Thursday, August 23, 2012

Low Sugar Raspberry Jam

English Muffin Spread with Fresh Raspberry Jam
(Almost) Instant Gratification

Recipe Adapted from Happy Girl Kitchen

Red raspberries: my absolute favorite fruit! They’ve been scarce this summer compared with golden raspberries, which are also delicious but too subtle in flavor to make good jam. Since raspberry season is so short, preserving them in light honey sauce is a way to eat them almost indefinitely. This year I also tried raspberry jam, adapted from the Happy Girl Kitchen recipe for Low Sugar Strawberry Jam that I posted a couple of weeks back.

Bowl of Raspberries with Sugar and Lemon
Letting Berries Macerate
Because there is no added pectin in this recipe and raspberries are low in pectin, this is a softer-set jam, similar to a fruit spread. Like with strawberries, cooking it down more would strengthen the set. But unlike strawberries, the large seeds will tend to dominate if you cook off too much liquid. We could use a jelly bag and strain it overnight, but I’ll save that recipe for when I’m retired from my day job.

Since raspberries are so precious—they’re costly and come in small boxes—I reduced the amount of fruit needed to 6 half pints of berries. You could double or even quadruple the recipe if you have loads of berries in your yard. Like other jams, the exact quantity you’ll get depends upon the exact physical makeup of your berries. I got 3 half-pints, plus close to one quarter-pint jar. It’s best to use these smaller size jars for this small-scale recipe.

Pot of Jam with a little Foam
Raspberries Foam Only Slightly
This jam is a bit tart (it’s low-sugar, nu?) compared with strawberry and apricot jams from the same recipe. Next time I’d use Meyer lemon for the lemon juice, a hybrid of lemon and mandarin that is a bit sweeter. Or I’d add an extra half-cup to cup of sugar. But my husband prefers the more natural, less sweet flavor.

Like in any jam, we’ll release air from the fruit in the jam making process. You’ll see foam when the jam begins cooking, and unless this air is cooked out your jam will be foamy. Luckily, raspberries contain little air, which reduces the cooking time. And this is a good thing since we’re fighting the high seeds-to-pulp ratio. Start testing for the gel point (details in recipe) as soon as the foam dissipates.

If you’re new to jam making, do yourself a favor and set up your area with all the tools you’ll need before you start. For details, check out the Low Sugar StrawberryJam recipe from earlier this month. It’s easiest to use jam-specific tools. Note that Happy Girl jam recipes require letting the fruit, sugar, and lemon juice sit and macerate for at least 8 hours. It’s most practical to do this overnight, or start very early in the morning. However, the batch in the photos was cooked at 8 pm on a school night. It’s often hard to squeeze in jam making time, but it’s always worth it when you taste the results.

Hand with Towel Wiping off Jar of Jam
Wipe off Top and Threads After Filling
Low Sugar Raspberry Jam
makes 28 oz.

2 lbs. organic red raspberries
8 oz. (by weight) evaporated cane juice (unrefined sugar)
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Wash raspberries and drain very well and/or pat dry. Combine with sugar and lemon juice and cover. Let sit in a dark, cool place overnight, or for at least 8 hours. You can let it sit for up to 2 days if you need to, but be sure that the temperature stays cool.

The next day: Put 2 or 3 saucers into the freezer. You’ll use these later to test whether the jam has gelled.

Wash jars in hot soapy water and boil for 15 minutes in a pot of water that covers jars by 2 inches. Remove jars from water bath with jar lifter. Drain upside down on kitchen towel located where you’ll be filling the jars with jam. Don’t pour out the hot water bath, you’ll use the same pot of hot water to process the jars of jam.

Jar Lifter Removing Jars from Boiling Water Bath
The Right Stuff: Jar Lifter is Faster & Safer
Put clean unused jar lids into bowl and add some of the boiled water from the hot water bath. Leave the lids in the water until you need them. It’s easiest to use a (jam making specific) magnetic lid lifter to get them out of the water.

Mash the fruit with a potato masher or similar hand held tool. Put fruit in 8 quart deep stainless steel or enamel pot. You may use a somewhat smaller pot for this jam, but depth helps prevent splatters. Bring fruit to boil over high heat, stirring constantly.

Boil the mixture on high heat, and keep stirring constantly. Wearing an apron and oven mits helps prevent burns. Foam will appear around the edges of the pot. Continue stirring till foaming subsides. Once all the foam is gone, start testing to see if jam is gelled.

Blob of Jam Sliding Down Saucer
Close Enough to Gel Point
To test for gel point: Remove a saucer from the freezer. Remove the jam from heat while testing it. Put a little blob of fruit on the chilled saucer and put it back into the freezer for just a minute or two, until it cools. Then tilt the plate and watch how the jam runs. At the gel point it all comes down the plate in a unified blob, rather than small runny drips. The gel point will be reached after approximately 10 minutes of boiling, but bear in mind that this can vary depending upon the amount of air and moisture in the berries. Don’t overcook it!

When gel point is reached: Fill first jar to within ¼ inch of top, using a wide mouth jam funnel and measuring cup or ladle. Wipe the top of the jar and threads with a damp paper towel. Fish a lid from the hot water with a lid lifter and shake off water. Place on top of jar. Screw a ring onto jar loosely, barely finger-tight. Avoid over-tightening as air must escape during hot water processing in order to seal the jar.

Repeat this process with all jars until all jam is used. A heat-proof spoonula is a good tool for scraping out the bottom of the pot. If the last jar is only partially filled, don’t hot water process that one. Store it in the fridge and eat it within a few weeks.

Digital Thermometer in Water Bath Reads Steady at 210 Degrees
Digital Meat Thermometer Eliminates Guesswork
To hot water process: Remove water from the large pot in which you sterilized the jars, approximately the total volume of the jars (so water bath won’t overflow). Reheat water to full boil. Remove from heat and use jar lifter to place each jar into hot water bath. Check water temperature (a digital thermometer is the best tool for this, and inexpensive). You will need to process at 210 degrees F.

Put heat under pot again and bring water temperature to 210 degrees F. Process for 5 minutes, keeping temperature constant by adjusting heat and/or position of pot on stove. Remove pot from heat.

Use jar lifter to remove jars from hot water bath. Set each jar on kitchen towel. Don’t set directly on any cool or fragile surface. As soon as jars are cool enough to handle, tighten rings. I just discovered an inexpensive ring tightening gizmo that makes this a cooler (literally) job.

Cool for several hours or overnight. Lids must “snap” down to seal. If after cooling you can depress the center of the lid, it is not sealed. You can either refrigerate that jar and eat it within a few weeks or remove the ring and lid, wipe the jar top and threads with a damp paper towel, and reprocess.

Jars of Jam and English Muffin spread with Jam from Open Jar
Quarter Pint for Now, 3 Half Pints for Later

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