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Blackberry Weekend: “Jam the Obscure”

August 26, 2011

Happy Friday everyone and welcome to Blackberry Weekend! Blackberries are officially considered a weed in Vancouver and they really do grow abundantly over a lot of the city. This week, Hélène and I went blackberry picking along the railroad tracks on Arbutus Street – my favourite secret blackberry location. The bushes stretch on for blocks and they’re not very picked over so you can stand in one or two spots and fill buckets!

Though I don’t know if having too many blackberries is possible, we really did pick quite a lot so I’ve been stretching my creativity and recipe searches to try to use them all up. Over the next few days, I’ll be posting all of my blackberry creations. Many of them can use different berries for those whose cities don’t have this wonderful abundance, but if you live in Vancouver, get yourself over to a berry patch before the season is over!

First up is a classic: Blackberry Jam. You can sink nearly endless amount of fruit into jams and it is a great way to clear out the fridge, if not the cupboard! There are a lot of freezer jam recipes out there and it’s true that for the beginner jam-maker, it can be safer, but given my limited freezer space, I usually throw myself into full jar sterilization and pectin mixing mode to make the ‘real thing’. This recipe does involve buying pectin, a somewhat unusual ingredient, but it’s easy to use and found everywhere so don’t panic!

Blackberry Jam 
Adapted from Various Sources

2-2 1/2 cups blackberries
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp pectin

Special Equipment: mason jars (1 or 2 cup size)

A lot of jam recipes are for very large batches, but I like keeping it small so that each jar can have a slightly different flavouring. It’s not that much harder to make separate batches once you already have your system going.

First step is to sterilize your mason jars. Place the glass jars in boiling water for five minutes, then turn off the heat and add the metal rings and lids. Remove just before adding the jam.

Mash enough blackberries to produce just under 2 cups – I usually find I need just over 2 cups to get the right amount. I don’t like to use a full 2 cups of berry mixture, because my jam won’t all fit in the jar.

Add the lemon juice and heat the berry mixture until just at a boil. In a separate bowl, mix together the sugar and pectin. Add this to the boiling mixture and stir on full heat for two minutes. Turn off the burner and pour the mixture into the sterilized jar.

Seal the jar and immerse fully in boiling water for 10 whole minutes (jam experts say to add a minute for every 1000 feet above sea level – not applicable here, but good to know).

If you don’t have all the canning supplies (canning rack, jar tongs, etc.), which I certainly don’t, this is where it gets tricky. I recommend getting the jar out of the boiling water by using a large slotted spoon or sturdy metal tongs in one hand to lift the jar up slightly, and an oven-mitted hand to grab the top of the jar and pull it fully out. You could of course use heavy-duty rubber gloves, but make sure they can withstand water that’s at a full boil.

A minute or so after you remove the jar, you should hear the satisfying ‘pop’ of the jam lid. If you miss it, check to see that your lid is indented and doesn’t push in when you press it. This is the final marker of success – you now have jam that won’t give you botulism!

Store anywhere but refrigerate after opening.

Variations and Other Ideas

Jam people really love their straight-up blackberry, it seems, so some of these ideas really have been plucked from internet obscurity. Good luck if you try out any of the flavour combinations and please do comment with your thoughts!

Blackberry Honey Jam – substitute honey for the sugar
Spiced Blackberry Jam – use brown sugar and add 2 tbsp cinnamon, 1 tsp cloves and a dash of vanilla
Mixed Berry Jam – throw in a few handfuls of any other berry of your choice (remove the same amount of blackberries)
Blackberry Red Wine Jam – use 1.5 cups fruit, boil 1/2 cup red wine separately before adding to boiling berry mixture, use approximately half the sugar
Blackberry Lime Jam – substitute lime for the lemon and add the zest from one lime

One Comment leave one →
  1. August 27, 2011 8:13 pm

    4 jars boiling away on the stove top right now. Thanks for the recipe!

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