August 28, 2012
I've immersed myself in canning projects as much as possible in the past few weeks, ensuring that I will have plenty of summer stored away. I often put these jars in the pantry and cupboard with ideas for winter meals. Yesterday while canning raspberry jam I kept thinking about one of the simplest, least glamorous or photogenic foods that is undeniably delicious and satisfying every time.
I don't eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches very often any more, but I ate them for lunch nearly every day of my childhood. I liked them best with whole wheat bread and just enough peanut butter and raspberry jam to keep them from oozing. Throughout my school years I brought my lunch with me and surprisingly I rarely packed it myself. My mom made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with perfection, spreading the peanut butter on both sides of the bread to keep the jam from making the whole thing soggy. When my dad packed our lunches he always put a chunk of cheddar cheese on top of the sandwich which by lunchtime would become oily and leave a dent where it sunk into the bread. This didn't deter me from ripping the sandwich in half and thoroughly enjoying the combination of sturdy bread, salty sticky peanut butter and sweet raspberry jam.
I'm sure everyone has their own memories of peanut butter and jelly or other childhood lunches which by choice or default have embedded themselves into our memories and senses. Even if peanut butter and jelly sandwiches don't appeal, there are still lots of the wonderful ways to use raspberry jam if you have some in your cupboard.
I prefer not to use pectin which means that the jam I make is usually soft and spoonable. Sometimes it might be too soft, but it can be a wonderful sauce or addition to yogurt or ice cream.
6 pints fresh raspberries
3 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
Combine the raspberries and sugar in a non-reactive pot (enameled cast iron or stainless steel both work for this). Let them sit for a few hours until they have become very juicy. Bring the pot to a boil and let simmer. Stir occasionally to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pot. Add the lemon juice and, if possible, skim off any foam that appears on top of the jam. Continue simmering for about 45 minutes. To test whether the jam is ready, put a small plate in the freezer. Put a spoonful of jam on the plate and return it to the freezer for a minute. If the jam holds its shape, it is ready. I don't worry too much about cooking it down to the perfect jam but about 45 minutes of simmering should do the trick.
Meanwhile, wash 6 half pint jars and place them in your canning pot while the water heats up. When the jam is ready to can and the water is boiling in your canning pot, remove the jars. Fill each jar, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Remove air bubbles, wipe rims, and put on lids and bands. Process the jars in the water bath for 10 minutes. Remove and let cool completely. Check to make sure each jar has sealed before storing for up to one year.