We harvested a great crop of cherries and raspberries from our two trees and berry patch in the back yard. It has been an exceptional year for any kind of fruit! My best guess is that it is a response to the huge amounts of rain we had after two dry years.
I had to make some room in our chest freezer for all the cherries we had to freeze, even after giving away ice cream pails of them! I ended up finding containers of fruit I had set aside for jam that never got made in the busyness of the last couple of years. The result was lots and lots of jam!
I ended up making concord grape and enough raspberry jam to keep us through the winter. If you have priced good jam, you will find that even with the seemingly vast amounts of sugar you use to make homemade jams and jellies, they are still a bargain for several reasons:
1. You know where that fruit came from and how it was grown.
2. The fruit is cheap or in most cases FREE.
3. It just TASTES BETTER!
Grape jam or jelly is a good example. Grapes are one of your “Dirty Dozen” fruits/vegetables. They get more chemicals sprayed on them before they are brought to market then most other fresh foods that you eat. When your neighbors invite you over to pick grapes, you know (or can ask) how the fruit was grown before you bring them home. Nine times out of ten, they haven’t been sprayed with any kind of chemical and are shared with you because there is bumper crop that year. Those grapes are usually free because your neighbors know that the next time you have a lot of something, you will share with them. The flavor of the jam you make is going to be fresher and more intense than anything you buy at the supermarket.
Jam isn’t hard to make. If you have never tried it before, just give yourself time to sit and read through the instruction sheet that comes with the pectin. If you are going to make a lot of jam, you might want to check out some bulk food stores. They usually carry powdered pectin in bulk, and it is a lot cheaper then buying it in those little boxes. You can also buy canning lids in bulk in these types of stores as well. The Ball Blue Book is a good source of canning recipes and is the bible for safe food processing or you can check out the Ball website.
If you are dismayed at the amount of sugar that goes into making jam and jelly, try some jelling products that don’t require so much sugar to create a good set. Pamona is one brand that uses a different catalyst for jelling. You can use a lot less sugar or even another type of sweetener, such as honey, when making jelly or jam with this product.
I think I’ll stop here and go have some toast and raspberry jam! Begonia