Iâ€™m not a fussy eater. In fact, my reputation for eating just about anything that grows goes a long way toward explaining my fondness for skirts with elastic waistbands. So it came as a bit of surprise to people to learn that I rarely ate my very own raspberry jam. The reason came down to one tiny thing, or rather thousands of tiny things. Pips. Raspberries are covered with them and I found that I would rather eat blueberry jam or peach jam or any of the other jams than deal with pips in my teeth.
But the pip problem has been solved thanks to my Stainless Steel Steam Juicer. My juicer probably gets as much use as any kitchen tool I own. I use it to juice grapes and make apple sauce. My version of tomato vegetable juice is far better than the over-salted stuff sold in stores. I even steam chicken and vegetables for a canned stock. But for some reason, it only recently occurred to me that I could steam raspberries and make jelly from the juice. I get all of the flavor and health benefits and none of the annoying tiny seeds.
The process could not be easier. I like to pick raspberries in the very early morning. The bees are not yet up and fighting me for space. The mosquitos arenâ€™t biting. Even the Japanese beetles seem to sleep in. The air is clear and cool and the sun has all of summerâ€™s warmth but none of summerâ€™s heat.
Enjoying myself mightily is a big part of my jelly making. I pick until my basket is full. If the berries are lush and productive I eat part of my breakfast as I wander between bushes. I often take my daughter with me. Phoebe is a tiny thing. She can see under the leaves to where the biggest, fattest berries hide. This part of the job is over far too soon.
If I were making jam I would have to pick over the berries, removing any small leaves or twigs. I donâ€™t have to do that with the juicer. Everything I pick goes right in the basket. My berries arenâ€™t sprayed so I donâ€™t do more than give them a quick rinse.
Next, I fill up the water reservoir that makes up the base of the juicer. I add a couple of marbles at the same time. If I get busy and the water boils out, the racket of the marbles will alert me before I do any damage to my juicer.
Now I wait. There is no stirring, no pot watching, nothing to do but gather my supplies. I put the jars in the canner to heat up and set the lids in a pan of hot water. I get out my big bowl and my motherâ€™s long-handled spoon. The canning funnel, jar lifter and the lid wandÂ are put out on a clean towel.
I only use Pomonaâ€™s Universal Pectin in my jelly making. The calcium water is waiting in the refrigerator. I keep a bottle of lemon juice at the ready. I add the pectin to the sugar and have a clean cloth ready to wipe jar rims with. None of this takes long so I often have time for a cup of mint tea while I wait for the raspberries to release their juice.
It takes about 45 minutes until I can see the juice begin to creep up the plastic tubing. I put my heavy glass measuring cup on a low table under the antique propane stove I use in my canning kitchen, ready to catch the juice. I always keep a half-gallon mason jar at the ready too, as the amount of juice is not always predictable. The clamp on the hose is released and the juice flows out.
Itâ€™s the most amazing color. Rubies could not be any prettier. I let the harvest determine whether Iâ€™ll be doing a double or triple batch of jelly that day. I always try to do large batches of whatever I prepare to save on energy, mine and the planetâ€™s. It takes only a few minutes to bring the raspberry juice, lemon juice and the calcium water to a boil. I find that adding the sugar and pectin in a slow stream to the juice mixture while someone else stirs prevents any large lumps from forming.
Another few minutes and the juicy mixture reaches a boil that canâ€™t be stirred down. Now all that left is to fill my jars with the thickened juice, add the hot lids and rings and set the jars in a boiling water bath. Ten minutes later the timer goes off and I pull the jars out one by one to cool on the counter. I love my Tattler lids but I confess that the satisfying â€œpingâ€ from single-use jar lids is a sound I miss. The reusable Tattlers seal silently.
There is very little waste left from juicing. The pips are there, of course and a bit of pulp. The chickens, pigs and compost compete for the leavings.
The jars will set until the following day. Iâ€™ll remove the rings and check the seals. Most of the jelly will be transported to the basement, waiting for a cold morning when popovers steam in the oven and raspberry jelly is just the ticket. Some will stay upstairs to be consumed right away. We are not big peanut butter and jelly fans here but we do love hot biscuits and jelly. Believe it or not, we also love cream cheese and jelly.Â And I always make one batch of red jelly with some cayenne pepper juiced in. Before you say â€œYuck!â€ try a dollop of pepper jelly on Brie topped with candied walnuts. Yum.
I have friends who think Iâ€™m a bit obsessive about my food. They will sometimes point out that I could buy a whole lot of jelly from the market with the money I spend on Steam juicers and jelly jars. They always point out that I need to count in the value of my time when figuring out how much my jelly cost to make. So I will. I donâ€™t see a medical doctor very often or a therapist ever. I have no need to take a vacation or engage in recreation as I love my home and I recreate every day. I seldom drive to a market and staying home means there are no costs for fuel or impulse purchases. There are always gifts at the ready should I need to send something to a teacher or a new mother or an overwhelmed friend. I have no expensive â€œhobbiesâ€. My pleasure is in growing, preserving and consuming food. So it would seem I could pay for the privilege of jelly making and still come out ahead.