There should be something like a Hippocratic Oath for cooking that says, "First, do no harm...." Why do I say that? Because I just finished a batch of jam. It has only three ingredients: black raspberries, lemon juice, and sugar. It's perfect. Sparkling, dark, rich, and flavorful. Tastes like a bright summer day.
And, in a way, making this jam was ridiculously simple. It attains perfection by minimal means, by doing so very little with a gorgeous ingredient picked this morning with my very own (very scratched) hands at Green Truck Farm out in Markham, Virginia.
This time of year, backing off and letting the ingredients speak for themselves is the real art of cooking and eating. As a cook, I am often inclined to try to gussy things up, do more, make the food complicated, but with in-season produce at its peak, exhibiting restraint lets you experience depth and complexity of flavor that tells a story about the sun, the soil, the air, and the rain of your world.
This jam is an exquisite example of showing restraint in cooking and letting the flavor of the season shine through. It is not, however, a good example of showing restraint in eating. Since completing this batch a few hours ago, I have been back at the "extra" jar again and again with a spoon. I don't think it will make it through the evening. I am going to have to go back out to Green Truck Farm and get more black raspberries. (Do I have anything I need to do tomorrow...?)
- 3 1/2 lbs black raspberries, divided
- 2 1/2 lbs organic cane sugar
- 5 oz. lemon juice, strained
- Prepare 8 8-oz jars (wash, sterilize, etc.) according to your favorite method, manufacturer recommendations, or the National Center for Home Food Preservation. Keep them warm.
- Place a plate with five metal spoons in the freezer for testing the jam.
- Combine 1 lb black raspberries, sugar, and lemon juice in a jam pan (if you have one) or a large stock pot. Bring the mix to a boil and let it boil very fast and hot for one minute.
- Add the rest of the blackberries to the mix in the pot. Bring the mix up to a very fast boil again. Skim a few times. Stir regularly, to make sure the jam doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot. (Be careful: The jam will spatter, and it is very hot.)
- Let it boil for 10-12 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat while you test for doneness by placing a sample of the jam on one of the frozen spoons. After about half a minute in the freezer, the jam on the spoon should have stiffened to, well, a jammy consistency. If it's still very runny, let the jam in the pot cook for another couple of minutes.
- Carefully transfer the jam in the pot to the prepared jars. Leave 1/4 inch of space at the top (not much more, or you won't get a good seal), clean the edges of the jars with damp paper towels, place lids and bands on the jars, and process in a water bath or oven.
- Let them cool overnight without moving them so that they have a chance to set properly. Check the seals in the morning (I love the little pops that the jars make when they seal). If any of the jars didn't seal, use it right away.