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The finished jam — a little more tart than usual — was the most flavorful you’ve ever tasted.
After successfully canning a dozen quarts of tomatoes, my friend and I couldn’t wait to continue. We’d decided to specialize in acid-bearing fruits, since these are easier to can for bacteriological reasons and don’t require any special equipment other than a big stockpot with a lid, jars, and some sort of rack to lift the jars off the bottom of the pot.
Pick the brightest-red berries to make jam.
On Highway 30 going north through the Schoharie Creek gorge, there are a couple of farm stands and a berry-picking farm. At the farm, you can pay $4 for a half-pint of raspberries — currently in season — or you can pick them yourself for a fraction of the cost. A dirt road leads to the fields behind the farmhouse and barn, where rows of berry bushes stand about chest-high. In 20 minutes of picking, we managed to get two quarts of the ripest fruit, for which we shelled out only $11.
Unlike some other foods, berries are best canned in small batches. My friend and I bought a dozen four-ounce mason jars, a bag of sugar, and an envelope of pectin, which is readily available in all country supermarkets. In the country, canning as an art is kept alive because it yields cheaper and more wholesome foods than can be bought in the supermarket.
Two quarts of freshly picked berries cost about $11.
Once back at the borrowed country house, we boiled the berries for about 10 minutes without adding any liquid, then added sugar and boiled for another five minutes. Next, we added the pectin, which is the natural protein that thickens the jam. After sterilizing the tiny jars, we ladled in the berry mixture to within one-eighth of an inch of the rim. The berries now had the consistency of pancake syrup. Next, the lids were screwed on tightly, and the jars immersed in boiling water for 15 minutes — less time than with the tomatoes due to the smaller jars.
The finished product.
We set the jars out on a table and waited. Initially, it seemed like the jam wouldn’t gel, but after 12 hours, it became semi-firm. While we hadn’t sampled the tomatoes yet, we did open a jar of raspberry jam and smeared it on a Bread Alone sourdough loaf, which we’d bought at the bakery in Boiceville on the trip up. It was beyond delicious, better than any other jam you’ve ever tasted, having gone from bush to bread in less than 24 hours.
House and garden, Jefferson, NY
Tomorrow: A visit to the Bread Alone bakery and café, not far from Woodstock.