Black raspberry freezer jam

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If you want as much deliciousness with as little effort as possible, freezer jam is the jam for you. I wasn’t even going to post about it, because I made in 15 minutes before a doctor’s appointment and didn’t bother to take pictures. But it was so good.

There’s no canning needed. You don’t even cook the fruit at all. You mash the berries in a measuring cup, and boil the pectin and sugar in a separate pot. Because you cook the pectin and not the fruit, the flavor is incredibly fresh, more like eating freshly picked berries than any other jam. It does need to be stored in the freezer, though.DSCN0930

I used Sure-Jell low- or no-sugar-needed pectin. If you use a different kind of pectin, make sure to get one that works for freezer jam. Then just follow the manufacturer’s instructions for raspberry freezer jam, scaling the recipe down to 2 cups of berries (or whatever amount you have).

Looking for more freezer jam? Serious Eats has some tasty-looking freezer jam recipes for slightly larger batches (about 5 cups).

Black or Red Raspberry Freezer Jam

Yields one 16-oz jar

Ingredients

2 cups black or red raspberries
3/4 cup sugar
12 grams (about 3 1/2 teaspoons) Sure-Jell low-or-no-sugar-needed pectin
1/4 cup water

Directions

1. Using the back of a large spoon, mash the berries in a 2-cup liquid measuring cup.

2. Stir together 3/4 cup sugar and 12 grams pectin in a pot (dry). Add 1/4 cup water, then bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly.

3. Immediately stir the pectin mixture into the berries.

4. Pour into a clean freezing-friendly container (leave a bit of space at the top, because it will expand in the freezer). Let the jam sit at room temperature until it sets, refrigerate for 24 hours, and then freeze. If not frozen, it will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks.

Blackcurrant scones

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Scones are the best. I am not a morning person, but knowing there’s a batch of scones waiting for me makes getting up actually pretty enjoyable. I like my scones buttery, flaky, and only a little bit sweet. These are currently my favorite.

Currant scones are pretty common, and they’re tasty enough. These scones aren’t any of those currant scones you’ve had before. Currant scones are usually made with dried currants, which are… actually raisins. Not currants at all! What a cheat!

Last year I lucked into a large supply of blackcurrants and I’ve been making these scones all winter and eagerly awaiting blackcurrant season so I could share the recipe with you.

Blackcurrants are strongly flavored, wine-y and too tart for most people to eat out of hand. In the oven, they explode into small gooey pockets, like little dabs of blackcurrant jam.

I do realize it’s 87 degrees out. You don’t have to make these now. All you have to do is:

1. Go out and get your hands on some blackcurrants.

2. Measure them out into freezer bags, 3/4 cup of blackcurrants in each bag, and freeze.

3. When you feel like baking again, take out a bag and use it for one recipe of scones.

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This scone recipe is adapted from the fantastically detailed Bread Bible by Rose Levy Berenbaum. The original calls for the dried-raisin kind of currants, so I’ve substituted fresh or frozen blackcurrants (frozen actually work better, since they don’t squoosh when you’re rolling out the dough), and I streamlined the recipe a bit because I am not patient.

The scones are delicious, and naturally they go very well with blackcurrant tea.

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Blackcurrant scones

Adapted from Flaky Scones in The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Berenbaum

Makes about 12 scones

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (if you don’t have this, you can use all white flour)
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons white all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar (or up to 1/2 cup if you like your scones sweeter)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup fresh or frozen black currants

Methods

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Cut the cold butter into 1/4-inch thick slices with a sharp knife.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda and powder, and salt.  Add butter, and cut in with a pastry blender until the pieces are about 1/2 inch in diameter. Then, using your fingers, flatten out the butter pieces to large flakes. Mix in the buttermilk or cream just until the flour is moistened and begins to form large clumps. Using your hands, form the dough into a ball.
  4. Flour a counter or tabletop and turn the dough out onto it. Lightly flour the top of the dough and a rolling pin.  Roll the dough into a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick and about 8 by 12 inches. Arrange the dough rectangle so that, if it was a print job, it would be Landscape, not Portrait.
  5. Place the blackcurrants on the bottom half of the dough. Press in gently. Fold the top half of the dough down over the blackcurrants.
  6. Roll out the dough one final time into a 1/2-inch thick, approximately 4 by 14 inch rectangle.  Make alternating diagonal cuts in order to form triangular scones.  Place scones about 1 inch apart on a rimmed cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (scones will rise, but will not spread).
  7. Bake for 15–20 minutes or until scones are lightly brown at the edges. Check the scones after 10 minutes to see if they are baking evenly, and if not, rotate the baking sheet. When done, transfer and cool on wire racks. The finished scones freeze well, too.

Black raspberry jam

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I will be brief. This jam is superb. I’ve never made black raspberry jam before, and I’m seriously planning to make it every year from now to ever. It has the dark, slightly wine-y taste of true blackberries without their mustiness; it has the tang and sprightliness of red raspberries too. It is rare and delicious.

It did require picking a lot of wild black raspberries, and I have the thorn scratches to prove it.

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In total, I used 12 cups of berries for the jam: the recipe calls for 6 cups of mashed berries, and I found that I needed 2 cups of fresh berries to get 1 cup of mashed.

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It’s pretty simple jam, just four ingredients: black raspberries, sugar, lemon, and pectin. You could even leave the pectin out and just cook your jam longer, if you don’t mind a less firm set.

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I decided to remove some of the seeds by passing about a third of the jam through a food mill. If I were making this jam just for myself, I probably wouldn’t bother, especially not this year when we’ve gotten a lot of rain so the black raspberries are big and juicy. But I want to give some as presents, and I know not everyone enjoys as many seeds in their jam as I do.

When I was finished I wanted to eat jam off of all the pots and spoons, and I ate buttered toast with black raspberry jam for lunch.

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Jam of the Gods (Black Raspberry Jam)

Slightly adapted from Food in Jars

Yields 5 half-pints and 1 quarter-pint jar

The recipe below has minimal canning instructions. If you’re new to canning, Food in Jars just did a really nice post on the basics. Actually, even if you’re not new to canning, it’s worth a look; I learned quite a bit (like how high to fill your boiling water bath so it doesn’t overflow later).

Ingredients
6 cups mashed black raspberries (12 cups unmashed) (equal to about 4 pints or 3 pounds)
3 cups sugar
Juice and zest of 1 medium lemon (juice = about 1/4 cup)
2 tablespoons powdered pectin (I used Sure-Jell low- or no-sugar pectin; 2 Tbs is less than one box)

1. Set out all of your canning equipment. Prepare your jars and start the boiling water bath heating up. Put a small plate or saucer in the freezer (for the wrinkle test–see step 5).

2. Measure 6 cups mashed berries. Combine in pot with sugar and lemon juice and zest. Bring to a boil while stirring. Cook until the mixture is thin and runny and the berries have started to fall apart.

3. Run one-third to one-half of the mixture through a food mill (I did one-third). Recombine with the rest of the jam. (If you don’t mind seediness, you can skip this step.)

4. Continue boiling the jam, stirring constantly, until it starts to thicken a little. Stir in the pectin.

5. Cook for roughly 5-9 minutes (the timing will depend on the width of your pot, among many other things), until the jam passes the wrinkle test when you put a little on the plate in the freezer (see Step 7 of this recipe for the wrinkle test).

6. Remove the jam from heat and ladle into clean jars. Apply lids and bands and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes (start your timer when the water reaches a full boil after you’ve added the jars). Remove and let cool.

7. When the jars are completely cool, you can test the seals by removing the bands from the jars and lifting them up an inch just by holding the edges of the lid. If the lid stays on, the seal is good. Sealed jam will keep for at least a year. Keep any unsealed jam in the refrigerator–it will keep for several months.

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Berry season

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We are at a critical juncture, my friends. A critical, tasty juncture. One berry season is beginning, and another is at its tail end.

A few days ago, the season for black raspberries began; they’re also known (around here) as blackcaps. Rubus occidentalis is the species we have in the northeast: they’re the shape of raspberries but black when ripe, and smaller, seedier, and tastier than true blackberries. Oh, you can argue for blackberries, but blackcaps are my favorite non-tropical fruit, so you won’t persuade me. They taste like summer. You can’t get them out of season. You can sometimes find them for sale at farmer’s markets, but mostly you have to pick them yourself, and eat them warm from the sun with purple stains on your fingers, a sprinkling of thorn scratches on your arms, and a great sense of satisfaction.

Go out and pick some. You’ll find them in ditches, and on the edges of fields and woods. Drive slowly around on country roads looking for a flash of black berries or of whitish undersides of leaves. It’s a good year for them, in the Finger Lakes area anyway (the rain we’ve been getting has made them bigger and less seedy). I think I’ve got enough to make a batch of jam.

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And while black raspberries are going into full swing, the season for serviceberries, also called juneberries, is just ending. You can probably still find some to eat in the next few days, depending on the tree. A serviceberry tree looks like this:

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Serviceberries taste like mild blueberries and contain tiny seeds that give them a hint of almond flavor. When ripe, they’re a dark blue-purple. I usually eat them out of hand, or add them to smoothies or oatmeal, but you could probably use them any way you would use blueberries.

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They’re a perfect berry for urban foraging, because the trees are often planted as ornamentals. (Birds love them, too.) This public Google Map of edible fruit in the Ithaca area includes a bunch of serviceberry trees and also a black raspberry patch. Add more trees to the map if you find any!