nash’s CSA, and when my sister and I looped through the market to pick up our box I couldn’t resist bringing home a flat of raspberries as well. So that meant jam-making (and everyone eating countless raspberries off their fingers, of course) in addition to our first CSA salad of the season, followed immediately by a five-hour cooking spree with new and old friends to produce a Senegalese feast. The dishwasher is now running for the fourth time.
My sister was making gorgeous salads on one counter (greens, strawberries, goat cheese, pistachios, balsamic, thank you!) while I got a habenero chile sauce going on the stove, so J had the bright idea to set up the canner on the barbeque burner outside. We will certainly be doing that again this summer to keep the kitchen cool.
Here are a few things you should know about making jam. First, you don’t have to can it. You can always make just a bowl or a couple of jars; keep them in the fridge and use them within a week or two (depending on the sugar content). Alternatively, you can make a larger batch and freeze your jam instead of canning it. Finally, if you use pectin, I recommend Pomona’s Universal Pectin, which doesn’t require a high percentage of sugar to work. So you can sweeten your jam to taste and it will still set nicely.Raspberry Jam: Oh, it’s such a subjective thing. Here’s the best I can do: each little basket of berries is likely to yield about a half pint (a small jar) of jam once mashed, cooked, and combined with sugar, so plan accordingly. Decide what kind of pectin to use and carefully follow the instructions included in the box. Some types of pectin require you to use a certain amount of sugar, and if you don’t, the jam won’t set.
If you’re using Pomona’s Pectin, as I do, mash your raspberries and then measure them into a pot. Add the proper amount of calcium water (the mix is included with the pectin) to the fruit then bring to a boil. Meanwhile, combine the minimum amount of sugar with the required amount of pectin, then whisk the sugar mixture into the boiling fruit to dissolve it. Start tasting. Continue adding sugar to taste. In my experience, a low-sugar jam is nice and tart, then as you add sugar there will be a moment when the taste seems a bit flat. Add a little more sugar and the taste will brighten again. Or you can do as I did today and let a gleeful five-year-old be your taster and the absolute arbiter of whether to add more sugar.
Can, freeze, or eat your jam from the pot with a spoon.