Now that our raspberry canes are drooping heavy with fruit, it’s time to savor the rest of these summery days. Preserving such delicate berries needn’t mean hours at the stove in August’s dogged heat. My grandmother made super-quick jam relying on an old English recipe that uses the oven to retain the fruit’s shape and bright flavor.
The key is to make this jam in small batches rather than huge amounts, so there’s little stirring and no boiling. Lacking time, just package the berries up and freeze them to save so that you can make jam when the winter winds blow.
This quick oven method is great for delicate raspberries, blackberries, thimbleberries and currants. Heating the sugar first warms the berries before they hit the blast of the oven, so they cook through in less time. We also skip the water bath method that cooks the berries further after the jam has been made and put into jars, thus dulling the taste.
Raspberries burst with a balance of intense sweetness and acidity, and contain just enough natural pectin to create a mixture that’s thick and spreadable without the need for additional stabilizers or thickeners.
This raspberry jam will keep in the refrigerator for at least a month, but it’s so good, we wouldn’t count on it lasting more than a couple of days. It’s delicious folded into whipped cream to pile on shortcakes, dolloped onto pound cake or spooned over vanilla ice cream. For more savory uses, fold in chopped basil and drop onto chèvre for appetizers, add a chopped chile pepper for a sweet-hot salsa or stir in chopped rosemary to garnish a plate of chicken salad.
Soon as it’s gone, make more, and savor the summer jar by jar.
Beth Dooley is a Minneapolis writer and cooking instructor.