Behind the Curve: Raspberry Jam

Join me as I continue to play catch-up with myself, posting things I meant to write about during 2010 but didn’t get around to.

I oscillate wildly between life’s choices: PhD or sitting around sewing useful things out of scrap fabric and baking and making?  It’s a toughie.  I’m the mistress of my own indecision, and in mid-March I’ll be starting yet another part time job while I procrastinate some more.

I should be holed up in a musty library somewhere, reminding myself how it felt to fall asleep on an open copy of the All England Law Reports and wake an hour later with some venerable old rich white man’s pearls of wisdom transferred to my cheek.  Now, of course, one simply downloads study materials instead of having to traipse around the library attempting to locate a paper copy of Dumbledore v Voldemort [1726] and coming instead upon only a gap in the book where once there were pages.  This being the modern world, I could do a PhD in my pyjamas, probably, and that’s an attractive prospect.

Instead, I’m fixated on growing things.  Initially, the garden seemed a bit dull.  It’s green, it grows, it needs constant bloody attention.  Then I discovered that a garden grows useful things.  To wit: I did nothing except stare at a patch of my garden and during the summer it yielded 1kg of tasty raspberries.

I didn’t even water it.  This is the tangled mass that happens when you pay scant attention to at least five grape vines that have been let go, and an unknown but sizeable quantity of raspberry canes.  I went inside for a glass of water and when I came back out again it had sprouted another three feet.

The Patch started to produce edible goods in late May.  I was quite excited by my inaugural haul:

My ambition was for grapes, but a million bunches of stunted balls of foulness are no good to anyone.  The raspberries kept coming.

I never thought I’d be in the position of having enough fruit to seriously consider making jam.  It was one of those things country folk do.  Being a city person, I usually buy those under-flavoured little punnets from the supermarket, and complain all the way to the checkout about how it’s no wonder the nation is flabby when a punnet of nice fruit is more expensive than eight tons of ready made lasagna ‘meal’.

Nice jam also costs a fucking fortune, by the way, for no sodding good reason as far as I can see, because look how easy it is even for a Behind The Curve fool like me.

It goes like this.

  • weigh the raspberries and note down the weight.
  • chuck them in a stainless steel saucepan with a bit of water, not so much that they’re floating or swimming.
  • boil it up for five minutes
  • remove from heat
  • add sugar – the same weight as the raspberries
  • stir it all around until the sugar is properly dissolved
  • put that mutha back on the heat and boil the hell out of it for a few minutes

It will look like Hannibal Lector’s new cookery programme, but it should smell of fruity wonder. Beware: the mix is culinary napalm so don’t go spooning it into your open gob.

How will you know it’s done?  Shove a plate in the freezer until it’s very cold, then every few minutes dollop some jam on the plate and wait for it to solidify.  If it looks more like jam than runny syrup, it’s done.  Twice, I overestimated the boiling time and ended up with somewhat solid jam.  Err on the runny side is what I’m saying because it will get thicker as it properly cools off.  I speak as a person who once tried to make caramelised sweet onion chutney and ended up with eight jam jars full of an onion-flavoured boiled sweet.

All that remains is to carefully spoon the jam into some sterilised jars.  This is the most time consuming part.  People less cowardly than myself might advocate pouring.  I am cack-handed and I have no desire for a skin-graft so I use a spoon.

It tastes really good.  K-man won’t eat it because it has and I quote seeds in it.  I forgive him because he grew up in a family where boiled mushrooms counts as a bona fides meal accompaniment.  He instead demonstrated his support by buying me a jam funnel for Christmas.

The 2011 project involves ripping out all the raspberry canes and grape vines, and growing our own vegetables.  There are enough brambles in the surrounding area to yield a shit-ton of bramble jam, and The Patch can be put to more productive use.  Stay tuned for carrots, spring onions, courgettes, potatoes, and more!


8 Responses to “Behind the Curve: Raspberry Jam”

  1. 1 trash February 22, 2011 at 9:06 pm

    Baking, sewing and now making jam – welcome to the heart of suburbia ;-)

    Will you be incorporating planned raspberries in the patch?

  2. 3 Jen on the Edge February 23, 2011 at 4:04 am

    Love it.

    I don’t know how much you know about gardening — since you’re British, I just assume that knowledge of these things is within your very DNA — but on the off chance that you’re not all that all-knowing, I’d be happy to offer guidance from afar and save you some of the newbie errors I made once upon a time.

  3. 4 Stacie February 23, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    What gorgeous berries! I adore raspberries, they cost a fortune here. And they were nonexistent in Angola. I’ve never made jam in my life, I’m so impressed!

  4. 5 Jonathan February 23, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    Excellent post! Wendy made some weird jam or other this year (the exact fruit it was based on escapes me). Our cupboard is now filled with all these jars with no labels on…

    p.s. rumours of my blogging demise (spread by myself) were vastly exaggerated ;)

  5. 6 Meg B. February 24, 2011 at 10:58 pm

    Oh, what lovely jam! I used to pick wild raspberries in our cattle pastures but never had enough for anything like that. I wish you the best with the upcoming garden!

  6. 7 Bella Rum March 2, 2011 at 9:12 am

    Beautiful! It has to be delicious.

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