Amazing 35 minute project: make your own raspberry jam

While working frantically online yesterday morning before racing off to jury duty (that’s a post for next week), I had a brief exchange with Jen Schmidt, creator of the neat blog Balancing Beauty & Bedlam, on twitter (@beautyandbedlam). She joked that she was feeling the need to step away from the computer and all the neat ideas she was coming across – and just DO something.

I concurred. Sometimes when you’re heads-down researching something online, it’s easy to get so lost in the possibilities that you become sort of paralyzed. (This is an especially dangerous occupational hazard for bloggers now that Pinterest exists!)

We attempted to spur each other into action with a promise to go DO something.

At first I thought I would tackle the mess on my desk. But my jury duty responsibility caught up to me before I could get to it. And I’m glad it did, actually. Because somehow in the intervening moments I got clear on the project I really wanted to do: make raspberry jam. There was a farmer’s market adjacent to the court house today, and I just couldn’t resist those bright red berries.

As soon as the gasbag lawyers were done and we were dismissed from court, I raced home and arrived with exactly 1 hour to make dinner AND turn half of the berries I had purchased into raspberry jam.

A brief background on my obsession with raspberry jam. You see, I literally grew up on it. My mom made it from scratch every summer for as long as I can remember. Our family would enjoy it throughout the long, dark days of winter; it was like getting a dose of summer sunshine right in the mouth.

Last year, on the day mom died in that awful plane crash, guess what was the very last thing she did before walking out the door for the airport? You guessed it: she whipped up a batch of raspberry jam. It’s like she knew we’d need fortification to get through that first, wretched winter without her (or Mike or Theresa).

The 2 jars my family got lasted exactly 1 year. I was pretty miserly with it, but as you can see below, I was running on empty.

I grabbed mom’s recipe box and found the tattered old slip with her handwritten recipe. It was so simple I doubt she had turned to it much in the past 20 or so years.

Recipe & Instructions

4 cups raspberries (rinsed)

Place berries in a pot over high heat.

Mash them up (I used a wooden spoon, but a potato masher would work well too).

And bring the soupy contents to a rolling boil.

Add 4 Cups sugar to the berries and continue to boil for 5 minutes.

Ladle the contents into sterilized jars (I put those on to boil at the same time I rinsed the berries).

I had received a Home Canning Discovery Kit a few weeks earlier from the kind folks at Ball — yet another sign from mom that it was time for me to learn the fine art of making jam. The kit contained three of the classic Ball jars, lids, and a plastic basket.

At first I thought the basket was for containing the jars in the pot, but I quickly realized it served a far more important role: it made it easy to lift those hot jars from the boiling water quickly when the jam processing was complete (a very good thing since I don’t own any tongs).

Put the jars filled with jam back in the pot of boiling water for 5 minutes.

After 5 minutes, remove from the water and let cool on the counter for 24 hours.

I was pretty pleased with the looks of my handiwork, although it was quite runny at first. I had faith that it would firm up a little as it cooled.

I was able to make the jam AND get a warm dinner on the table within the hour. Now dinner was nothing fancy – just tacos. But still. I was pretty pleased with myself.

I couldn’t help but admire the jars on the counter as I turned out the lights in the kitchen for the night. Morning couldn’t come fast enough!

And now for the real test:

Drumroll please…

At approximately 7:08 this morning, I pulled a piping hot English Muffin out of the toaster, put a dab of butter on each slice and then smeared some of the fresh jam on.

It tasted like heaven.

It also reminded me that “big” projects sometimes are really just big in your head. If you’ve got a project in mind, pick a 30-60 minute time frame within the next week and just go DO it.

What projects do you have on your list? What’s stopping you?