A Thimbleful of Jam

July 7, 2012(updated on October 18, 2023)
black raspberries

I’ve been home from my west coast book tour for just over a week now. My suitcases are unpacked but not put away. I’ve nearly made it through the mail and magazines that piled up while I was away. And sleeping in my own bed remains a delightful novelty.

I readjusted to the three-hour time difference fairly quickly, but I’m still experiencing a bit of temporal dislocation. You see, when I left Philadelphia, it was barely summer. We’d had some hot weather, but with peas and baby lettuces in the markets, it still felt more like spring. Once out west, the cool days in Seattle, Portland and San Francisco reinforced the feeling that it was April, not June.

mashed black raspberries

Returning to Philly felt like being thrust forward a month or more. I’m out of sync with the weather and worst yet (particularly for a canner), my understanding of what’s in season is entirely out of whack.

Last Tuesday, in an attempt to refresh my awareness of seasonality, I drove out to Lancaster County with my friend Shay so that we could go to Root’s Country Market. It’s a produce market, food auction and flea market and if something’s in currently in season in PA, you’ll find it there.


There were mountains of corn, as well as tomatoes, stonefruit and local melon. Summer food, all of it. Sweet cherries could still be had and a single stand had sour cherries for sale. I bought two quarts and counted myself lucky to have found them (it has been a bad year for them all over the country).

I had my eyes peeled for black raspberries and for a great while was convinced that I really had missed them entirely. But then, as we turned a corner, I found a table with a few lone baskets. At $3.95 a half pint, they were pricy and I’d already spent most all the money I’d budgeted for fruit on the cherries and two bunches of red, red rhubarb. So I bought just a single, shallow basket and decided to make the smallest batch of jam ever.

Last year, I had a full flat of black raspberries to work with and this year, just a half pint. Though part of me wishes for the abundance of last June, I’m also tickled by the contrast. I really wanted a little taste of black raspberry jam and that’s exactly what I got.

Providing a recipe for this miniature batch of jam feels a little silly, but nonetheless, here’s what I did.

Rinse the raspberries and pick them over for any moldy bits. Tumble them into a measuring cup and smash them. Once you have pulp, eyeball the measurement and add half as much sugar (I got about 2/3 cup of mashed berries and so added 1/3 cup sugar). Stir to combine. Scrape the sweetened fruit into a small saucepan and cook until it thickens (my batch took all of five minutes).

The final yield was about half a cup. Not enough to bother with canning, but certainly enough to enjoy for awhile.

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47 thoughts on "A Thimbleful of Jam"

  • Well that just sucks but at least its cute and yummy. I’ve been canning a lot myself. I made two different batches of Strawberry Jam (one with pectin and one with out). I can not wait to buy lots of yummy red raspberries. I have never tried the black ones.

  • Oh…. the memories of childhood! We had wild black raspberry bushes growing behind our house and nearby on an old abandoned railroad grade. My brother and I would pick them and what our mother didn’t turn into cobbler or jelly (yes there were so many that we made JELLY with them) we would take to our grandmother’s office and sell to the ladies there. I live far away from a place where black raspberries grow now…. sigh…. thanks for the happy memory.

  • I so do this at the end of the day after work. Cause nothign is more comforting than warm jam off a spoon. And all I need to d is stop by the produce stand and grab one container of fruit.

    I was kind of looking forward to the pic of a thimble with jam in it though…with a teeny piece of toast to put it on maybe…lol.

  • At Nike we have a saying, Simplify and Go. Love this, Marisa. A healthy dose of perspective, plus built-in pectin, frees jam from the large batch mentality.



  • Thanks for the inspiration. I have been picking only about a handful of strawberries a day from my small patch and eating them fresh, wishing that I had enough to make jam. Now I will. But next year, I’m going to triple the size of my strawberry patch. Homemade jam is soooo much more delicious!

  • They’re SO pretty. I’ve been feeling lately like I buy produce to admire its beauty as much as I buy it to eat it!

  • I had black raspberries for the first time this pass month and loved them, $5 a half pint in Norfolk, Ma. I bought them from a local farm and my mouth and fingers were blue and I only had a 1/4 pint by the time I arrived home. I went back 2 days later for more. This week I ordered black raspberry bushes for my garden. Hopefully, the darn chipmunks will leave us some. They ate most of the strawberries and all the currants.

  • Hop on the train and head east…we haven’t begun with the raspberries yet!
    I love that you posted this. I had about that many strawberries a few weeks ago, but just made syrup…

  • Honestly, I love just making super small batches of jams from leftover fruit that is overly ripe. I keep it in a glass jar in my fridge and steal a bite every day. Or I give the jar to my Mom who goes through jam like it’s water and she’s so happy to receive any amount, as long as it’s homemade. Thimble-size jam is wonderful.

  • Oh my goodness–I was to Roots for the first time last summer! The place was awesome, and for lunch I had the most amazing chicken/dumpling soup–I’ve been trying to duplicate that broth ever since! My aunt lives near there, so I’ve been thinking of having her ship me some. Problem is, I don’t know the name of the vendor! LOL Just “the Amish guy kind of in the middle of the one building”.

    Thanks for the memories of last summer! (Where’s that Amish cookbook I bought . . . )

  • So glad you posted this! I often have a small amount of fruit that needs to be used before it spoils and wondered what the ratio of sugar should be. I’ve canned forever but haven’t made preserves and jams as much. Now I’m wondering if I can find some blackberries(they grew along our driveway growing up in “the country”) too…

  • I just clicked on your link to Roots to see where exactly it is. I love Manheim! We go to a bed and breakfast there that is wonderful…the Tea Kettle Inn. Also we drive over to Stoudts pub, restaurant, and bakery/cheesery. The sourdough bread is fabulous and the cheeses …omg! The microbrews are the best, in case you like good beer. I will definitely check out Roots market next time! Thanks!

  • As much as I was hopeful the wild blackberries on our property would yield quantities for jars and jars of jam, the insane and oppressive heat wave in the Midwest has the berries shriveling on the bush. The few I harvested before the heat have been waiting in the freezer for the remainder to ripen, which isn’t going to happen now, but with this simple technique I’ll enjoy a small batch of jam from what I have.

  • I love Roots. No matter how small your purchase, it’s still a treasure because it means a fun day spent among all the food stands there.

  • Heya, this isn’t really about this post. I just wanted to tell you I ordered your book yesterday! I can’t wait to get it! Thanks from the Paisley Carrot and her family! Never before has my family been so grateful I found a blogger!

  • I have one dwarf sour cherry tree and one currant bush, and they come into season at about the same time, so I often make one similarly sized batch of sour cherry-currant-port compote just for kicks. Really yummy– tart from the cherries, musky from the currants, sweet from the port, and perfect warm over ice cream.

  • I feel your pain! I missed sour cherries completely this year – thank goodness I still have a few quarts in the deep freeze from last year. The only raspberries I got this year are 8 pints my dad got for me of black ones – we ate 2 and I immediately froze the rest to make jam. I’m just happy I didn’t miss apricots this year! So glad you loved Roots! It’s such a great place isn’t it? Next time you stop up to Central Market on the weekend, head down East King St a few blocks and hit up Eastern Market -it’s only open Saturday from 9-2. Great ethnic food and smaller organic farms with great produce. 🙂 (they have a Facebook page and they advertise sustainable events and such every week at he market). It’s still a hidden gem here in Lancaster, and I like going there to avoid the insane foot traffic and stroller mafia at Central lol.

  • In the process of tracking down 10 pound pails of sour cherries to freeze. I usually buy 5, but with this year’s shortages, I’ll be lucky to get 3. (in Niagara, the cherry yield is about 10% of usual, due to the March heat wave followed by freeze). The sweet cherries have been amazing this year.

  • Ha! Well, it looks to me as though you were able to enjoy a wonderful, little treat! Good stuff 🙂

  • I’m sure it was delicious and completely worth it, especially if it helped you to get back in synch!

  • BLACK RASPBERRIES. I used to go to a summer camp that had a cluster of black raspberry bushes, so I have a serious yen for them when it gets hot out. I haven’t seen them yet this year, but they were around for a couple weeks last year–also at $4 per half pint–so here’s hoping!

  • I was looking for something to do with a small amount of raspberries we picked. We got one pint of black and one pint of red but the kids also wanted to make popsicles so I made this jam with what was left. Thanks!

  • This is actually an amazing idea for that one extra half-pint of raspberries I have in my fridge right now. I never think to make jam for immediate use. Brilliant!

  • I bought a jar of seedless black raspberry jam, because I haven’t seen them for a reasonable price around here. I feel vaguely guilty for having non-homemade jam in my house. That’s a sign of insanity, right?

    I gave my father your book for his birthday, and he just made his first batch of marmalade! I’m so happy, I can’t even begin. He’s on the other end of the earth, and New Zealand won’t let him bring homemade preserves into the country, but we can still share the home-canned goodness. Thank you!

  • The jam is lovely. I haven’t canned anything in close to a month and I’m hoping the heat breaks enough that I can after I get back from vacation.

    My friends and I are having problems lining up the weather with the date as well. But we’re headed in the opposite direction-the weather was so hot and dry in October here last year that we think we’re heading into fall, not mid-summer.

  • This is just adorable and I love that you don’t have to bother with the whole canning process and you can still enjoy the homemade goodness!

  • Found your book at my local Chapters this weekend and snatched it up right away! 😀 I was so thrilled to find it there!

  • Love, love, love this idea! Simple and easy and a great way to satisfy your craving for jam without having to hunt down a large quantity of berries! Hmm, and tomorrow I hit the Farmer’s Market…

  • When we first bought our farm almost 30 years ago, we grew about 20 acres of various blackberries on contract for Smuckers. We didn’t grow black raspberries, but often saw them being delivered to the scale at their receiving and processing station. Black raspberries only produce about 1 ton to the acre under the best of circumstances (about 1/10 of what certain other blackberry crops produce locally), and the majority of them ended up re-sold for food-grade ink instead of jam. That purple USDA grading stamp on a steak you buy at the grocery? Yep! Black raspberry juice. Interesting trivia, but such a shame that rarity due to low yield and industrial demand makes it so out-of-reach as a local specialty jam ingredient.

  • I do this all the time, usually when I have a tiny bit of fruit we didn’t get to in our CSA box. Sometimes I use honey instead of sugar. The best one ever! was using wild sage honey with a couple of yellow plums at the end of the season. I think I added a tiny pinch of cardamom, but I can’t really remember.

  • hah, thank you for this small recipe! i remember living out in the country as a child, we would go out early in the morning and pick wild black raspberries and mom would make us a “thimble full” of jam to go with our toast at breakfast…this post brought back great memories and I will surely make it when i run across some black raspberries, as it is my all-time favorite jam : )

  • Yumm. Like so many of your articles this one makes me smile. Then I got to the image of the half-filled jar and my eyes nearly popped our of my head! I remember my mother canning apricot-pineapple jam in them every summer when I was little. She topped them with white paraffin and then placed the golden lids on them. The lids rest on top rather then twist on, right? Recently my sister and I cleared out Mom’s garage cabinets, and found a dusty box of them. Since paraffin is no longer recognized as safe for canning, I’m using them to display odds and ends.

  • I know this is an old post, but just had to comment … I went to the farmers’ market today and one of the farmers had little cups of teeny, tiny, wild black raspberries! It was toward the end of the day and they were marked at half-price! I remembered reading this post and snapped them up! They were pretty tart and tasted a little bit watery raw. But when I cooked them down, it intensified the flavor and sweetness. They were perfect! I now have one half-pint of jam in my fridge. Thanks for the inspiration!!! 😀

  • Thank you, thank you, thank you. This post has been such an inspiration to me – now that I know making such tiny amounts of jam CAN be done, I’ve been making testers to try out recipes I find in various places. I’m glad I have, since a few of the flavor combinations have been catastrophic 🙂 and I would have been devastated had I wasted fruit on a full batch. Of course, MY idea of a full batch is 4-5 half-pints, but what the hey, it still wipes out a good bit of fruit that is often laboriously prepared or expensive.

    Since there are a lot of diabetics in my family, I have lost the taste for “normal-sugar” jams, so a 2:1 ratio of fruit to sugar would about make my teeth curl – I tend to like between 4:1 and 6:1 depending on the fruit. I adore Pomona’s for being so crazily flexible that I can make a jam with half a cup of fruit and a little dollop of honey! Pomona’s mindset seems to be the polar opposite of that of companies like Ball, encouraging experimentation as long as you pay attention to your pH and sanitation.

  • miss picking blackberries from the roadside in Friday Harbor WA.live in Bend OR. now. haven’t attempted much gardening here.love the small batch,even though i probably would have just eaten them all naked 🙂

  • I am so glad you put this small quantity recipe out here. I have a small blackberry bush and not enough of them are ripe at the same time to do a big jamming session.
    Thank you!

  • This was a Godsend to me. I have about 30 raspberry bushes, twenty of these are new this year transplants. I am starting to get about two cups of berries every three or so days. If I hold them up for the three days I lose many. I used your recipe today and got one half pint jar plus enough for two days worth of breakfast toast. Lol. Thank you so much. Berry jam is so much better when made right from the garden. They lose so much of their flavor in 24 hours. Still good, but not great!

  • I had a couple of pints of blackberries in the fridge that were almost overripe. Found your recipe at 9:15 am and my jam was finished before 10! I didn’t can for years because I thought you had to make huge batches…thanks for the inspiration – and now I will make jam whenever I am in the mood!

  • A recipe like this is exactly what I was looking for, to make a wee batch of jam for some scones this morning. Thank you!