Yesterday I bought a flat of berries, containing approximately 10 lbs. of crimson gems. I felt blessed and wealthier than I have in a long time, driving away from the farm with a huge cardboard container of berries.
I've been using Russ Parson's recipe from How to Eat a Peach, and since several people have asked me about this recipe, I'll take the time to give you more details of the process than I did in my previous jam entry. First, you slice the berries into bite sized chunks. Then you place them in a big pan with half as much sugar (i.e. 8 cups of berries and 4 cups of sugar). Add some lemon or orange juice, which will help the berries maintain their ruby red hue. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook just until the juices are clear--this means the sugar has dissolved. Let the mixture sit in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.
On the second day, I fill my stock pot with water; place 4-5 half-pint jars, lids, and bands around the bottom; and boil for 5 minutes to sterilize the jars. At the same time, I start cooking small batches of jam. I boil 3-4 ladle-fuls of berries/juice at a time until the mixture is thick. You can tell when it's ready when the foamy bubbles start simmering down into a thick molten mix. I then transfer the hot jam into a big bowl and start over with another batch.
When your jars are sterilized and your jam is ready, fill the jars, leaving a scant 1/4 inch of head room, and then place the lids and bands on firmly. Lower the jars back into the water and boil for 10 minutes. Lift the jars out--I use a handy pair of tongs--and set on the counter to cool. If all has gone well, you'll hear little pings as the lids seal. What a lovely sounds!
What I love about making jam is the quiet and fragrant rhythm, the stirring and bubbling and boiling. I feel a deep sense of joy in the pleasures yet to come, as I wrote in my last jam entry.
I have another pot full of sliced berries in sugar ready for the final transformation for tomorrow...