In Laura Klahre’s kitchen in Southold, the smell of sweet raspberries fills the small room. Heat radiating off the stove only intensifies the scent. Klahre stands in front of a small stainless steel pot called a Maslin pan, where inside a thick, bubbling red liquid simmers away as she continuously stirs. It’s hard to believe this is where her award winning Blossom Meadow Farm jam starts. But for her, the small batch, hand-made process is what makes it so delicious.
“This celebrates the fruit,” she says, a red bandana holding back her hair. “If I have nine pounds of berries, it would take too long to take the water out of it, and it wouldn’t have that fresh taste.”
The steps that Klahre takes to make her jam are simple — pick the fruit, weigh out ingredients (for raspberry jam, there are only two), combine over heat and jar. But it all starts with amazing fruit. Just behind her house on a two acre lot are the rows of raspberries, grown organically and picked twice a day.
“That way you get the berries at peak ripeness,” she said. Today she’d selected only the darkest red raspberries. “There really is a science to picking. If you let this fruit sit for just a few more hours on the plant, it really makes a difference in the flavor.”
You can tell that although the kitchen is where the jam comes together, out back with her plants is where Klahre is truly passionate. She points out all the tiny creatures buzzing around, particularly the ones that most people stay away from.
“Those are blue winged wasps, and you really only see them in July and August,” she said, pointing to the black blur humming from berry to berry. “They actually dig through the ground looking for Japanese beetle larvae, so they are a great natural predator. Everybody should be so happy when they see blue winged wasps around, and they don’t sting.”
Back in the kitchen, the jam starts coming together. After adding the raspberries and sugar, three pounds each, to the Maslin pan and stirring almost constantly until the mixture comes to a boil, Klahre sets a timer for nine minutes. And the stirring continues. Once the timer goes off, the thin liquid has thickened into jam consistency. After a few years of doing this process, everything is down to a science. Each berry (she also makes blueberry, black raspberry and strawberry jam) is stirred for a different amount of time until she gets the right texture.
“It’s even more time consuming with strawberry,” she says. “We would be stirring for 28 minutes!”
Which is not to say you should stress too much about getting it perfect if you try making jam at home. You can use organic local berries or frozen ones from the store, Klahre said, and “if it doesn’t set well or something, it’s still edible. You can still do so many things with it.”
She pushes two-thirds of the jam (or 11 ladle-fulls) through a sieve to remove the seeds. “This gives you the mouthfeel of seeds but full on jam flavor,” she said. The seedless jam is mixed back in with the seedy jam and poured into eight nine ounce jars, which then go into a ball canning machine for 29 minutes, just enough time for Klahre to clean everything up and start all over again.
This is Klahre’s routine every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, a process she says is exhausting but worth it.
“It makes a great product in the end, so I’m comfortable with it,” she said. “Like my mom always said, all you have in this world is your name, so you better make something good with it.”