Raspberry Jam

The first time I ever saw someone make jam I was horrified. It was a terribly hot summer day and my jam-making friend, a woman who’d never seemed insane before that day, was boiling great vats of strawberries and sugar at a rate so furious you could barely see the stove for all the steam. Hot fruit was splattered everywhere: walls, floor, stove, people. The kitchen was an inferno of sticky, sweet goo. Hot, sticky fruit hurts. So does the boiling water she used to seal the jars. Jam making looked about as safe as climbing into an active volcano, and about as senseless.

But don’t those raspberries look beautiful? And what can you do when there are so many of them in the market and you’ve eaten all you can every day for weeks? And they don’t cost very much?

It occurred to me about ten years after the jam making debacle, that possibly jam could be made in smaller batches — microbrewed, as it were.

And that is what I do when I make jam. After much experimentation I’ve come up with a few rules:

  • I only make two kinds of jam: raspberry and apricot. Why? Because neither is too sweet and both are absolutely beautiful to look at.
  • I make small batches in a beautiful copper preserving kettle I bought at Sur La Table for the ridiculously cheap price of $49. (It is a lot of money, but not for something you use all summer long, year after year, and to perfect effect.)
  • I do not use pectin. I don’t like the way it makes the jam congeal. I use three ingredients only: lemon juice, fruit and sugar. That’s it.
  • I make the jam in small jars. That way, if I give some away, I’m not giving away everything I have. Plus, it just looks nicer in small jars — more jewel-like.
  • I do not use a hot water bath. I have a secret (well, not so secret, just wonderful) way of sealing it that works quite well.

Here are some specifics. First, the raspberry jam recipe. It comes from a book called Preserving in Today’s Kitchen by Jeanne Lesem. (Ms. Lesem was born in Kansas, raised during the Depression in small towns in Arkansas and, from the book jacket, appears to have been a journalist in New York City. I’d love to read her autobiography.)

Raspberry Jam

  • 3 (6 ounce) trays of raspberries
  • 2 Tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
  • Sugar
  1. Set an open 8 ounce canning jar upside down in the center of a microwavable glass measure or casserole. Distribute the berries around it, add the lemon juice, cover and microwave on high for 2 minutes. (You can also just do this on the stove, heating the berries for a few minutes, to get the juices flowing.) Let stand for two minutes.
  2. Transfer berries and juice to a 1 1/2 quart saucepan, add 3/4 cup (6 ounces) sugar bring to a boil quickly, and boil rapidly until slightly thickened.
  3. Pack into a hot sterilized 12-ounce jar, seal with one of those two-part canning rings you get when you buy canning jars , invert for 5 minutes, then set upright to cool. (You’ll often hear the sound of the jars popping, which is the sound of a vacuum being made to keep the jam preserved.) This is the wonderful method of making the jam air tight, so it will keep for the long winter, when raspberries seem a world away.

That’s it. When I went outside to get the lemons, the bush was a thing of beauty:

You can do this in two parts, by the way. Today, I prepared the raspberries up to the point where you do the boiling. I tripled this recipe (which still isn’t a lot) and then heated them up a bit with the lemon juice.And then I added sugar, put them in containers and stuck them in the fridge. They looked like this right before I added the sugar:

They’re in the fridge now, macerating and gaining flavor. Tomorrow, I’ll boil them for about 15 minutes — nothing too dangerous — and then put them in jars, turn the jars upside down for five minutes and bob’s your uncle.

Next? I’m still determined to do those tea cakes. Plus, I’ve got some awfully beautiful apricots to make into jam.

Part Two can be found here.


22 thoughts on “Raspberry Jam

  1. “The kitchen was an inferno of sticky, sweet goo. Hot, sticky fruit hurts. So does the boiling water she used to seal the jars. Jam making looked about as safe as climbing into an active volcano, and about as senseless.”

    you are a gem

  2. Mmmm… apricot jam sounds yummy. The last time I made jam it was in the 70s and it was refrigerated strawberry jam.

    Side memory trip: When you were about five, we used to go with Mom and Dad for walks on Sundays. Dad would show us wild berries and allow us to eat them. I had made friends with a local girl in Bindlach, and would walk to her house (about 2 miles away) and visit. Her mother made the most amazing jam. It was a type of currant if I remember correctly.

    Doug and I just don’t eat jam. But now that the grandbabies are getting older and discovering the joys of PB&J – that’s changing.

    Don’t you also make jam or marmalade from your lemons?

  3. I’ve never been called a gem before! Thank you. Come to think of it, jam adjectives apply to people we’re fond of quite well: sweet, luscious, yummy, lapidary… Sticky? Hmm.

    Helen — do you make bread? I sometimes do, but haven’t lately. It’s more a winter activity. And it’s winter where you live, right? I hope you’re having a day that involves tea drinking and warm bread.

    Hi Sue — I do remember that. I loved living in Germany. It was a wonderful time for our family, and one that informs a lot of our later choices. And yes, I did once make lemon marmalade — it was quite good, especially as a relish with meat.

    Cheers to all of you! BL

  4. I want to move into that bowl of rasberries – and the lemon tree – gorgeous photographs.

    We are about to leave for vacation and I look forward to scouting out the blueberry and blackberry patches we visit every summer to see how it’s all coming along…I myself am a huge fan of blueberry jam made much the same way.

    Again, gorgeous!

  5. I never thought I’d enjoy a post about …jam… so much. But, then again, that’s what you do, BlogLily; you make the mundane fun.

    Good work.


  6. I’m going to try out this recipe. I’ve made pickles before, but never jam. Is the recipe for the apricot jam the same? Does it work for other stone fruits (like plums — we have a lot of them!) I assume you peel the stone fruits?

    I’m making your gingerbread muffins for a pool party this weekend. Thank you for the inspiring recipes (and for the inspired writing too).

  7. I don’t make bread, Bloglily, but when I was young and we lived in a remote area, my mother used to make brown bread and it was delicious, especially when it was just out of the oven. That’s what I was thinking about when I saw your recipe for jam. Yum yum!!

  8. Hello All!

    Everything in between — have a great vacation. And when you come back, I’m looking forward to seeing that series on Detroit (and anything else you come up with for that matter.)

    Zack! You’re back. yay. I’m going to go & see how the south pacific was in a few minutes. I can’t imagine it being anything other than beautiful.

    Hi Julie — Pickles! I’d really like to know more about that. It sounds like fun. The apricot jam is pretty much like this, except the recipe I use has some honey in it, which makes the jam even tastier. As for plums, you don’t have to peel them — just pit them. I love plum jam. You should come over and we’ll make jam. As you know, I’m not really doing anything except trying to have fun and relax, and making plum jam would be fun.

    I hope the muffins are as tasty for you as they are for us.

    Helen, I have this great Elizabeth David encyclopedia of breads. (It has a different name, but that’s what it is more or less. An entire chapter is on salt!) Anyway, I’ll bet there’s a good brown bread recipe in there. I’ve been wanting to make things that are healthier around here, but I also want them to be tasty. And as I told Julie, I’m going to be doing a lot of cooking in the next few months!

    best, BL

  9. Pingback: BlogLily » Jam Today

  10. Hi LIly,
    I hope that everyone who has, or will soon have, a poem about anything raspberry or jam will post it in appreciation of your inspiring and contagious love of making tasty things. This is one I did a few years ago. Smokey


    I didn’t mean
    to drop
    a slice
    of raspberry-filled
    birthday cake
    on the love poems
    you gave me.

    Now I like reading
    their stickiness
    and licking between
    the lines.

  11. My mother-in-law used to make her raspberry jam in the oven. Sadly she has passed on and I don’t remember her recipe. Do I put equivalent amount of sugar to raspberries? Do I add the sugar to the raspberries and put both in the oven together? How long do I leave the raspberries in the oven before putting into jars? I would be grateful if anyone can help.

  12. MMM….. raspberry jam sounds yummy. I have never had raspberry jam but it sounds good. I think I might try it. Thanks.

  13. Now that I have thorns in my fingers from harvesting all those raspberry’s, I am ready to try your recipe. alas, It will have to wait until I return from my mom’s. I have the raspberry’s in the freezer (a little better than a gallon of them!).

    Having never made raspberry jam before, i assume the freezer is o.k. for the berry’s until I use them. Hopefully when I return there will be more berries on the bush. but this time I will have the kids do the harvesting.

    Can you tell me about how many jars I will need for all those berries?

    I enjoyed reading your recipe. As luck would have it I have a gift card for Sur La Table! Guess what I am going to order?

    Thanks again.


  14. Sandra,
    Your oven-method raspberry jam recipe can be found in Elizabeth David’s Summer Cooking (page 195, “Raspberry Jam, Unboiled”) I haven’t tried this one yet, but I it sounds delightful. The author recommended it as “by far the best raspberry jam I have have ever tasted.”
    For me, canning is all the more fun, knowing that I am ignoring the shrill warnings of the USDA, subversively and dangerously using an unapproved, “unsafe” method of food preservation.

  15. I picked raspberries today. I did a search for a raspberry jam recipe and found this website. I made two jars of jam, I did not pick a lot of berries. They really are beautiful! Yours was the only recipe I could find that did not require pectin or jello mix. Thank you! I can’t wait to try it!

  16. Pingback: The Old Bowl « BlogLily

  17. Oh, I’m so glad I found you!!! I made a mistake, and boiled my raspberries, lemon, and sugar at the same time, which is something I had never done before. I always boil the fruit, then add sugar and lemon, then let it come back to a boil. I thought I had ruined my jam. Hoping against hope, I went in search of a recipe in which somebody did it in this fashion, and I found you – A beacon of light! Thanks you so much for laying my fears to rest!

  18. Hi, I used this recipe to make blackberry jam and it turned out fabulous. I am intimidated by recipes that call for Pectin and am so glad I found your site. I love the fact that you gave measurements by weight.Thank you.

  19. I am so excited to find a recipe (1) without pectin, and (2) one that doesn’t boil the berries to death! I made a test batch and it seems that a 12 oz. tray of raspberries equates to (1) 16 oz. or pint size jar of jam.

    They are still cooling, and it’s been 10-minutes since I turned them right-side up and they haven’t sealed. Still hot – should I turn them upside-down again?

    I was confused with the first thing on the directions: putting a jar upside-down in a measuring glass dish, etc. So, I just put the berries and lemon juice together in a sauce pan on the stove and heated them on high for a couple of minutes until they were juicy and bright red. Took them off the stove to let them sit. (did they need to be covered while I boiled? i did, but didnt’ know). Also, on the sugar, is it 3/4 per 6 oz. of berries or total? I figured it was total, but have tasted the leftovers in the pan and it tastes a little tart. Lastly, 😉 , approx. how long do you boil until it’s “slightly thickened”? I did about ten minutes as I wanted to keep the integrity of the fruit as much as possible, but am worried it wasn’t long enough.

    THANK YOU in advance for your help!!!

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