This year seems to have been a stunningly good year for raspberries – well, while we’re at it, any kind of soft fruit.
Here, we’ve been inundated with berries of all kinds – strawberries, blackcurrants, gooseberries, loganberries and now blackberries, which are rapidly coming into full force.
All manner of other soft fruits are filling the freezers – I’ve frozen down plums, damsons, bullaces, greengages, rhubarb and very soon apples will join them.
As is always the case, there was once exception to the rule – figs. From a trio of well-established trees we managed to harvest exactly zero fruits – all is not lost however as my recipe for preserved figs makes use of the small fruits that would otherwise fall to the floor over winter.
On the whole, the hedgerows and produce patches have been so bountiful I’ve even contemplated buying a dehydrator.
But there are a myriad of other ways to preserve these gorgeous fruits to enjoy them throughout the winter months to come.
Not a year goes by when I’m not found in the kitchen elbow-deep in vinegar or vodka, fiercely preserving, pickling, infusing or brewing anything I can get my hands on
The joy of preserving is that it’s easy, often inexpensive and for anyone who loves food as much as me, it’s an utterly irresistible activity – all you need is time, enthusiasm and a few pieces of equipment (you can’t go wrong if you have a large pan, some bottles and jars).
What I love about preserving is that with each bite, taste or sip you’re immediately transported back to seasons past and the gardening achievements and adventures you had along the way.
Whilst I’ve been known to turn my hand to making jellies, chutneys and flavoured vinegars, spirits and oils – preserving not only fruits, nuts and vegetables but also scents and flavours – it’s taken me until now to start making jam. And that’s entirely thanks to this year’s bountiful crops.
It started with strawberry jam and this week I graduated to raspberry – with greengage next on the horizon.
I think my hesitancy for making jam in previous years has also stemmed from the fact that I tend not to eat too much of the stuff. I’d rather slather layers of butter and Seville orange marmalade on a piece of bread or toast – but that’s because I find most shop bought jam too sweet.
A glut of homegrown strawberries changed all that – with others in the household rather fond of strawberry jam I managed to knock out a not-too-sweet jam which changed my mind about the whole dilemma. Needless to say, we now have bottles of various red jams lining the pantry shelves for winter breakfasts, Bakewell tarts, homemade wagon wheels, Victoria sponges and jammie dodgers.
I thought I’d share my recipe for raspberry jam – it keeps the natural sweetness and sharpness of the fruit without overwhelming it with sugar.
It’s written for 500g of fruit which seems to be the amount I harvest in one go – when I haven’t picked the raspberries for a couple of days and they’re starting to soften. I’ve used lemon juice to add pectin to the mix as raspberries are quite low in pectin (you could use jam sugar but this is often out of stock and is ridiculously expensive so I use a combination of lemon juice and granulated sugar instead).
It goes without saying that I always use Silver Spoon sugar as well – harvested from sugar beet in the fields of East Anglia and processed in Bury St Edmunds.
The only tricky part of jam making is knowing when to take it off the heat and testing whether the jam is set. I use a thermometer – once the temperature of the jam hits 104.5C you’re there. The other way – and the way I test the set of Seville orange marmalade – is to do the wrinkle test. When you start making the jam, pop a saucer in the freezer and when you think the jam is almost ready spoon some onto the cold plate and place it in the fridge. After a couple of minutes take it out of the fridge and push the jam gently with your finger, if it wrinkles it’s ready. If it doesn’t – return the jam to the heat for 10 minutes and try again.
The other important factor is to thoroughly sterilise your jars.I tend to wash the glass and lids in hot, soapy water before rinsing them and placing on a baking tray in the oven at 150C for 10 minutes or so.
My other top tip – one of the best investments I’ve made is a the purchase of a jam funnel for filling the jars – gone are the days when hot, sticky jam dribbles down the jars.
Anyway, back to the recipe – this jam is glorious spread on sourdough or just spooned straight from the pot!
It turns out that not much beats homemade jam – enjoy!
A perfectly delicious jam for homegrown raspberries.
- 500 g raspberries
- 1/2 lemon juiced
- 500 g granulated sugar
Wash the raspberries and place them in a large saucepan. Add the lemon juice the lemon and put the pan on the hob over a low to medium heat.
Once the raspberries start to simmer and break down they will release their juices. Once this happens, add the sugar and stir it into the fruit until it dissolves.
At this point you can break up the raspberries further or leave them larger if you prefer a chunkier jam.
Increase the heat so the jam comes to a rolling boil and bubbles away so it gets to a high enough temperature to reach setting point.
I use a thermometer – once the jam reaches 104.5C it’s set. If you are using the wrinkle test method once you think it’s hot enough – maybe after 10 minutes or so – take the jam off the heat and retrieve the saucer from the freezer.
Spoon some jam onto the cold plate and place it in the fridge. After a couple of minutes take it out of the fridge and push the jam gently with your finger, if it wrinkles it's ready. If it doesn't - return the jam to the heat for 10 minutes and try the test again.
When the jam is ready, skim any scum off the surface of the jam and discard this. This will give you a clearer jam.
Let the pan of jam cool in the saucepan for ten minutes before bottling.
Now, pour the jam into sterilised jars being careful as it’s scorching hot. If you have one, use a jam funnel to make the job easier.
Screw the lids on tightly and leave to cool. Store in a cool, dry place.