On summer days, Saucy lurrves making small batches of homemade jam. She especially enjoys this on the hottest of the hot days... either staying up late at night to jar the day's pickings or getting up early the next morning while the kitchen is cool to get a good and sweet start to the day. Either way, she finds the aroma of jam cooking on the stove intoxicating. It reminds her of the long hot summer days of growing up, when making jam late at night when the house was cool was requisite for it to set properly and the sticky sweet drips from the ladle fell onto soft white bread. The hum of David Letterman could be heard in the background while Granny called out directions to keep stirring the pot, lest it boil over and make one horrible, sugary red mess.
Saucy still churns out a little jam every year, but in small batches. Just enough to have on hand into the autumn when it's important make these little bits of summer extend by whatever means necessary.
This red raspberry jam is excellent - it's not overly sweet. In fact, it has a nice tart bite to it. It requires no additional pectin, it gels on its own. This requires more careful cooking, but the results are worth it. Plus, there are only two ingredients: raspberries and sugar. It can't really get easier.
Place four cups of granulated sugar in an ovenproof dish at 250 degrees for about fifteen minutes. You'll see why in a minute.
Place four cups of washed raspberries in your deepest, heaviest cooking pot. Over medium/high heat, mash the berries and bring them to a rolling boil for one minute. Remove the sugar from the oven and add to the berries. Warm sugar dissolves faster and this is key for the jam to set. The cooking time doesn't need to be exact but the sooner the sugar dissolves, the better. Once it turns into syrup, reduce the heat to medium and continue boiling and stirring constantly. Now, it's like you're making candy - not jam. Think of it that way.
You don't even need a candy thermometer. Set your oven timer for four minutes. Continue boiling and stirring. After four minutes, the mixture should be thick. How can you tell when it's ready to gel? Dip a clean spoon in and pull it up and away from the heat. It should not be runny and thin, dripping easily from the spoon. If it's ready, it will be heavy - likely two or three giant beads will drain together and form one thick, juicy drip.
If you're unsure about this step, do the drip test when you first start the timer and then do it again after four minutes of cooking... you're bound to see a difference. If you don't think it looks thick enough, boil for one more minute.
Remove from heat and continue stirring for a minute. This is the fun part... use a nice wide spatula or spoon to remove any foam that formed during cooking. It will likely dissipate in the minute of stirring, but it's delicious to taste test, so go for it if you want.
Ladle the hot jam into prepared jars immediately. When Saucy says prepared jars, she sort of means sterilized but in actual fact she means jars that have just been removed from a high heat cycle in the dishwasher. Good enough. If you want to do the whole sterilization thing, go for it. Saucy got over that a long time ago.
In fact, Saucy's a lazy canner in general. She places the lids and rings immediately on the hot jam jars. She wipes the jars with a hot soapy cloth and places them in a pot where she proceeds to pour a water full of hot kettle water over the lids. They go pop! pop! pop! right away and she considers the deed done without boiling the entire contents of the jar. It's just not necessary if you're storing a small batch in the fridge or sharing it with friends... who's sharing?
This batch makes five six-ounce jars.
The best way to eat homemade raspberry jam is on sliced fresh baguette with mascarpone cheese. Cream cheese is also delicious and less sweet. Try it both ways, you won't be disappointed.