A bowl of deep black, sugary sweet raspberries picked fresh from my friend Debbie’s country home were the simple stimulus for twenty two jars of three different kinds of jam. We’re in full berry season here in New Jersey and when it’s hot and steamy outside there’s no better time to get out the canning equipment and heat things up in the kitchen.
When Debbie, Jackie and I got to work the other day in my tight galley kitchen, we had ten pints of blueberries, strawberries and raspberries covering the countertops and a stovetop crammed with pots. Kids were running in and out popping blueberries into their mouths and asking inquisitive questions like why we were boiling jars filled with jam. My kitchen was filled to capacity and heating up quickly.
We had a very efficient jam making strategy, working together in an assembly line fashion: Debbie handled the black raspberry since she was full of pride from picking them herself; Jackie rinsed and hulled the strawberries; I combined the sugar, berries and pectin. We ladled, wiped and boiled together efficiently and rhythmically. Since the jars needed to rest overnight, nobody got to take their jam with them, but their return visit the next day to collect proved to be even more fun with a tasty, thrilling afternoon sampling the fruits of our labor.
The three of us sat together with three different jars of jam, two fresh baguettes and a bowl of creamy butter. With each sampling better than the one before, we couldn’t choose our favorite — Black Raspberry, Blueberry and Three Berry were all a bit different but each sublime. The kids were part of the fun, devouring and slurping to their hearts content. I had to grab the board away to snap a photo or there wouldn’t be anything left.
Nothing beats the taste of homemade berry jam, especially when smeared on a piece of baguette with creamy butter. It’s just not the same as cracking open a bottle of store-bought. I’m sure the pride and accomplishment of making it with friends added to the pleasure of eating it. But the taste is surely divine. And the cost to make the jam — about $45 for 22 jars — was pretty economical. That’s a bit over $2.00 per jar which is tremendously lower than any homemade jam you’d find at a farmers’ market.
Three Berry Jam
Makes 7 or 8 jars
Fresh summer berries make the most delicious jam. Spread this blend of our favorite fruits on sandwiches, bagels and homemade waffles. Making jam is a great project for two friends””one of you can mash the berries while the other readies the water and sugar. To make the summer harvest last, enlist a friend to help can your Three Berry Jam, and bring it out for a pick-me-up on the coldest winter day. Jars of jam also make great gifts for holidays and hostesses.
1 quart strawberries
2 pints blueberries
1 pint raspberries
1 package powdered pectin (1 ½ packages for a firmer jell)
¼ cup lemon juice
Zest from one lemon
6 cups sugar
Wash strawberries, blueberries and raspberries and remove stems. Crush berries (a potato masher works well but you can also use a fork). In a large saucepot, combine berries, powdered pectin and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Return to a rolling boil. Boil one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim any foam from the top (you can add a bit of butter or margarine to keep the foam off).