Berry season is on, it’s official. This makes me happy.
I love fresh berries… of all kinds really. Ollalieberries, strawberries, marionberries, blackberries. You name it, I like it. This time of year, markets are spilling over with varying shades of red, blue, purple, and black. It’s beautiful. And mighty delicious. I recently brought dinner over to a friend’s house, and as a parting gift, was given a load of fresh berries… blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries galore. I’m talkin‘ boxes full. My friend’s daughter works at Driscoll’s Farm, so they were super-duper fresh and ripe. Unsure of what I was going to do with so many berries, I started crafting up ways to use them all on my drive home. I thought of pie, cobbler, smoothies, ice cream, juice, and of course, jam. Love me some fresh berry jam!
By the time I got home, I was already one box down… I nibbled berries the whole car ride home. 😮 These were some super sweet little treats… berries in season are unbeatable. It’s a fact.
Making jam is super easy. And it’s a great way to preserve fresh berries…. they go bad so quickly that if you don’t do something within the first day, odds are you’ll have some moldiness forming already. At least if they’re chemical-free anyway. Those bad boys don’t stay fresh long! So I went right to jam-crafting. It really only takes about 45 minutes total… and you don’t need pectin, contrary to popular belief. While it does help to gel things up, I prefer to make my jams au natural… just some fruit, lemon, and sweetener. I’ve tried in the past with honey, since I tend to prefer it to sugar, but it’s just not the same… sugar really is best for jam, at least in my experiences thus far. I usually use evaporated cane sugar, but you could use coconut sugar, or any other high-quality sugar you like. Bear in mind, the sweeter the berries, the less sugar you’ll need. Though, to make pectin-less jam, sugar is needed. I don’t know the exact science to it (there is where Google comes in handy), but there’s something about the sugars and the fruit combining that makes it jelly-like in texture. It must be above a certain ratio to gel properly (most sites say 60 percent, though I never follow that exactly).
The other factor important to gelling is the temperature the fruit boils to. To make legit jam, the temperature must reach 220 degrees, so get a thermometer out for this stuff. Correction: 220 degrees at sea-level- it’s supposed to get to 8 degrees above boiling, and since the boiling temp. changes depending on the altitude, so does the gelling point. The high the altitude, the lower degree you need. (For more specifics on degrees at your altitude, check out this handy link HERE or peep the info below from http://www.portlandpreserve.com/TestingTheJellyPoint.pdf). You also want a wide pan for jam-making… that way, more liquid can evaporate during the boiling process.
Once the jam is made, you can try one of the tests above if you’d like, or just eyeball the texture to make sure it’s good to go. It should take about 20-22 minutes total. From there, you just need to plop it into your jars, refrigerate, and then enjoy!! (For more about sterilizing jars, read THIS simple step-by-step post!)
I’ve used this jam on yogurt, waffles, on muffins, and on toast. On toast with goat cheese that is. Oh me, oh my, it is so good with goat cheese! Use a paleo or gluten-free bread if you’d like, or just stick to a sourdough baguette either way, there’s no going wrong with this jam and some goat cheese smothered atop something yummy. I sprinkled some fresh thyme leaves over it, too… sooo good.
makes approx 32 oz jam
6 cups mixed fresh berries (I used equal parts raspberries, strawberries, & blackberries)
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
1 1/2 cups good quality sugar (evaporated cane, coconut, etc), see note below*
*About sugar, when berries are in season, they tend to be sweeter… 1 1/2 cups makes a nice sweet berry jam when made with sweet berries. Most recipes call for more, however I find this is enough for me… add more or less, as desired.
**You’ll need small jars with lids and a thermometer for this.
In a large mixing bowl, add fresh berries, lemon juice, and lemon zest
Add sugar, stir, and then let sit to macerate for about 15 minutes, until sugar has liquified
Add berries to a large pot
Cook over medium heat for about 18-22 minutes, uncovered, until the temperature reaches 220 degrees
(Most jams take about 20-22, though time and heat level may vary depending on
stove and the type of pot used… you may need to adjust things slightly to reach 220)
As it cooks, the berries will break down naturally… though you may want
to smash larger chunks with a wooden spoon to assist the process
For a chunkier jam (which I personally like), leave some berries whole,
for a smoother one, crush them more
While the berries are cooking down, sterilize your jars…
Heat a large pot of water to a boil- add glass jars and lids- remove and let dry before using
Once jam has reached 220 degrees, pour or scoop the jam into sterilized jars
Tightly screw on lids, turn upside down, and refrigerate until it begins to solidify
(turning it upside down helps the jam to gel evenly, so the chunks aren’t all at the bottom)
Turn right side up, and keep chilled until you’re ready to use!
Use on your favorite toast, waffles, muffins, over yogurt, or any other way your heart desires 🙂