Jam is so easy and pleasurable to make that it’s a wonder why everyone doesn’t do it. The smell of strawberries cooking can transform a kitchen and for me it is reminiscent of childhood. It brings back a stream of happy, unrelated summertime memories: of lying listlessly in the dusty baseball field, knees scraped after a game; of running barefoot through an un-mowed lawn chasing my brother; of brachiating through tree branches like a simian; or of trading baseball cards, marbles and double-dare handshakes after spitting into our palms, which is really the only way this kind of handshake can be considered legit.
Store-bought jam is just jam; it is devoid of sentiment and symbolism. It is the one-night-stand of preserves. Homemade jam, on the other hand, carries with it a sort of precious timelessness. In this world of racy politics, recessions, earthquakes and grey hair, there is something almost medicinal in taking twenty minutes to stoop over the rolling boil of cooking berries and be swept back in time.
Jam is always more gratifying after picking the berries oneself, but until they’re in season in these northern climes I’ll make due with the beautifully plump berries imported from California.
If you like canning and jarring preserves, you can always double this recipe for a larger batch. I prefer to make jam in small batches, 2-3 medium containers at a time, and will often give some away to friends and family.
1 lb of strawberries, washed and cut in half
1 lb raspberries, fresh or frozen – washed
3 cups of granulated sugar – most recipes will call for 4 cups, though I prefer my jam a little less sweet. You can either use more or less depending on your preference.
3 tbsp of fresh lemon juice
1 envelope of pectin – about a 1/4 cup
1. Add the berries in a large saucepan on medium heat. Stir every minute or so and with a potato masher or spatula begin squishing the fruits to break them up. This will get easier after 5 minutes or so. Within 10 minutes the fruits will have become very liquidy. Add the sugar and lemon juice, then stir constantly. Turn up the heat a tad, until the fruit-liquid mixture comes to a boil or until the mixture reaches 220 degrees F/105 degrees C, then add the pectin and remove from the heat after 2 minutes and stir until well mixed.
2. Pour directly into hot, sterile canning jars. The dishwasher is great for sterilizing the jars and the lids can be done in a pot of boiling water. Make sure to leave a good 1/2 inch of space free at the top of the jars. Processing the jars can be done using a water bath, though if you think you’ll eat the jam within the next month or so, don’t bother with the processing – just keep it directly in the unprocessed jar or tupperware container.
Tip: If you still have jam left in your jars a few months from now, but don’t want it to spoil, reheat/recook the mixture back in the saucepan and start the process over again to buy you another month – unless it has already started going bad.