I'm feeling nostalgic these days.
I want my kids to have those memories. You know the ones where you wander through mysterious verdant paths searching for berries to pick. Where you have a basket in hand. A few minor wounds from thorny bushes. Fingers stained with berry juice. Those memories.
Just after I put together this post to share with you, I got a very kind email that seemed amazingly prescient. Pam Fitch, the dear mom of Paul's best friends, wrote to me about how my husband would pick blackberries in the San Juan Islands when he was a kid visiting for the summer. Pam would promise to make jams and cobblers, if the kids took the time to pick berries. I guess Paul spent most of his time eating his berries long before any could make it back to the kitchen. When I shared the email with Paul, we both smiled at our long love of the blackberry hunt. For both of us, the memories are just as sweet as the fruit.
Here's to carrying on the tradition and joy of picking blackberries. Foraged berries may be funkier than those gorgeous specimens we can buy at the store, but we picked 'em ourselves, damn it. Now let's make some jam with our bounty....
- 2 1/2 pounds or 5 cups of blackberries
- 3 - 3 3/4 cups sugar
- 1 lemon (zest and juice)
Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
Wash the berries. Place berries and sugar in a dutch oven or stock pot.
Zest the lemon and blanch the zest in hot water for 2-3 minutes to remove the bitter oils from the skins. Add blanched zest, along with the juice of the lemon, to the dutch oven. Stir everything together.
Set the dutch oven on the stove top over high heat. Stir berries regularly to avoid burning. You want the mixture to cook and bubble away vigorously. Taste periodically for sweetness and add a little more sugar, if you think it needs it. Trust yourself. I personally like my blackberry jam nice and sweet.
While your jam cooks, get your jars ready. A while back, Paul took a preserving class with local jam goddess, June Taylor, who taught Paul a very easy sterilizing technique: place clean jars on a baking sheet in a 250 degree oven while your jam is cooking (for at least 10 minutes). Paul also puts a glass Pyrex pouring cup in the oven along with the jars to sterilize the all the glass. He then washes the lids and seals in hot soapy water. (If you use Weck's glass lids, you can sterilize them in the oven too.)
Set everything aside when sterile and wait for jam finish cooking.
Your jam should be done as it becomes thick and syrupy after about 20 minutes. There is a whole jamming mystery about achieving the proper set and there is also a lot of subjectivity about this notion. I followed Paul's suggestions and he said to look for the the foam to lessen and the bubbles settle down a bit as the jam reaches the point of doneness.
Scoop hot jam into the jars using the sterile Pyrex pouring cup. Be sure to use a clean paper towel to wipe any excess jam for the lip of the jar before you pop the lids on. Seal immediately and the hot jam locks everything into place.
makes 6 cups