Perfectly ripened berries are sweet, bright, and beautiful. This mixed berry jam is absolutely the best way to preserve all of their full flavors.
Berries are perfect little fruits that not only provide fabulous flavor, but also provide all of the pectin needed to make jam. Boxed pectin is unnecessary and seems to dampen the vivid flavors of mixed berries. So save your pectin for fruits that need it. For your berries, stick with this simple recipe.
Before learning to make this jam, I was always hesitant to go without boxed pectin. I figured I would end up with a runny mess that would need to be used as pancake syrup. That is not the case with this mixed berry jam. This recipe really sets to a beautiful spreadable, but not runny, consistency. For the image above, I wanted just a tiny bit of jam to drip down the side of my biscuit, it was a crucial part of my vision for the scene (I have way too much fun taking these pictures.) I had to poke the jam with a fork tine to get that glistening drop to pour out of the biscuit. Without my silly coercing, that jam would have stayed exactly where it was spooned.
The consistency of this jam can be altered according to preference (notes on consistency included in directions). My ideal jam is chunkier than store bought jam but smooth enough for toddlers to eat on creamy PB&J sandwiches. This recipe has turned my 4 year old into a PB&J snob. No store bought, high fructose filled, squeeze bottle goo would be accepted by my little jam connoisseur.
I must give partial credit for the deliciousness of this Jam to a local farmer here in Alabama. Mountain Meadows Farms grows fabulous chemical-free berries . They also make and sell jams and jellies at local farmers’ markets. Mr Suttle (the farmer) once shared a jam making tip with me; he adds lime zest and lime juice to his superb strawberry jam. Since learning that, I have tried adding lime to just about every type of berry jam. Each time I have, the jam has been top notch. The flavor of the lime is not very strong itself, but it works to highlight the beautiful berry flavors. The result; a jam that is full of BIG flavor, not too sweet, not to tart; just perfect.
- 4 & 1/2 cups sugar
- 6 cups mixed berries (4cups crushed and 2 cups whole or in large pieces)
- juice from 1/2 large lemon
- juice from 1/2 lime
- zest of 1/2 lime
Yields: 3+ pints of jam
- If you will be canning this recipe, wash mason jars and have them resting in a hot water bath canner. Further canning instruction will follow these directions.
- Choose your berry mixture. Raspberries, blueberries and blackberries are higher in pectin than strawberries. If you use more than 50% strawberries your jam will be a softer setting jam. For this batch I used equal parts blueberry, raspberry, blackberry and strawberry. Raspberry does add a stronger flavor that is loved by some and dismissed by others. You could also use boysenberries, salmon berries or service berries in this recipe (all have plenty of pectin.)
- Mash the berries until you have 4 cups of crushed berries. It is very important that you crush the majority of the berries because this helps builds the body of the jam. Strawberries don’t crush easily, so I quarter them and use them for most of the 2 cups of uncrushed berries to be added.
- Add 2 cups of uncrushed berries to the crushed mix. I include whole blue berries and blackberries along with the quartered strawberries. If you want a smoother jam, you can crush all of the berries.
- To the crushed berries add the juice from 1/2 of a large lemon or a whole small lemon, and 1/2 of a lime. The lime is for flavor enhancement and is optional. The lemon juice is needed to adjust the pH to the range of 3.1 – 3.4, the level needed for natural pectins to set when combined with sugar.
- Zest 1/2 of a lime, only removing the green exterior. The white of the peel is bitter. Add zest to crushed berry mixture.
- Pour berry mixture and 4 & 1/2 cups sugar in a large non-reactive pot.
- Heat on medium until sugar is dissolved.
- Raise heat to high and bring to a full rolling boil.
- Stir frequently with a wooden spoon. Make sure to stir often enough to keep anything from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
- The jam may foam up a bit for a few minutes but the foam will settle, so don’t worry about it.
- After boiling for 25-35 minutes, the jam should start to set. Many recipes claim that pectin free jam sets in 10-20 minutes……they lie! I have never had a batch to thicken up in less than 30 minutes. There are 3 ways to know if jam is done. All 3 are described in detail here: Testing Jams and Jellies.
- When the jam is done, ladle into hot jars and process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes, following these instructions from the National Center for Food Preservation. http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_07/jelly_point.html
- Let the jars rest undisturbed for 24 hours. Waiting 24 hours to open a jar of this Perfect Mixed Berry Jam just might be the hardest step I’ve listed.