I collected blackberries along my walking trails late last summer and froze them for use later. Since they are getting ready to bloom this spring, I figured it is time to make jam.
I do this frequently – collect or purchase fruits when they are ripe in summer and if I don’t have time to make jelly or jam, I will freeze it until I do have the time. It actually makes a wonderful winter project. Not to mention, lovely holiday gifts.
Freeze summer fruits
It’s important when freezing fruit for jam that it be washed and prepared because you won’t be able to do it once it thaws since it will be very soft. If it is cut, peeled if necessary, and ready for cooking, all you have to do is toss it in the pot, prepare your jars and get busy.
Blackberry jam from wild berries has a flavor that is so much more satisfying than commercially made jam. And, making jam is fairly easy to do once you get past the stigma that it is labor intensive. All it really takes is a bit of patience.
Pectin or not?
Blackberries have plenty of naturally occurring pectin (so do currants, raspberries and apricots) so you don’t have to add commercial pectin to make your jam jell. In general, jams and jellies made with commercial pectin are more foolproof, but they also require more sugar.
To seed or not to seed
Wild blackberries can be somewhat seedy, so your jam will be more palatable if you remove some seeds. No, you don’t have to pick them out. If you cook down your berries until they are soft and then run through a food mill, you will remove about half the seeds. If you really want a seedless jam, you’ll need to push the pulp through cheesecloth and you will lose a good bit of pulp in the process.
8 cups blackberries
4 cups sugar
½ c. water
Place the berries in a large pot and cook over medium-low heat about 20 minutes until the berries are very soft. You can mash them up a bit to help them release their juice.
Run the berries through a food mill. Measure your pulp, return to the kettle and add the same amount of sugar. Put a ceramic saucer in the freezer (I’ll explain in a minute). Stir and cook over medium heat until the jam thickens. To test for thickening, take a spoonful and drip it onto your frozen saucer. This cools the jam very quickly and you can tell how thick it will be when finished. When it doesn’t run when you tip the saucer, it’s ready.
Take the jam off the heat, skim off any foam (I like to save this in a jar for my toast – tastes just as good as the jam, just not as pretty). Ladle into clean, sterilized jars leaving about half an inch of headroom. Seal with hot flats and bands and put in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Remove to a cutting board to cool. And get an immense amount of satisfaction as you hear the pings of your sealing jars.