Sunday, August 15, 2010

Raspberries, beginning to end

We have an elderly neighbor who has one of the greenest thumbs I've ever seen. Every plant she touches grows, and grows beautifully. This is in direct contrast to me, where every plant I touch struggles to stay alive.

Anyway, this lady has an amazingly prolific raspberry patch. The berries were getting away from her, so she invited us to come pick some fruit. I wasn't about to give up an opportunity like this!

When we arrived at her farm, I was struck by the casually verdant greenery everywhere, including this shed with Virginia creeper growing over it.
Here are a couple other shots from her place:

Younger Daughter and a friend crawled in and started picking. Oh, and eating.  More definitely went into the mouths than into the buckets.

On the other hand, can you blame them?

After about an hour's work, we came away with about a gallon altogether...

...and the hands to prove it.

Next question: what to do with all this bounty?  Doubtless most of you are yelling "Make jam, you idiot!"  The funny thing is, for all my vast experience in canning, I've never ever made jam, jelly, or preserves.  Don't ask me why, I just never did, even though jams and preserves are usually the first thing beginning canners learn because they're so easy to make.  (It's like I taught myself how to can backwards, learning the hardest things first and the easiest things last.)

Okay, so I decided to make raspberry preserves.  First thing I did was consult the Ball Blue Book for some how-to instructions.

We sorted through the berries and put aside the ones we wanted for fresh eating.

Since I had another load of bananas going into the dehydrator for banana chips, we decided to experiment with dehydrating some raspberries as well.  What the heck.

I weighed out the fresh berries and found we had just a touch under three pounds.

This meant I added six cups of sugar.

Stir and let it sit for awhile so the juices are released.

Then start cooking.

By dumb luck I happened to use a deep pot, which turned out to be the best thing because the mixture tended to splatter - and when it hit skin, it was painfully hot!

The mixture boiled up...

And then boiled back down.  I kept it boiling on low heat for about an hour, stirring a lot to keep it from sticking.

At this point it's thicker and ready to pour into clean canning jars.

Into the boil-bath for fifteen minutes:

Seems like an awful lot of work for a yield of 3 1/2 pints of preserves! On the other hand, it also taught me a good lesson: never take home-made preserves for granted, because now I know what kind of work goes into them.

So how did the dehydrated raspberries turn out? Terrible. Pretty much inedible. But that's okay - I put them in a jar and will save them for raspberry tea.

Oh, and by the way...our Virginia creeper, while not as picturesque as our neighbor's, is pretty lush this year thanks to our very wet spring.


  1. Running out the door for the final day of a grueling yard sale in the hottest weather we've had thus far...

    BUT... know I can't go without a comment on your raspberry victory...all raspberries represent victory to me! Your jam looks great and your yield was good. Here's a thing I do with them:

    Cover berries in water and bring to a boil, then allow to cool a bit and run through the blender. Use a wooden spoon to mash the mixture through a large wire
    strainer and toss the seeds into a saucepan. When you've strained it all, add sugar and a little lime or lemon juice to your puree and cook as you did for your jam. Meanwhile, back at the saucepan...cover to at least twice the depth of your seeds, mix, add sugar to taste and a bit of lemon or lime if it seems weak, and boil for fifteen or twenty minutes and strain again. You'll have some great juice for drinking or adding to tea. Alternately, add a tablespoon of your puree and cook another twenty or thirty minutes longer and you'll have syrup. This is how I boost the mileage of all my berries and fruit, and it's well worth the effort. Let me know if you decide to try it.
    Gotta run...

    A. McSp

  2. Save the Canning JarsAugust 15, 2010 at 8:46 AM

    Great post! Like you, I'm processing fruit right now. I wasn't kidding the other day when I told you that your posts almost always line up with the very topic I'm currently trying to wrap my brain around.

    I picked all our young tree's peaches in the evening and got up the next a.m. and grabbed my Ball book, Stocking Up, Putting Food By, and Preserving Without Sugar. Eagerly, I was looking for recipes to get started.

    I found Lady Pearson's Peach Preserves and Lady Pearson's Plum Preserves and wondered who was Lady Pearson? Was she English? She must be a good cook!

    It was only after I had been awake longer than 5 minutes that I found out what it REALLY said which was, "Lazy Person's Peach Preserves". Sounds like just the recipe for me...the person too lazy to read critically.

    Now if only we could send the intoxicating fruit smells over the computer.....

  3. Save the Canning Jars, I laughed out loud when I read your post. It was too funny! Been there, done that. :)

    Anonymous Twit

  4. i too have had bountiful raspberries this year. i freeze most until cooler weather so i don't heat up the kitchen and die of heat exhaustion. to do this i just put the berries in a freezer container, snap on the lid and put it in the deep freeze. i love to experiment with jam, jelly and preserve recipes but if you are a layman at it then i highly recommend buying one box of suregel and following the directions exactly as that and you can't fail. there is nothing like a raspberry tort or raspberry cheesecake, or anylthing raspberry (or blackberry for that matter) out of season...makes for a reallly nice surprise goodie at thanksgiving and xmastime.

  5. I made jars and jars of raspberry compote this year. (rather a middle ground between jam and syrup. Runny enough to pour, but with the fruit chunks still in it.)
    Last year I made 6 half-pints and it was all gone by Christmas. Maybe the 20 half-pints I made this year will last till spring.

  6. I miss the wonderful jams and jellies that could be made from the wonderful fruits and berries in the Pacific Northwest.

  7. Save the Canning JarsAugust 16, 2010 at 7:09 AM

    You know how both Enola Gay and you produce as much of your food as possible? Well, you have a "sister" out there is cyberland. Check out this email I got from my friend M.B.this a.m. as I would like to introduce you to her:

    I slaved over a hot stove tonight and I was just thrilled with what I turned out and why. (The kids) decided to come for dinner tonight and so at a quarter to 5, I was scratching my head, trying to think what I could whip up fast. I took a jar of canned chicken (the chickens she just bought on sale for 39 cents/lb) and put that in a pot with a jar of my canned broth from the same chickens and heated that up. I made dumplings from my freshly ground soft white wheat (I love my nutrimill grinder!!!!!) and plopped them in the boiling chicken and broth. I opened a couple of jars of green beans, got corn out of the freezer that I had cut off the cob, as well as okra from the garden that I had floured and frozen and fried that. I boiled some of my new potatoes with butter and dill. I had just used up the last of my bread and so I grabbed one of my mixes that I sell that is the hazelnut, sunflower seed raisin yeast bread, mixed it up and pinched off balls to put into a muffin tin for rolls. I put honey in it instead of sugar and then I drizzled honey and cinnamon on the top like they do at Santa Fe Steakhouse. Oh my gosh. I thought they were going to make themselves sick on those rolls. I had made scones awhile back and had frozen them raw, so I let them thaw while we ate, then baked them and cut up strawberries which I put on top of the scones with whipped cream for strawberry shortcake. And now I am patting my stomach and grinning. Ah yes. How I love canning and freezing!!! Life is sooooooo much easier.

    As a side note, this friend talked the neighbor lady into splitting the cost of a hog. They had it killed & quartered, hauled it home and butchered it in the kitchen, cured the hams & bacon, made sausage, etc.

    In contrast, she taught the neighbors homeschool kids to speak French and at the end of the semester, put on a high tea, bringing out all her best china and silverware and made them speak French for passing the scones and hand made pastries and for casual conversation.

    There are some people who TALK about doing the stuff...and then there are those who DO the stuff. So now you've met my friend...the one that I want to live next door to when TSHTF!

  8. Canning Jar, I'm sitting here grinning as I read your post. What a woman your friend is! I hope you send this to Enola as I know she'd get just as big a kick. Tell your friend congrats on her creativity and self-sufficiency!
    - Patrice

  9. Not much fruit preserving? Bummer, I was coming on here in hopes of a tip. I'm about to preserve some peaces my mom brought over and wanted to know if the dip used to keep the color had to be the store bought kind, or if you had a more frugal recipe, or if the dip was even needed? Maybe one of your readers will know?!?!

    Love your articles!!
    Cindy in Texas

  10. LOL, Cindy - although I had never made fruit *preserves* before, I've canned lots and lots of fruit. What kind of dip for the peaches are you referring to? Usually I'll dip peaches in hot water to loosen the skins, and then maybe drizzle some lemon juice over the sliced peaches to keep them from getting discolored before packing them in the jars with syrup. Beyond that, if you can give me an idea what dip you use, I'll see if I can help.

    - Patrice

  11. Thanks, Patrice - The Ball Blue Book says to dip the fruit to prevent discoloration. I called their hotline and was told to use their Fruit Fresh Produce Protector product. I think that a lemon/citrus drizzle would do the trick, but am unsure of myself and was looking for some encouragement. There's got to be a more common alternative to their product! So much to learn; so little time. =)


  12. Patrice,
    I think I would have made freezer jam...not really a great one for Prepping, but has a wonderful fresh summery taste and probably half the work...
    Also, about peaches...when I canned them, I added a little bit of almost extract to each jar...I guess that old time canners used to put the pits in to give an almondy flavor...but they are poisonous...I have I did that and they were if I could get peaches again!