Cranberry Jam: Winter in a Jar

Making Jam is so quintessentially winter to me.  There’s just something about standing over a bubbling pot of fruit, while looking out my kitchen window at the snow (okay, wishful thinking…it’s usually rain in Vancouver) that provides me with warmth from the inside out. 

But admittedly, jam has always provoked a bit of fear in me.  I always envisioned the making of jam to be some sort of terrible ordeal where the whole family is involved: one stirs, one sterilizes jars, one cans, and one pulls his or her hair out on behalf of the others.  So imagine my surprise when I found myself standing over a small pot of bubbling cranberries on one burner this afternoon while a jar was being sterilized in a pot on another.  The whole “ordeal” took no more than an hour and the end products were a deeply crimson, seedy cranberry jam and an intensely surprised and positively giddy mum and sister!

Whose magic recipe you ask? None other than Nigella Lawson.  I was lucky enough to nab her book “Feast” a couple of years ago at an almost unbelievable price: in fact, I still have the price tag on it, a battle scar of sorts.  Don’t ask me why it took me two years to try out this jam recipe: I told you, I was once scared of jam. 

Nigella is a part of my Culinary Pantheon.  Her philosophy is really that though cooking is a necessity, what is not is making it difficult and laborous.  One of my favourite chefs, I’ve been watching Nigella Lawson cook since her TV debut!

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

150 grams cranberries (I buy packages of cranberries when they are on sale, and stock up – they freeze extremely well)

150 grams sugar

*Note: Nigella’s recipe calls for 350 grams each, cranberries and sugar, but I had 150 grams on hand.  As long as you have equal parts of each, you’re good to go!

Method:

1. In a metal pot, add water to create a thin film.  I added water until it just covered the bottom of the pot.

2. Add cranberries (if they are frozen, give them a quick rinse to thaw them) and sugar and stir (patiently, as Nigella qualifies) on low heat until the sugar dissolves.  This is the longest part of this recipe – it takes a few minutes for the sugar to dissolve.  Your indication that the sugar is dissolved really comes from the cranberries, which get coated in the sugar syrup that forms: if they appear grainy on the surface, the sugar is not dissolved yet so keep stirring!  As soon as the cranberries are glossy (not grainy) on their surfaces, the sugar is dissolved.

3. Boil the cranberries on medium-high until the “setting stage” is reached.  This takes about 7 minutes.  The mixture will look like jam.

4. Voila! Jam! No, I’m serious: jam! I know – no hair-pulling, no family crises and believe it or not, you don’t need an army to pull off this jam recipe.  Now pour the warm jam into a freshly sterilized jar and seal…that is, if you can keep yourself from eating it right out of the pot!

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