There are three good times to make raspberry jam. Firstly with fresh raspberries if you have them growing in your garden. Secondly with fresh raspberries in mid-summer, when they’re at their lowest price in your local farmer’s market or supermarket. And thirdly with frozen raspberries. So basically any time is a good time as frozen berries work just as well as fresh ones and they’re considerably cheaper. With frozen fruit the jam ends up a darker red, as you can see in the photo.
Holidays spent as a child with my Dad’s cousins at Hill House, a dairy farm in the very north of England, had a huge impact on my love of cooking. From Great Auntie Vina and Little Mary I learnt how to bake a full repertoire of cakes and pastries. And my Dad’s cousin Big Mary, so-named in order to distinguish her from her brother’s wife Little Mary, who was much shorter, taught me to make raspberry jam. She also gave me the recipe for a spectacular dessert called Mexican Bombe which I make for special occasions. It’s not on the Weight Watchers diet, but everyone loves it.
Unopened jam keeps for several months without refrigeration, but Big Mary said it was best to make a kilo or even half a kilo of raspberries into jam and keep the rest in the freezer to make another batch at a later date. Freshly-made raspberry jam, she said, was much nicer than jam made a few months ago.
With experience you will know when jam has reached setting point, just by looking at it. If you’re new to jam-making the best way to check for setting point is as follows. Put a saucer in the freezer before you start, so it gets very cold. When you think the jam may have reached setting point (which varies according to the acidity of the fruit from 5 to 20 minutes) place a scant teaspoonful onto the cold saucer then put it back in the freezer for a minute or until cold. To avoid over-cooking most cookbooks suggest you take the jam off the heat while you’re testing. Push the cold jam with your finger and if it’s ready you will see that it’s starting to gel. If it’s not ready it will still be liquid when cold.
Raspberry jam is delicious on fresh bread or with croissants. It’s also the perfect topping for thick Greek yoghurt or as a filling for a sponge cake, with some whipped cream. And if you ever make too much to eat yourself, it makes the perfect gift.
1 kg raspberries (fresh or frozen)
A small knob of butter
Place raspberries in a large heavy-bottomed pan with sugar and heat gently, stirring, until sugar has dissolved. A preserving pan is best. Bring to a rolling boil and boil for 5 minutes or until setting point is reached. Stir in a knob of butter which will dissolve any scum.
Pour into hot sterilised jars. Place lids on while jam is hot. Store in dark cupboard and refrigerate after opening.
To sterilise jars, wash thoroughly in hot soapy water, rinse in hot water, then drain. Microwave on High (without lids) for 2 minutes just before you pour in the jam, so they are still hot. Dry the lids and put them on immediately.
Variations: For strawberry jam add the juice of a lemon when cooking the fruit. I like to use small strawberries for jam rather than the huge ones you can buy these days. For apricot jam start by cooking the fruit in 2-4 Tbs water (less if fruit is very ripe, more if not), then proceed as above, adding the juice of a lemon.
Makes 2-4 jars, depending on size of jars