Monday, June 23, 2014

Making Wild Blackberry Jam

Leave the red ones for tomorrow.
One of the things I'm trying to do more of this year is take advantage of the wild fruit that grows around here. Sure, I've occasionally produced a batch of wine or jam from this bounty, but I've never made a habit of it.  Which means I've never collected my recipes nor gathered notes on them.

Also, I've seen very few reviews of stuff (like a certain vinegar-based weed killer) that simply doesn't work.  I find both types of commentary to be valuable. 

So lucky you. At least until I create a proper recipe system, I'm just going to chronicle recipes and notes here.  Unlucky for Five Boys' Mom's diet, today we made wild blackberry jam.

I chose this specific recipe (a new one for me) because you don't always get a nice round volume of berries when you pick your own fruit - I wanted one that could be easily adjusted for odd sizes.  Plus, since these blackberries are pretty tart, I wanted to go with sugar rather than honey as a sweetener.  This one fits the bill, so let's see what comes of it.

The recipe is simple:
  1. Combine x cups of wild blackberries with x cups of sugar.
  2. Boil it up to 220 degrees.
  3. Ladle the jam into hot jars.
  4. Process the jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Mission accomplished?
It really couldn't be simpler.  Lots of other recipes call for added pectin and/or a cooking time based on batch size.* For this one, I dropped 12 cups of ripe blackberries in 12 cups of sugar, mashed it up, and started boiling.  Half an hour later - *plink* *plink* - I hear the comforting sounds of lids snapping down.  Mission accomplished.

Or is it?  The first thing I noticed while cooking is that this jam is thin.  Gruel thin.  Getting the temp up to 220 doesn't take long, and most recipes want you to cook it down a bit to give the liquid some body.  The second thing I noticed is that when I pulled the jars from the canner, all the seeds were suspended in the top halves of the jars.  That's a hint that 10 minutes in boiling water did not change the consistency all that much.

But since I had a little left over, I poured it in a half-pint jar and popped it in the fridge to see if this concoction might thicken up a bit on cooling. It does, but not enough. The jam will stick to a cold spoon like crazy. But it's also pourable, like a thick syrup.  I mentioned in my post on strawberry honey jam that I like my jam thin.  But not this thin. All that complaining aside, I must note that it tastes freaking amazing.

So we have three options:
  1. Live with excessively thin jam**
  2. Re-cook it to a proper thickness, add some pectin, and re-can it
  3. Pretend it was supposed to be syrup all along.
Either of the last 2 is probably a winner, and I suspect that I'll ultimately split the difference, keeping the larger jars as syrup and re-canning the smaller ones as jam.  Good thing there are lots of berries left to pick, because we'll probably have the chance to try this again next weekend. With a new recipe, of course.

I'll let you know how it goes.

* 4 cups of berries seems to be the norm.
** And never give any of it away.


  1. Have I mentioned lately that I hate your guts?

    Fortunately/unfortunately, I had a mostly eaten jar of Black Raspberry/Blackberry Jam in the fridge--commercial, sugared, preserved, but nice and thick and seedless (Smuckers--for what it's worth)--though I had to pilfer some of my husband's Italian bread as I didn't buy the good stuff last trip to the store.

    Just promise me there won't be any "sitting AROUND the church" any time soon.

  2. "Just promise me..."

    None of this batch for sure. But I cannot promise there won't be any donated bags of wild berries...

    1. That should have read "no sitting AROUND the church REMARKS. Jelly, jam and syrup are always welcome--as are bags of berries.

      I'm not getting any younger--also not any thinner. Maybe I should insult a gypsy.....

  3. I'm a little jealous of your plentiful wild berries. We have wild plums. That's about it. I hear some make jelly out of those, but it doesn't sound as good as what you have here.

    I planted some blackberry bushes this spring that are good for zone 4. The tag says blackberries, the guy at the nursery told me they were black raspberries but he had blackberries coming. I think he was confused. Whatever they are, they are loaded with berries. I figure I can get a handful or two out of them. Hopefully they spread like wildfire.

    It sounds like you have some first rate pancake syrup. I can eat maple syrup, I like honey, but this sounds better than both.

  4. We have something called American plums that I got from the local extension service years ago. While I am ever-hopeful about them, it seems that each year they provide a large number of pits covered in purple skin. They are probably the same as wild plums - not much meat to them at all, but they make a heck of a hedge.