Ever since the very first strawberries began to ripen in our backyard this past June, I’ve been carefully collecting, washing, and freezing berries pretty much every single day all summer. As a matter of fact, not only were our backyard strawberries the first to ripen, but even now in mid-September I’m still getting a couple small ruby red berries each day! Since June though, the wild bramble of raspberries in the furthest corner of our backyard ripened, my grandmother’s blueberries ripened, and small hidden spots of wild blackberries along the quiet and empty road across from our house have ripened. The crops weren’t huge, but I was persistent, and everyday I’d come home with scratches across my arms & legs from thorns, sometimes rain-soaked, sometimes with poison ivy (that wasn’t a fun week), and a small bunch of berries to wash and store in the freezer. Finally, when the raspberry and blueberry bushes grew bare and the blackberry bushes shriveled and the strawberry plants slowed down and I about 10 quarts of frozen berries in the freezer, I figured it was a good time to start doing something with them.
I love, love, love homemade jam. I also hate that so much of the jam you buy in the store is full of nasty fake corn sugar and preservatives, when really it’s so easy to make. Especially now that I know how to can things. This was, as a matter of fact, the first time I’ve ever made berry jam. I made grape jam last year that I canned, and it turned out quite well. So, allow me to walk you through it:
First, get your canning stuff ready. Clean out all your jars & lids in warm soapy water, even if they’re not dirty. The slightest uncleanliness can cause your jars to not seal correctly, and I had a few of my grape jams fall victim to that last year. Then, fill your sink with HOT water and let the jars & lids soak while you work.
As for the jam making, I searched all over and found tons of variations on different recipes for making jam using the berries I had. But I found a few that had similarities, so I took a little bit from each and made up an extremely simple recipe that I used for all my jams. Ingredients:
-6 cups of berries
-4 cups of sugar
-a little less than a half package of liquid pectin (actually you really don’t even need pectin at all, it just depends on how runny you don’t mind your jam being. Also, some fruit, like grapes, have pectin in them. I didn’t know this before.)
Since I had so many berries, I doubled the batch, using 12 cups of berries, 8 cups of sugar, and maybe about 3/4 of a packet of pectin. And I made a bunch of different jams: raspberry, blackberry, blackberry/blueberry, and mixed berry. To start out, I measured the sugar I needed into a bowl and slid it into the oven at the lowest heat. Apparently warmed sugar dissolves better.
Then on to the berries! I needed two very large pots, one of cooking, one for sealing the jars. So the jar-sealing one was full of water heating up on another burner. For the jam, I measured out my 12 cups of frozen berries and set the burner about in the middle, raising the temperature slightly as they cooked. As the berries began to thaw I crushed them with a potato masher and continued mashing as they cooked down.
I stirred in the pectin, and when the mixture got to a full rolling boil I added the sugar in all at once.
Now be sure to continuously stir the mixture so your sugar doesn’t burn to the bottom of the pot, and bring it back to a boil. Allow it to boil hard for 1 full minute, then remove it from the heat.
Moving quickly, retrieve your jars & lids from the hot sink bath, place them onto a towel covered surface (sticky jam is hard to scrub off), and carefully pour or ladle the jam into your jars, being sure to leave at least 1/4 inch of space below the rim, otherwise it won’t seal properly. Also, and this is very important, wipe the rims of your jars with a clean dry towel.
(Apparently the foaminess of the jam caused by the strawberries is normal.)
Then attach your lids and using canning tongs, submerge the jars into your large pot of boiling water. Let them sit in the water for about 5 minutes.
Then remove the jars with the tongs and set them onto a cooling rack. Within an hour or less you should hear the pop! of the lids sealing. Then, you’re not suppose to move or use them for at least 12 hours.
As you can see, I had a a lot of different kinds of jars. Different people were giving me old jars that they had, and I like the crazy array I ended up with. Also, some of those jars are huge. I made a ton of jam…
We opened up a jar of the blackberry/blueberry jam, and it’s pretty delicious, if I do say so myself.
Now, as you saw, I made a ton. Way more than I know what do to with. So, in celebration of the first day of fall, I’m going to do a jam giveaway! If you’d like a jar, just comment on here with which kind you’d prefer: raspberry, blackberry, blackberry/blueberry, or mixed berry. I’ll do the drawing in about 24 hours, tomorrow evening, and whoever wins gets a delicious jar of fresh mostly wild jam! Also, I’ve never do a food giveaway before so to COA I’m just going to say that by submitting an entry you agree not to sue me or anything in case you get sick off my jam. I’m not saying it will make you sick, but you know, I also don’t want people made at me if they happen to be allergic to raspberries or something. Alright, comment away!