Homemade Raspberry Jam

Anyone who is familiar with berries grown in this neck of the woods knows that from now until basically September it is prime time. I can attest to that through my own experiences.

Just a week or so ago, a friend of mine, Lillian Elsinga of Grand Forks, passed along some freshly made Nanking cherry juice that I used to make 3 pints of jelly.

It’s the second year in a row I’ve made the jelly. Last year, another friend, Marty Berg of Grand Forks, shared some of his berries with me.

And Therese and I have been indulging ourselves for the past two weeks with fresh raspberries from two patches we have in our yard. We’ve been eating the berries fresh (on our morning oatmeal) and freezing some for use when all we can do is dream about warm weather.

But now, I think it’s time to put up some jam. I got to thinking about that when a former co-worker, Andrea Weldele Anderson,  posted on her Facebook page that she had made 18 pints of raspberry jam. “Not bad for one night’s work,” she commented.

I would agree.

Here’s a recipe I like to use when making raspberry jam. It comes from the Ball Blue Book for canning. It’s a very easy recipe, and the results are really sweet.

Homemade Raspberry Jam
1 quart raspberries, mashed
6½ cups sugar
1 pouch liquid Pectin
7 to 8 ½-pint Mason jars with lids and rings
Wash the lids in hot soapy water. Let dry. Place the jars and rings in a pot. Do not allow the water to boil. Simmer until ready to fill.
In a sauce pan add 1 quart mashed raspberries. When the berries begin to bubble, add 6½ cups sugar. Once the sugar is dissolved, add one pouch of liquid pectin. Bring to a boil stirring constantly. Boil hard for one minute. Remove from heat. Scrape the foam off the top.
Remove jars from the water bath. Using a funnel, ladle the jam into the jars. Fill to the first line from the bottom. As the jam cools, it will expand. Wipe the rims clean. Top with the lids then screw on the ring.
Place the filled jars back into the water bath, making sure the jars do not touch. Add enough water to cover 1 to 2 inches.
Bring water to a rolling boil. Boil covered for 10 minutes. Remove from bath and let sit at least 24 hours. To determine if the lids are properly sealed, press down in the center of the lid. If it clicks or caves in under the pressure it is not sealed. You can repeat the water bath or store the jam in the refrigerator.

Berry Bars

Summer is a time of celebrations. And no matter if it’s a barbecue or picnic for a family get-together or just the occasion of friends gathering for a little repartee, things always go better with a delicious dessert.

Summer also is the tastiest time of the year when it comes to desserts because of all the seasonal and sweet fresh fruit that is available.

Here’s a light and easy summer dessert recipe from pastry chef and author, Paula Shoyer, which features raspberries and blueberries, two fruits that are readily available in this neck of the woods.

Shoyer, author of “The Kosher Baker: Over 160 Dairy-free Recipes from Traditional to Trendy,” says “Summer brings occasions when you may be baking for many people and need to whip up a tasty dessert with little more notice than your neighbor saying to come on by for a last-minute cook-out. Summer dessert baking does not have to mean spending hours in a hot kitchen.  As a busy wife and mother, I know how valuable time can be. I have created a fast and easy recipe that uses fresh seasonal summer fruits that pack and travel with ease for a picnic or party — if they last that long.”

Berry Bars
This easy recipe turns classic bar cookies into handheld two-bite pies that can be easily packed into a picnic hamper.  They hold up well, perfect for an afternoon in the sun or an evening concert.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) parve margarine, frozen for 15 minutes, plus extra for greasing pan and parchment
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
2 cups fresh blueberries
2 cups fresh raspberries
¼ cup sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch pan with some margarine. Place a piece of parchment in the pan that is large enough to go up the sides and hang over a few inches. Grease the top and sides of the parchment.
To make the crust: Place the flour and sugar into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Process for 10 seconds. Cut the margarine into pieces and add to the bowl. Process or use your hands to mix for another 10 seconds. Add the vanilla and egg yolk and then process or mix until the dough just comes together.
Divide the dough in half, making one piece a little bigger. Wrap both pieces in plastic; flatten and place the smaller one in the freezer. Take the larger piece and break it into pieces and scatter over the parchment. Press the pieces into the pan as evenly as you can. Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile place the raspberries and blueberries into a large bowl and squeeze with your hands to break up the raspberries.
Add the sugar and flour and squeeze together. This part is fun, but you may still want to use plastic gloves as I did.  Remove the other dough piece from the freezer and, using the large holes of a box grater, grate the remaining dough over the filling.
Bake for 50 minutes, or until the top starts to look golden brown. Let cool. Trim off about ¼ inch of the sides, if desired, and eat them immediately, and then cut into squares or long bars. Serve warm or cold.
Yield: 35 square bars.
Note: To learn more about Paula Shoyer, visit her website, www.PaulasPastry.com, and  www.kosherbaker.blogspot.com.

Peach-Raspberry Cobbler

Raspberries — to many people — are the first true sign of summer. They start showing their colors in late spring and by the time the solstice rolls around, they’re already finding their way into dishes such as crumbles, crisps and cobblers. And that’s not to mention the bowls of breakfast cereal that are bespeckled by those ruby-red beauties.

Around our house, it’s a given that some of the raspberries will be combined with oatmeal. And in recent times, Therese has loved to mix them with Greek yogurt, a real taste treat for those who’ve never tried that combo.

I just finished picking my second small bowl of raspberries from this summer’s crop from one of our two patches. (Yes, summer is officially here as of Tuesday.) So far, I’ve just been eating them all by themselves, but a recipe for a peach-raspberry cobbler that I came across today probably will get one of the next pickings.

As for the peaches I do have a fresh one from left from a half-dozen that a friend gave me the other day, and if that isn’t enough, several pints of the canned variety line my pantry shelf.

Peach-Raspberry Cobbler
4 cups peaches, in 1-inch pieces
1 cup fresh raspberries
2 tablespoons. fresh lemon juice
½ cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup flour
¼ cup fine cornmeal
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter, cut in small pieces
½ cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Coat a 2-quart baking dish with butter or baking spray, or divide among individual dishes.
In a bowl, gently mix together peaches, raspberries, lemon juice, brown sugar, ginger and salt. Set aside.
In another bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, brown sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix the butter into the flour by pinching with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse meal and the butter is evenly distributed. Add the buttermilk and stir until just mixed.
Top the fruit with dollops of the dough, letting the fruit show through.
Bake until the fruit is bubbling and the biscuits are golden, 20 to 25 minutes.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 230 calories, 7 grams fat (4 grams saturated), 485 milligrams sodium, 42 grams carbohydrates, 120 milligrams calcium, 3 grams protein, 16 milligrams cholesterol, 4 grams dietary fiber.

Scratch Brownies

Some people will say that if you plan on growing raspberries, you should be prepared to have a fight on your hands once they have become established. That’s because the fruit-bearing plants of the Rubus family are very evasive and have a tendency to spread unless pruned vigorously.

But one of the smartest gardening moves that I’ve made over the years was to transplant raspberries into our yard. Not only are they delicious as a topping for a number of desserts and cereals such as oatmeal, raspberries make yummy jam.

That being said, they also are one of the most nutritional members of the berry family, being a rich source of vitamin C,  manganese and dietary fiber. Contents of B vitamins 1-3, folic acid, magnesium, copper and iron also are high in raspberries.

And raspberries also rank near the top of all fruits for antioxidant strength. Antioxidants are substances that may protect your cells against the effects of free radicals, which can damage cells and may play a role in heart disease, cancer and other diseases.

Another of my favorite uses for raspberries is atop homemade brownies that are served with a little ice cream. It’s hard to beat a dessert such as this on a steamy summer day.

With that in mind, here is a recipe for some scratch brownies, which was adapted from  Ready for Dessert  by David Lebovitz, that probably would go well with some freshly picked raspberries and a little vanilla ice cream.

Scratch Brownies
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs, at room temperature
¼ cup flour
1 cup walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts or pecans, toasted, coarsely chopped
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Add the chocolate; stir until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat; stir in the sugar and vanilla until combined.
Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time. Add the flour; stir energetically 1 full minute (time yourself) until the batter loses its graininess, becomes smooth and glossy, and pulls away a bit from the sides of the saucepan. Stir in the nuts.
Scrape batter into a buttered 9-inch-square baking pan; bake until the center feels almost set, about 30 minutes. Do not overbake. Cool completely in the pan; cut into squares.
Yield: Serves 10.

Rockin’ with Raspberries

Spring has been late in coming, but some of the signs I’ve noticed in the past couple of days are encouraging. One of those is the greening up of our raspberry bushes. We have two patches, and with a little luck, a bumper crop isn’t out of the question.

Last summer was a good one for raspberries. We had fresh berries for cereal for about three weeks or so, as well as freezing a half-dozen to a dozen 2-cup bags. I also made some freezer jam.

And when Therese told me that she was in one of the patches yesterday, cleaning up some of the dead branches and doing a little overall maintenance, my thoughts turned to the jam. I had come across a recipe recently for some peanut butter and jelly shortbread sandwiches that called for some raspberry jam. The recipe, which follows, is adapted from “The Good Cookie” by Tish Boyle.

PB&J Shortbread Sandwiches
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, at room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
2/3 cup natural peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
¾ teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
¾ cup raspberry jam
Beat the butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed 1 minute. Gradually add the sugars, beating until well blended, about 1½ minutes. Mix in the peanut butter, vanilla and salt; lower the speed to medium-low. Beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes; lower the speed to low.
Beat in the flour slowly, until just blended. Turn the dough out onto a work surface; divide the dough in half. Shape into two disks. Wrap each disk in plastic; refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours. (Dough may be chilled up to 2 days.)
Heat oven to 300 degrees. Place one of the chilled disks on a lightly floured work surface; roll the dough to a thickness of less than ¼ inch. Cut out cookies with a 1¾-inch round cookie cutter; transfer to parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing cookies about ¾-inch apart. (Gather up scraps; rewrap. Chill 15 minutes before rerolling and cutting.)
Bake one cookie sheet at a time until cookies are just firm but not browned, 18 to 20 minutes. Cool on baking sheets 10 minutes; transfer to a wire rack. Cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough.
Spread half of the cookies with 1 teaspoon raspberry jam each; top with remaining cookies, forming sandwiches.
Yield: 35 sandwiches.
Approximate nutritional analysis per sandwich: 136 calories, 50 percent of calories from fat, 8 grams fat (4 grams saturated), 14 milligrams cholesterol, 15 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams protein, 69 milligrams sodium, no fiber.

Very Cherry Day

Thursday was a very cherry day for me.

That’s because a friend of mine, Marty Berg, e-mailed me to say that the Nanking cherry bush at my old house near University Park had produced an abundant crop of berries this summer, and he was wondering if I wanted some. I immediately replied yes and went there after having supper and walking my dogs.

I was rewarded with a large container of the berries, which also are know as also known as Korean cherry, Manchu cherry, Downy cherry, Shanghai cherry, Ando cherry, Mountain cherry, Chinese Bush cherry, Chinese Dwarf cherry or Hansen’s Bush Cherry. They are native to northern and western China (including Tibet), Korea, Mongolia and possibly northern India.

Before moving, I thoroughly enjoyed the fruit, which is sweet but slightly tart. I ate them right off the bush and also made some jam one year.

I’m not sure what we’ll do with this year’s batch, but the following recipe has given me some ideas, especially since we have an abundance of raspberries, and blueberry season in nearly upon us.

Very Berry Pie
1 cup cherry preserves (see note)
¼ cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
½ pound blueberries
¾ pound raspberries
2 teaspoons butter
Prepare pastry (see recipe below). Roll out the smaller round of chilled pastry into a 9-inch circle. Using a pastry wheel, slice into strips ¾-inch wide. Line a baking pan with parchment or waxed paper. Calmly weave a lattice onto the paper. Brush with milk, sprinkle with sugar. Slide pan into the freezer for at least 15 minutes.
Roll out the larger round of pastry into an 11-inch circle. Fit into a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Chill.
Scrape preserves into a large bowl. Stir together sugar and cornstarch, sprinkle onto preserves, mix thoroughly. Roll in blueberries and raspberries. Add butter, cut into bits. Using a rubber spatula, mix gently.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set chilled crust on top. Pile fruit mixture into the crust. Settle frozen lattice on top.
Slide into a 400-degree oven and bake until crust is light brown, 25 minutes. Cover loosely with foil and continue baking until the crust turns golden brown and the juices bubble, 20 to 25 minutes more. Cool on a rack completely before sliding off ring and slicing.
Yield: Serves 8.

Sour-Cream Pie Pastry
In a large bowl whisk together 1¾ cups flour, 1 tablespoon sugar and ¾ teaspoon salt. Tumble in ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes.
With quick fingers, work butter into flour until bits range in size from specks to peas. Stir together 1/3 cup sour cream, 2 teaspoons lemon juice and 2 tablespoons cold water.
Pour cream mixture over flour mixture. Toss with a fork to form lumps. If the pastry looks dry, drizzle on 1 to 2 tablespoons cold water. Turn out, knead once or twice. Divide pastry into 2 discs, 1 slightly larger than the other.
Wrap and chill at least 1 hour.