Old World Tuesday: Raspberry Preserves, Just As You Remember

July 6, 2010 § 4 Comments

Perhaps your grandma made these in your distant childhood. Perhaps you were born in Russia and raspberry preserves in your household were guarded strictly by powers that be until the day you got sick (back in the Old Country, raspberry preserves are a popular folk remedy for colds and flu). Perhaps you almost wished you would get sick so you could partake of them. However you remember them, raspberry preserves are elementary to make at home when berries are in season at farmer’s markets or in your garden. Let me show you how. I used to charge moneys for this kind of demonstrations, by the way.

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I picked these succulent, jewel-toned beauties on my farm. I tend to freeze a lot of my berries with the purpose of making milk shakes and wind pudding in the dead of winter, but I also like to make some into preserves. Which couldn’t be simpler, really. Raspberry preserves are elementary to make and need nothing beyond berries, sugar, and some lemon juice, having enough natural pectin for the final product to set without the addition of any commercial product. The cookware matters a little, however – I found that stainless steel pots with wide and heavy bottoms work best.

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When it comes to sugar, I sweeten my jams with just that – sugar – and plenty of it. Cheap, plain white sugar, the kind that comes from countries with non-democratic governments, is what I love best.

Just pour sugar over the berries…

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Followed by some lemon juice. Lemon juice, by the way, helps the fruit jell better, and also boosts the color and the flavor of the fruit considerably. All of my jams and jellies include lemon juice.

Important note: You don’t want to use more than 8 cups of fruit at a time, for I found that larger quantities don’t set as well. For that reason,  I use 4 to 8 cups of fruit per batch, depending on how much I was able to pick that day, keeping in mind that the amount of fruit used will equal the amount of final product (so 8 cups of berries will make 4 pints of jam, and so forth).

Important note 2: I never wash berries from my garden or a market. They are organic, and I am OK with a few bugs here and there.

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Set the pot over low heat, and stir everything together to help the sugar dissolve.

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As the sugar melts, it will begin to look like this.

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Continue cooking it over low heat, stirring occasionally. It will soon begin to come to a boil. Once my jam looks like in the picture above, I set the timer for 5 min. Note that I don’t wait for a full rolling boil to set the timer because I don’t want to take any chances with overcooking the fruit. When it comes to jams, I am after bright colors and flavors more than I am after firm consistency.

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Soon the jam will be boiling more vigorously…

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And then really vigorously…Keep the heat at low the entire time.

And as soon as the timer goes off, remove the pan from heat and let cool in the pot to room temperature. Note that I don’t remove any foam – it makes very little difference, and that kind of fussing goes against my entire cooking philosophy.

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Mmm, this is outstanding, if I do say so myself!

Then all you need to do is ladle the now-cool jam into jars and stick them in the freezer, where they will keep, literally, for years. Note that I don’t ever process my jams in a hot-water bath (in which case they could be stored at room temperature) – for one, the amount of jam I make for the year does not justify the time and effort that canning would take, and boiling water would also extend the cooking time, encroaching on that bright red color and fresh fruity taste, and I am particularly sensitive to overcooked jam. This wouldn’t work for the Amish, but if you already have a freezer, I would say this is a better way.

Now you can spread it on toast, or just plain fresh bread, like my daughter…

…or eat it by spoonful, accompanied by a cup of unsweetened black tea, for the real old-world experience. That’s what I use mine for.

Easy Raspberry Preserves

  • 8 C whole red raspberries
  • 7 C white sugar
  • 1/3 to 1/2 C of lemon juice, depending on the tartness of your berries

Place berries into a heavy-bottomed pan and pour sugar and lemon juice on top. Set the pot over low heat, and stir everything together. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally. As soon as you notice the first signs of boil, set a timer for 5 min. Remove from heat when the timer goes off. Cool to room temperature in the pan, then transfer to jars. The jam will keep for 3-4 years in the freezer (ask me how I know this), or a few months in the fridge. This recipe can be divided in half but not doubled.

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