If conventional jam-making isn't working out for you, or if you want to get away from the huge quantities of sugar needed to make ordinary jam set, gelatin might be your best friend. The mysterious balance of raspberries, sugar, acidity and pectin required to make good raspberry jam can be frustratingly difficult to achieve, especially for a tart jam. Unflavored gelatin sets the jam more reliably, and using it enables you to make a jam that's less sweet and has a fresher berry flavor.
Mash the berries lightly and bring them to a gentle simmer. Sprinkling them with up to 1/4 cup of sugar helps bring out their juices more quickly.
Remove 1/2 cup of the berry juice and chill it in your refrigerator until it's cold to the touch. Sprinkle an envelope of unflavored gelatin over the cold juice, and wait for a few minutes until it has absorbed the liquid and softened. Use one envelope of gelatin, or 2 tablespoons, for every quart of berries and juice.
Bring the raspberries to a boil and stir the gelatin mixture. Stir gently for 1 minute, breaking up the raspberries as little as possible, then remove the mixture from the heat.
Stir in half the sugar called for in your original recipe, or the equivalent in agave nectar or artificial sweetener. Taste the jam and add more sweetening if necessary.
Pour the hot jam into sterilized jars, and seal them with fresh, unused lids. Refrigerate the jam immediately.
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- On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen; Harold McGee
- University of Nebraska Lincoln Extension: Let's Preserve -- Jams, Jellies and Preserves
- If you're using gelatin to salvage a batch of jam that failed to set, just soften the correct amount of gelatin powder and stir it in. Don't add any additional sweeteners.
- Jam set with gelatin shouldn't be processed in a water bath like normal jams, as the process will weaken the gel. Because of this, gelatin-set jams have a short shelf life. Keep them refrigerated and use them within a month.
- For a fresher taste, reserve a portion of the raspberries and stir them into the hot jam along with the gelatin.
Fred Decker is a trained chef and prolific freelance writer. In previous careers, he sold insurance and mutual funds, and was a longtime retailer. He was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. His articles have appeared on numerous home and garden sites including GoneOutdoors, TheNest and eHow.