Homemade jam makes a great gift

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      EUGENE, Ore. Even if you haven't started your holiday shopping yet or if you just struggle with someone who's hard to shop for, a homemade gift may go a long way. You can turn some of those summer berries into a gift in time for Christmas. Oregon is the land that bears much fruit, so what better way to wish someone else happy holidays than by giving them a jar of homemade jam?

      "We grow everything so well here, it's really a great place to be for putting up food," Sarah Bast said. Bast works at Down to Earth garden store in Eugene.

      Jelly and jam may sound intimidating at first glance, but you only need three basic ingredients to make it: fruit, sugar and pectin.

      "And depending on the type of fruit you have, you're going to need to add some acid, too. Such as lemon juice or something like that," Bast said.

      If this is your first attempt at jam or jelly, you shouldn't try and eyeball your mixture. Instead, go with a reliable recipe that's been tested numerous times to avoid any potential mistakes.

      "Because if you don't follow proportions the right way, you might end up with a syrup or sauce instead of a jelly. Or it might be too set," Bast said.

      Once you've cleaned and sterilized your jars and lids, mince three jalapeno peppers which can be broiled in the oven to soften them up. In a bowl, mix together your raspberries and sugar. You can use a potato masher to help with this step. Next, you can add your fruit mixture, peppers and lemon juice into a saucepan and bring it to a rolling boil. Once it reaches that point, turn down your heat and stir in your pectin. Now, you'll want to simmer the batch for about ten minutes.

      Let it thicken, but skim off any foam. When it's ready, pour your jam into the jars, leaving about a quarter inch space on top. Cap off your jars and place them into your boiling water bath for about 15 minutes. Once they've cooled, you add your own festive label or decorate it with ribbon.

      "We get a lot of customers here who make stuff, especially for holiday gift giving," Bast said. "It's very economical and it's nice to have something that's really personal."

      It may help you avoid the long lines and it's a heartfelt gift right from your own garden.

      3 cups frozen or fresh raspberries
      3 jalapeno peppers
      1 1/2 cups sugar
      3 Tablespoons of lemon juice
      2 tablespoons pectin

      Fill a large stockpot or canning pot with water, and bring to a boil. (Fill it just enough to cover your jam jars, about 1/2 full.) Wash and rinse your jars, lids.
      Stem and mince the jalapenos. For a spicier jam, you can include the seeds.

      In a bowl or large pot, mash together your berries and sugar. A potato masher may help with this step. Add in your lemon juice and jalapenos and bring to a rolling boil in your pot.

      Stir continuously. Once the fruit comes to a boil, pour in the pectin and simmer for about ten minutes.

      Remove mixture from the heat, and skim off any foam.
      Ladle jam into jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Place the lids and screw on rings on each jar. Then, cook the jars in your boiling water bath for about 15 minutes. Allow them to cool and dry on a towel or rack on your countertop before decorating.