I discovered raspberries when I was nine years old. That was the first spring my family lived in Portland, and tucked back behind our garage were some well-established red raspberry canes. For the weeks that they were in season, I would squeeze myself into the space between the garage and the fence and eat every ripe berry I could reach.
It’s been years since I’ve had access like that to raspberries. My parents have a few canes, but I’m rarely able to get out to Portland when they’re ripe. In the last few years, I’ve made a point of indulging in a bit of raspberry u-pick, but until this week I wouldn’t have been able to tell you the last time I felt well and truly sated when it comes to raspberries.
Raspberry season arrived earlier this week to my neck of the country and I determined to splurge on a truly indulgent volume of berries. I opted for black raspberries, after hearing their many virtues praised by a friend who’s berry-judgment I greatly trust. On Tuesday, I took myself on a little field trip out to Lancaster County to buy jars at Good’s Store and pick up a flat of black raspberries from Shenk Berry Farm.
Though I was mostly innocent to black raspberries before this week, I am now well and truly converted to their many charms. They are smaller than their red siblings and quite seedy, but not in an unpleasant way. There’s a slight hint of wine in each bite. And they make dark, gorgeous, spreadable jam.
The following recipe is a very basic one. There’s nothing here but fruit, sugar, lemon and a just a bit of pectin (though if you’re okay with a slightly runnier jam, you could easily do without. Just make sure to track your temperature with a thermometer to insure you get to the set point).
Feel free to add cinnamon, nutmeg, sage leaves, star anise or some other flavor enhancer, should you wish. This recipe would also work equally well with red raspberries if black ones are not to be had in your area.
- 6 cups mashed black raspberries (4 pints, about 3 pounds of berries)
- 3 cups sugar
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
- 2 tablespoons powdered pectin (I used Ball’s flex pectin)
- Prep 3 pint or 6 half pint jars.
- Combine mashed berries, sugar, lemon zest and juice in a large pot (a wide, non-reactive pot is best). Bring to a boil, stirring regularly. Skim the foam that develops.
- When the jam has thickened a bit* and the boil can’t be stirred down, sprinkle in the pectin and stir to combine. Cook for an additional 5-8 minutes, until the jam seems quite thick (the saucer test is helpful here).
- When the jam has thickened to your liking, remove it from the heat. Ladle into jars, wipe rims, apply lids and process in a boiling water canner for ten minutes. When time is up, remove jars from canner and let cool on a folded kitchen towel.
- When jars are cool enough to touch, remove rings and test seals. Jam is ready to eat as soon as it is cooled but can also be stored in a cool, dark place for up to a year.
*You’ll notice that I don’t give a cooking time. That’s because cooking times can vary greatly depending on the width of your pot, the power of your stove, the amount of humidity in the air and even how much rain fell in the days before your fruit was picked. Stay close to the stove as you cook your jam and watch closely for changes.