From My Kitchen: Fresh Berry Jam

Driven out of our house by a lack of electricity after Tuesday’s storm (read: sheer boredom), Rich and I decided to go berry picking.  It was something we’d wanted to do for awhile now but hadn’t been able to find the time.  (Okay, okay, maybe it was something I wanted to do, and he pretty much indulged me.)

We had a gorgeous day and headed up to Fishkill Farms to pick seasonal blueberries and black currants.  We headed home with two filled bags and several mason jars.

Now, I’m not a recipe person per se. I tend to do things by eye, so I’ll try to break this down as best as I can.

The first thing to do is sterilize your jars.  If your dishwasher has a “sanitize” button, you’re in the money.  Go for it.  If not, you’ll want to boil them in hot water and dry them carefully.  This will help the jam keep longer.

We ended up with about 5 pounds of blueberries, which looks like so:


The next step was to mash them up.  This step is particularly fun if you’re stressed.  (Like, for example, if you have no electricity and have to cook in your parents’ kitchen, let’s say…)


If, during the mashing process, you see some slimy stuff that looks like it came out of a toddler’s nose, don’t be alarmed.  Blueberry boogies are perfectly normal.


Then I squeezed the juice of one lemon (by hand, if I were in my own kitchen, I’d have a lemon squeezer).  I also zested the lemon over the berry bowl.  A citrus zester works best, but if you’re in your mom’s kitchen too, a clean cheese grater will also do the job.


Next, sugar.  I added about two cups and change, but my jam came out too sweet.  Next time, I’ll try less sugar and allow the flavor of the berries to come out a bit more.


Next, I added about a package and a half of liquid pectin, which is made from apples.  It gives the jam its sticky consistency.  Pectin can be found in your supermarket next to the baking items (or, in the case of my supermarket, near the jams… which… I… guess… makes… sense…).  Most pectin boxes have a ratio on the back of the box to guide how much fruit, pectin, and sugar you use.  Low-sugar pectins are also available if you plan to use, you guessed it, less sugar.  I’d definitely go this route next time around.


Next step, line up mason jars without their caps.  It helps to have a ladle ready to scoop the mixture into the jars, and a towel underneath the jars to catch drips might be a wise idea as well.  (May I also recommend wearing black or whatever the color of your chosen berry is?)


Heat your berry-lemon-sugar-pectin mixture on medium-high until it boils.  (Some folks boil first then add pectin then boil some more.)  Keep stirring and don’t be afraid to let it really sit there as long as it needs to in order to thicken.  Don’t let your berries burn, but the test will be to stick a spoon into the mixture and see how it drips from/clings to the spoon.  You’ll also get a lighter pink berry froth at the top, which you should skim off (see below):


I left my berries pretty pulpy because I like the bite and texture.  If you want your jam smoother, you can puree in a food processor and/or squeeze through a chamois.  (I’m just not that “Martha,” and I like the chunks.)

Fill the jars with at least a half inch of space from the rim.  Screw on the tops and boil a huge pot of water.  Place the jars, right side up, into the boiling water to seal them.  Be prepared to leave them in the water bath for 5-10 minutes (longer won’t hurt them).  There should be an inch or two of water above them.   You’ll hear them pop when they’re ready.  Jar tongs are really useful for this process, but regular barbeque tongs will work as well if you’re careful.  This process will seal the jars so they keep longer.


My 5 pounds of blueberries, 1 lemon, 2 cups of sugar, and package and a half of pectin made about 6 jars of jam.

We also made black currant jam, which was considerably more tart and had a thicker consistency due to the natural pectin in the currants.


Tips? Suggestions? Ideas? If you’re an expert jam-maker or if you try this “recipe” out and improve it, please let me know! 🙂

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