Kidding! That wasn't the original intent, but we collectively picked about 10 quarts of berries (I think. My math skills are notoriously poor. We got 40 cups; isn't that 10 quarts? It's 40 divided by 4, right? Bueller? Bueller?)
Anyways, since everyone except Whit and me had to fly home on Monday, we decided that I would put up a ton of jam, and give it to all involved parties later on. I actually love making jam. When I first started doing preserves last year, I was super anxious; my chemistry education basically shrieked "you have to have everything measured correctly because otherwise chemistry laws will sneak into the jars and leave not-fun presents like C. botulinum!" Gradually, I realized that since I boiling the crap out of the jars, things should probably be fine.
Berry jam is especially easy, because you just have to boil together sugar and berries. That's it. No fussing with powdered versus liquid pectin, no addition of other spices, no addition of extra acid. It's totally simple and rewarding.
I use recipes from the Ball Blue Book of Preserving for all my preserving, but since I don't have a steam-pressure canner, I stick with the high-acid recipes.
Berry Jam (from Ball Blue Book of Preserving)
9 cups of berries
6 cups of sugar
Note: you'll want to wash and prep your jars, lids, and bands before starting. After washing, transfer the jars and lids (but not bands) to either a pot of simmering water, or a oven a little over 180° F. Remove the jars and lids as you need them to fill.
- Combine berries and sugar in a large saucepot. Bring slowly to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cook rapidly to gelling point.* As mixture thickens, stir frequently to prevent sticking. Remove from heat. Skim foam in necessary.
- Ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Adjust two-piece caps. Process 15 minutes in a boiling-water canner.
* the gelling point can either by assessed by a thermometer (target is 8° F over the boiling point of water) or by the "sheeting test":
Using the sheet test, dip a cool, metal spoon into the boiling jelly. Lift out a spoonful of the mixture; moving the spoon away from the steam. Tip the spoon over a dish so the juice will drop off. When the jelly mixture first begins to boil, the drops will be light and syrupy. After continued cooking, the drops will become larger and will drop off the spoon in a sheet or flake. The gelling point has been reached when the jelly sheets off the spoon.