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Let’s Jam

We buy berries from the local berry stand because our summer happiness depends on it.

Fred Meyer and its packaged berries have graciously limped us along from March to June.  But they have no hold on these–

strawberries picked this morning and shipped…nowhere.

Love.  That’s what this is.

A few summers ago, I made our own jam for the first time.

Like the jam in a jar kind.  Not the freezer kind.

I felt like I’d just ridden my bike with ‘no hands’ and lived to talk about it.

Not that impressive, but life-changing.  I’d read and printed out and re-read this guy’s directions on how to make apricot jam on the stove without the whole canning operation–and…and then I did it.

I, uh…followed directions.

And it was completely liberating.

I’ve realized since, that it doesn’t matter the berry–strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, blueberry–the methodology for jam making’s the same.

Here’s what it looks like.

Berries. Sugar.  And lemon juice.

And then as many pans as your stove will hold.  They’ve all got a purpose.

Oops…we’ve got a snitcher.

Two things are happening at the same time.  We’re boiling the jars–two pans worth…

and the lids…

and we’re ‘making the jam’.

What I’ve already done is rinsed the berries, cut the leaves off and thrown the berries in this 8 cup container to mash them down.  I’m just trying to get an accurate measurement of berries.  Squished berries.

By the time I was done here–adding more and mashing, I had seven cups of berry mash.

A blender or food processor would work real nice, too.  I just didn’t think of mine ’til now.

Here are my seven cups of squished berries in my five quart pan on the stove.  Nothing’s been added.  Or turned on.  I’m still mashing.

And now–though it probably looks the same–I’m ready to start.

Which is when I turned on the burners to boil my jars.  And my lids.

And turned on the burner with the berries.

Now the guy who made the apricot jam stressed that the jam had to have equal parts fruit and sugar.  And that’s what I did the first time.  I had to stop myself from fainting as I counted out seven cups of sugar and dumped them in.


The jam was fantastic, but…but the mountain of sugar was way too staggering.

I even doubted it was necessary.

Which was when I changed things the next time and cut the sugar in half.

I waited.

And since the world kept spinning and the jam was worth singing over, I’ve always made it with less sugar.  Significantly less.

So, here, I’ve added 3 1/2 cups of sugar (for the seven cups of berries) and 2 tablespoons of  lemon juice.

I don’t know the rationale behind the lemon juice.  I’m just following the apricot guy.

And now with the burner on Medium High heat, it’s time to stir.

A lot.

For like twenty-five to thirty minutes.

Enough time to read a chapter or two or vacuum the downstairs or clean out the van…all that.

Only we’re making jam

About ten minutes into stirring, the berry-sugar mess will start to foam.

And foam.

Until you’re pretty darn sure it’s going to foam right out of the pan if you don’t start hyperventilating right now.

Only it doesn’t.  It crests, causes panic, and then calms back down.

About this time a small child will whine that he hasn’t eaten all day.  But press on.

This is also about the time that–still stirring on Med-high heat–the stuff starts to splatter.

And you could use a new arm–or someone else to stir.

But…just keep stirring.

And stirring…

Until the jam is thick but pourable.

I use the clock.  If I’m at thirty-minutes with the whole stirring thing, I know I’m done.  (If I’m making a smaller batch, say with four cups of berries and 2 cups of sugar, the stir-time is closer to twenty minutes).

At this time, I turn off the burners with my jars and lids.  They’ve been bouncing around the whole time.  And they’re hot.  Too hot to even think about touching.

I also turn the jam down to LOW heat, so it’s still cooking, but not splattering.

And then with tongs and a towel, I grab a hot jar and begin ladling in the jam until the jar is filled nearly to the top. Like only 1/8 inch left.

Then I put a seal on top.

And twist the ring on the outside.  Uh…pretend there’s a ring on this one.

Then…this is the part that seems about as weird as driving down town the whole way in reverse.

We turn the jars over.

Upside down.

And we wait.

For ten minutes or so.

What happens is that the extreme heat of the jars and the heat and weight of the jam on the lid of the jar produce the seal for the jam.


that’s it.  Jam be done.

But the toast…heh…the toast is just beginning.

Final note: Though there are only three jars in this picture, the whole batch produced 48 oz of jam.  Or 12 of the small (4 oz ) jars, like the one on the left.


6 Responses to “Let’s Jam”

  1. Kristine says:

    Loved the writing, love the jam! I laughed out loud when you wrote, “About this time a small child will whine that he hasn’t eaten all day. But press on.” You built it up so well. The language, word choices–superb. This had it all: humor, your personality, learned something new, picts made the writing unique and this time explained a lot. Enjoyed reading this soooo much. I’d like to see more of this type of writing; you are very good at it!

  2. Jackie M says:

    It’s been a really long time since I made jam, but with this lesson, I’d
    be willing to do it again. Looks like the sugar might have been organic….from Costco…am I right??? I love the step-by-step pix…they
    make it really clear. Great job…should do this cooking-lesson thing
    more often. J.

  3. Lori Saslow says:

    You’ve inspired me, I’m trying this with my girls this weekend!

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