Our family craves a carefully curated pantry. Think of preserves in limited editions made from produce we’ve grown or foraged. With rooms in our house that transform into a full-blown artists’ print shop at a moment’s notice, I think this is really about designing and fabricating labels and other collateral. So far, I’ve held up my end of the bargain, with dozens of packed jars ready for labeling. They have makeshift sticky notes all over them now but someday they will be boasting graphics as gorgeous as the jam.
Along with the label idea came a search for distinctive jars and lids. The ubiquitous quilted Ball jelly jars with two-piece lids seemed too homey for this experiment. My husband trekked out to Fillmore Container in Lancaster, Pennsylvania to see what they could offer as an alternative. Well, quite a lot. Even though I continually used the words “continuous thread” (CT) to describe the lids I wanted, he came back with lugs anyway. A while back, Marisa from Food in Jars posted about CT versus lug, courtesy of Fillmore Container, and I followed their advice.
Most typical for water bath canning are one-piece or two-piece lids with continuous threads and “buttons” in the middle of the lids that suck in with the vacuum formed when air is drawn out of the jar. That button tells you that an appropriate seal is made. Continuous thread, or screw-on lid, means that the lid and the jar each have grooves that are threaded in one continuous bead. Home canners are familiar with this system. Lugs, also called twist-off, have multiple threads in the lid that correspond to threads in the jar, so they interlock. They’re made for capping machines that set them perfectly in a commercial setting but actually are easy to set by hand. The trick is to get them snug but not so tight as to strip the thread and not so loose that they’ll disengage. The USDA prefers the CT method since it’s more foolproof for the home canner but Fillmore insists that lugs work too. So far, I agree. Just get the high heat variety of any type since water bath canning means that the jars are subjected to boiling water at 212 degrees F.
This jam follows my yearly ritual of using red currants – the few small boxes that come my way – to add a tart and perky edge to berry jam of all sorts, and also to rhubarb. This jam is delicious. Just waiting for those labels, ahem.
Wild Raspberry and Red Currant Jam
4 c wild raspberries
2 c cane sugar, preferably organic
1 lemon, juiced, with seeds and peel reserved
½ pt (1 c), fresh red currants, de-stemmed
1 c water
Pick over the raspberries, removing any stem ends that linger, and rinse lightly with cool water. Place in a large bowl and add the sugar and lemon juice. Stir to combine. Place reserved lemon seeds and a few slices of peel in a small muslin sack and submerge in the fruit. Set aside to macerate for several hours.
Clean the currants and place them in a small pot with water. Bring to a boil and cook until the currants burst, about 4 minutes. Set aside to cool. Refrigerate if not using right away.
Place the raspberries in a large pot and bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Simmer for 5 minutes and return to the bowl to cool. Combine with the currant mixture. Refrigerate if not using right away.
When ready to prepare the jam, prepare the jars for water bath canning. Place a saucer in the freezer to test the gel.
Remove the sack of lemon seeds and bring the mixture to a boil over medium high heat. Cook until the jam tests for gel (a drop on the frozen plate will be wrinkly to the touch). Fill the prepared jars and process in a water bath for 10 minutes after the water boils. Turn off the heat, remove the lid, and let sit for 5 minutes before removing the jars to a counter to sit, undisturbed, until cool.
Makes 6 four-ounce jars.