We are very lucky, because Misha’s parents’ property out in Reisterstown, Maryland is FULL of wild raspberry and blackberry plants. Every year the prickly bushes become laden with hundreds of small, sweet, juicy berries just waiting to be picked. Everyone in Misha’s family is more than willing to oblige the berries and pick as many as possible in the few short weeks that they are ripe and ready. Even better, Misha’s Mom cans the berries, making this incredible wild raspberry jam that is better than anything I have ever bought at any store. Wild raspberries have a slightly different flavor than store-bought raspberries- more juicy, more tangy, more sweet.
Canning is a process that has always intimidated me. I think it’s because of the step that involves boiling jars in water, or the part about possible botchulism, or just the entire unfamiliar nature of the whole thing. Furthermore, I didn’t know what supplies I needed, or how to sanitize them, and the directions usually just confused me more. Canning was something my Grandmother did all the time, right out of her own garden in the backyard. Many of the jams she used for cooking and baking were made by her own hand. Women (and men!) have been canning as a method of food preservation since the 1800’s, and if Grandma could do it, I could too! As it turns out, all I needed to tentatively test the canning waters was a canning “spiritual guide” of sorts. Enter Misha’s Mom, Candie.
Last year, I picked berries with her for the first time and she held my hand and taught me how to make jam from them and can them. As it turns out, making jam is one of the easiest canning recipes you can try. Really! You don’t even have to boil the jars, and the berries are acidic enough that botchulism isn’t a concern. This year, Misha and I went canoeing on the lake behind his parent’s house, and then picked 2 ½ quarts of berries. I canned them at home, by myself, for the first time. The hardest part is just having everything ready to go at the right moment- there are a lot of little steps. I was very happy and relieved when everything went smoothly and I was rewarded with 5 jars of wild raspberry jam. I encourage you to try this process sometime, maybe with an adventurous friend or your own canning guru. You don’t need access to wild raspberries, you can buy berries at the farmer’s market or in the grocery store, or you can even try canning something different. Just make sure you follow the recipe and directions that come with the type of pectin you buy. Afterward, go make some kifli with your new jam! Happy summer, and happy canning!
Wild Raspberry Jam
You will need:
Lots and lots of berries (the exact amount depends on the recipe you use, but generally the more the better- as I mentioned above, we picked 2 ½ quarts and that only gave us 5 jars)
Pectin for jams and jellies (Candie uses Sure Jell or Certo, which is pretty common and can be found in most grocery stores. I used Pomona’s Universal Pectin, which jells with a low amount of any sweetener and can be found at Whole Foods.)
Canning jars and lids (These can be found at most hardware stores and even some grocery stores. You will need the jars, the lids- which have to be brand new- and the rims for the lids. Sometimes you can find jars and rims for sale super, super cheap on the internet or at garage sales. The size of the jar doesn’t matter, but it will alter how many jars of jam you get from your recipe.)
A funnel, a ladle, a fork, and a wet clean cloth
After you have picked or bought your berries, you must clean the berries. There cannot be any green or brown stuff whatsoever in your berries. The best way is to get a big container and fill it up with water and pour them in there. The green and brown stuff will float to the top and you can pick it all out.
Once they are clean, you want to measure your berries so you know how many you have. This is important because you will be following a recipe that calls for specific amounts of berries. Once you’ve measured your berries, put them in a large bowl and crush them. A potato masher works well for this step.
Put on a teapot or regular pot of water to boil. Wash your jars and arrange them in the sink. When the water boils, pour some in each jar so that they are hot when you fill them with jam.
Place lids in a small pan and cover with water. Place on the stove and bring to a boil, then turn off heat and let them sit in the hot water.
Follow the recipe and instructions that come with your package of Sure Jell, Certo, or Pomona’s Universal Pectin. This will tell you how many berries you need, how much sugar you need, and what steps to take to boil your berries and make the jam. For example, with Pomona’s, one recipe of raspberry jam calls for 4 cups of berries and ¾-2 cups of sugar, along with the pectin powder and calcium water that comes with the package and makes the jam jell. Since I had about 10 cups of berries, I changed the amounts, so instead of 4 cups of berries and 2 cups of sugar, I had 10 cups of berries and 5 cups of sugar. Instead of 2 tablespoons pectin powder, I used 5 tablespoons pectin powder. You get the idea.
Once you’ve followed the steps in the recipe and completed the jam, pour the hot water out of the jars and set up your supplies next to the stove: jars, funnel, ladle, fork, and wet clean cloth.
Place the funnel in the jars one at a time and slowly ladle the hot jam into each jar, filling the jar until the jam is ¼” from the top. Use the wet clean cloth to wipe any spilled jam from the rim of the jar. Using your fork (you might need two forks), carefully lift the hot lids one at a time from the pan and place on top of your jars. Place a ring on each jar and tighten. Turn upside down to seal and let sit for at least 2 hours, or until the jars are cool.
The jam can be stored in a cool, dark place or opened and stored in your fridge for about a month or two (though it won’t last that long- it’s too delicious!). If you make a lot, you can share with friends and family, give as Christmas presents, or just enjoy all winter long!