Making and preserving raspberry jam is a beloved British tradition. Each summer, as our plentiful raspberry crops start to bear fruit, people across the UK harvest, prepare, and preserve raspberries so that they can enjoy them throughout the entire year. Nothing is better on a cold winter morning than some fresh bread slathered with butter and a dollop of raspberry jam, the authentic taste of summer!
The history of raspberries
Raspberries are native to Eastern Asia, and have been spread by humans across Europe and beyond over the past three millennia. In fact, there is evidence that our Palaeolithic ancestors liked to snack on these delectable berries!
There are two competing theories on where the name raspberry originates – some say that it is derived from the Anglo Saxon raspise, “a sweet rose-colored wine” (mid-15th century) or raspoie, an old Germanic word meaning “thicket.” However, other etymologists believe that is derived from the Old English rasp, meaning rough surface. Raspberry would then literally translate to “rough berry.”
The history of fruit jams
Before the era of refrigeration, people had to preserve their fruits and vegetables so that they could enjoy them throughout the cold winter and early spring months. Cucumbers became pickles, tomatoes became passata, and fruits were blended with sugar to create jams and jellies.
Food historians believe that jam originates with the Ancient Greeks, who preserved quinces with honey. Once the transatlantic slave trade resulted in plentiful cheap sugar in the 17th century, cane sugar became more affordable. It was frequently used to preserve fruit.
Jams, jellies, marmalades, and conserves are all made by blending fruit with sugar. What differentiates them?
- Jams – Made with crushed fruit chunks
- Jellies – The crushed fruits are strained, and the resulting juice is mixed with gelatine
- Marmalade – Strained fruit juice is mixed with sugar, and once nearly set the fruit chunks are added back in
- Conserves – Fruits, nuts, and dried fruits are incorporated into the strained fruit jam
Raspberry Jam Prep Time
Our delightfully simple raspberry jam recipe takes only 15 minutes or so of prep time.
This recipe takes only 12 minutes to cook, and at least 2 or 3 hours to fully cool.
This raspberry jam recipe yields approximately 1.5 kilos of jam.
Our raspberry jam recipe, adapted from BBC Good Food, calls for just 3 ingredients:
- 1kg raspberries
- 1kg bag jam sugar (make sure you select the recipe with added pectin)
- The juice of 1 lemon
- Once you have sterilised your jam jars (see method detailed below), put a plate in your freezer.
- Place half of your raspberries into a preserving pan with the lemon juice.
- Using a potato masher, mash the berries over low heat and leave to cook for 5 minutes.
- Put the cooked berries in a sieve placed over a bowl. Once drained of juice, use a wooden spoon to push the pulp through the sieve to remove the seeds.
- Place the juice and pulp back in the preserving pan on low heat, and add the sugar.
- Add the remaining fresh raspberries and bring to the boil.
- Boil at a high heat for 5 mins.
- Test your jam by dropping a blob on the chilled plate. When you push it with your finger, it should look like jam. If not, keep boiling and test at 2-minute intervals.
The surface of the jam may look cloudy, but if you stir well, this will go away as it cools.
Pour your jam into your jar and seal to finger tight. Your jam will keep for one year, but you should refrigerate once open. Do note that the bright colour will darken over time – this is normal.
How to sterilise your jam jars
If you want to preserve your jam for longer than a few weeks and be able to keep it out of the fridge, you will need to sterilise your jars.
Sterilising sounds like a complicated step, but it is remarkably easy. You simply need to heat your jars to a point at which no germs can survive. If you don’t sterilise your jam jars, you can end up spoiling all of your hard work as bacteria builds up over time.
Ensure that you remove all rubber seals before placing lids in the oven.
- Preheat your oven to 160°C/gas mark 3.
- Thoroughly wash your jars and lids in hot, soapy water. Rinse them with hot water, but don’t dry them.
- Arrange your jars on a baking tray, and place in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.
- Soak your lids in boiling water while the jars are in the oven.
*Note – when filling your jars, make sure that the jam and the jars are the same temperatures; otherwise the glass will crack. You can either allow both to cool, or fill the hot jars with hot jam.
Additional recipe notes
Now that you have made this simple raspberry jam, you can start to experiment with different blends, flavours, and spices.
- Consider a blend of all of your favourite summer berries
- Make a raspberry cranberry jam with winter spices for your Christmas lunch
- Blend raspberries, mango, and pineapple for a tropical twist
- Add your favourite herbs, such as mint, basil, or thyme, for a sophisticated fruit jam that will pair well with savoury meat dishes
- For a cheeky boozy jam, replace some of the water with vodka or gin
Making raspberry jam is a wonderful way to preserve your summer crop, and it makes a beautiful gift for friends and family. Enjoy!
Buenfield, S. (2018). Homemade raspberry jam. [online] BBC Good Food. Available at: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/homemade-raspberry-jam [Accessed 25 Jun. 2020].
Great British Chefs (2015). How to Sterilise Jars For Jams & Preserves – Great British Chefs. [online] www.greatbritishchefs.com. Available at: https://www.greatbritishchefs.com/how-to-cook/how-to-sterilise-jars [Accessed 25 Jun. 2020].
In Depth Info (2010). History of Raspberries. [online] www.indepthinfo.com. Available at: http://www.indepthinfo.com/raspberries/history.htm [Accessed 25 Jun. 2020].
Lopez-Alt, J.K. (2018). J: Jams, Jellies (and Preserves and Conserves). [online] www.seriouseats.com. Available at: https://www.seriouseats.com/2007/04/j.html#:~:text=The%20history%20of%20jam%20dates [Accessed 25 Jun. 2020].
Wikipedia Contributors (2019). Raspberry. [online] Wikipedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raspberry [Accessed 25 Jun. 2020].
Sean Barker is the MD of First Tunnels, and is enthusiastic about providing quality gardening supplies to gardeners across the UK