NRA Family Fun: Get Your Summer Jam On

Kids bored? Want to teach them something constructive and enjoy that lesson for the months to come? Go berry picking and make some jam!

by
posted on June 26, 2024
Bowl Of Raspberries

This is the time of year when berries sweeten up and can be picked in quantities that can be turned into many tasty treats to include jams and jellies. One of the great things about getting outside as a family and picking berries is that not only do you get to spend time in the outdoors, but the jam or jelly is simple and fun for the entire family to make. It stores well on a shelf for up to a year, making for fond memories and conversation throughout the coming months, particularly those cold bitter winter mornings when we yearn for summer again.

Your family can go to a local farm to pick berries, but if you want more adventure, you can forage! Head to the great outdoors (be sure you have permission to pick on private property!) and look for recently logged areas, field edges and well-lit locations such as old logging roads or meadows.

Depending on what area of the country you are located in, you may find wineberries (also sometimes called red raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, possibly domestic strawberries, huckleberries in the mountainous regions of the Northwest, mulberries, muscadine (some call them grapes), hackberries, chokeberries and elderberries. Some need to be cooked first (elderberries being one). There are even more berries in our great country, but those listed above are the most common.

Important Note

Before you get started foraging for berries, please familiarize yourself with which berries are edible and which ones are not. I highly recommend:

https://practicalselfreliance.com/edible-wild-berries-fruits/

https://www.farmersalmanac.com/identify-common-wild-berries

https://www.masterclass.com/articles/edible-wild-berries

If you are in doubt as to what you are picking, don’t risk it. Pokeberries, for instance, look like wild grapes and are common all over the southeast, yet are highly toxic. A good option for those who are unsure is either to download a plant identification app on your smartphone such as PlantNet, which is free or simply go pick fruit at a farm that is set up for “pick your own”. Either way, you are sure to get edible fruit.

Picking Tips

Be sure to wear insect repellent, long pants and a hat. There are ticks, deer flies and other insects that might be interested in meeting you! Watch for snakes. I try to avoid picking in low light despite that time being better for beating the heat, as it is tougher to see snakes. I do wear boots to protect my feet. Heavy pants such as Wrangler’s Riggs workwear or briar busting hunting pants are great for this outing! Try to avoid picking after a recent rain, as that will not only get you soaking wet, but the sugar content of the berries seems to decline.

Once you have your berries and have arrived home, check yourself for ticks (no one wants a tick disease such as Alpha Gal Syndrome), and give your berries a good rinse, but do not soak them in water. Next, gather the following supplies which are available at your local store.

What You Need

  • canning jars with rims and lids;
  • sugar;
  • Sure Gel fruit pectin;
  • large pot or canner;
  • Sauce Master or cheesecloth to remove seeds and to strain out the juice;
  • a few bowls; and, of course,
  • your stove

I still use the basic Sure Jell recipe from inside the box of pectin. I also opt for the lower sugar product; it seems to preserve the berry taste more and of course it is better for you with reduced sugar.

Directions 

Measure and rinse fruit, then extract the juice. This can be done by squeezing the fruit in a cheesecloth bag over a bowl to let the juice drain out and remove the fibrous parts and seeds, or you can get a Sauce Master or other related appliance (some meat grinders have attachments for this that are optional) to strain out the seeds. Otherwise, if you are not bothered by seeds, leave them in and make jam!

Read the Sure Jell recipe in the box. I like jelly, but jam is easier to make, and there are freezer varieties if you want an even easier recipe.

Once your juice is ready, pour it in a pot on high temperature and stir in the pectin and amount of sugar called for in the recipe and bring to a boil for one minute.

Pour into washed and dried jars to within a ¼" of the top and screw on the lids. I use a pitcher to pour the prepped juice, pectin and sugar mixture into, and then pour from the pitcher to the jars quickly.

Jam or jelly needs to be processed in a canner for a few minutes to kill any bacteria, and the time will depend on (get this) your altitude. The lids will seal when you remove the jars from the canner and let them cool. You will hear them “POP.” Store in a cool dry place. If any do not seal, put them in the refrigerator and enjoy in the coming week.

There are plenty of recipes online to include those that do not call for sugar if you are diabetic. Experiment with those as you have time and enjoy knowing what went into your jam or jelly. Get the whole family involved. When my kids were little, they helped me make jelly and took turns running their figure around the inside of the pitcher and pot after we poured the jelly into the jars. What a sweet memory and a tasty treat too!

 

 

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