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....

(printable recipe)
  • 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 10-15 minutes of bubbling. 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


  1. Blackberries are my favorite berries. You jam looks amazing!



  2. Thanks Rosa! Blackberries are my favorite too!

  3. I just love homemade jam!

  4. Your jam looks beautiful. I have a freezer load of blackberries that I picked with the kids last month. I have not gotten around to making jam, but they did cook up into a delicious cake!

    BTW: I think we are neighbors!

  5. Erin,
    Your children are so lucky to have such a wonderful mama. I've never been to any berry picking. Actually, just found out that there might be places where I could go do that here in Colorado, so I'm planning on going next year :).

    The jam looks delicious - love love love that 1st shot, nice light, color, and composition. The storage glass jar are beautiful too.

    Happy Friday!


    1. I recommend Berry Patch Farms for strawberries, they're still expecting a growth in the next month, I believe

  6. How fun! I can just imagine the excitement of finding berries in the wild. I remember picking ohelo berries near the volcano on the big island as a kid. Those were good times!! Not as yummy as blackberries, but just as fun to pick.

  7. Thanks Mal!

    Karen, We are pretty close to neighbors. I wish we lived in Bolinas, but only my mom lives there and we get to visit her often. We are in Berkeley which isn't too bad either;) But we have great friends up in Sonoma County where you are. It's so beautiful there and we have picked some killer blackberries on those country roads!

    Jenn, you are so sweet. I really am the lucky one with my kiddos. I hope you can seek out some wild blackberries. Picking is so satisfying and fun!

    Jamie, What are ohelo berries? Now I want to try them! I've been to Hawaii a number of times, but have missed out.


  8. Blackberry or/and fig jam are my all time favorites and were such special memories from my school years. The cafeteria ladies would give us sugar so we could mash them all up. We thought we had won the lottery. I'm so happy your children are discovering their delights.

    I didn't realize you are gluten free. I'm sure you have discovered Gluten Free Girl blog. There are so many blogs that are gluten free.

    Yes, Ireland is in 3 weeks! One day in London ...short stay in Dublin and then the rest way out in a remote area of the Dingle Peninsula.

  9. Mmm, I bet that jam is awesome -- not just because of the stellar fruit, but because of the fond memories associated with it.

  10. I'm right there with you on this one Erin. Nothing compares to building memories with your kids and making sure they know where their food comes from. It's huge. The day of foraging will live on and on every time they taste that jam. Well done mama!

  11. I freaked out about these jars when I first saw your post this afternoon. I've never seen canning jars with glass lids like these before. Anyway, I freaked out and dragged my boyfriend over to the computer screen, exclaiming that "we need these. Now!" He was actually mildly interested, so that was a plus;)

    I thought about how lucky you are to still have blackberries around, but then after reading I went on a service trip this afternoon to do some trail maintenance and... lo and behold, but we found ripe blackberries! That were still delicious, despite a (near?) frost last weekend. And right next to them? Raspberries, still in fruit as well. I was beyond confused. But incredibly excited. I think the concept of foraging in this blog post brought me luck - I also took home a pile of chanterelles:)

  12. Sarah, So exciting that you are just about ready for Ireland. Cannot wait to see the pix!! And I agree about fig jam- we make one with fig and bay and I drool just thinking about it.

    Carolyn :)

    Thanks Lori! Why not have all the fun we can with food, right? We need to get out there and pick a bit more before the season's over. Maybe a blackberry crisp this weekend?

    Emma, I freaked out the first time I saw Weck, too. Aren't the jars beautiful? They come in all sorts of great sizes and shapes. I like to use them as drinking glasses too. Wait....You have wild raspberries? Now I am so jealous. And chanterelles, already? What abundance!


  13. STUNNING photos. Such an inspiration. Brings back so many memories of picking berries as kids. Never fail to wow us all again with your beautiful pics :)

  14. There is something so joyous and empowering about stepping far from the anticeptic aisles at the local supermarket, turning even from the lovingly shaped rows on the farm, and into the jumbled diversity of unkempt nature. Along with the delicious black berries, we found a few boysenberries, loads of spicy nasturtiums for salads, and some very mature stinging nettles. We'll be back to the spot next spring for careful nettle harvesting to make soups and more yummy custards -
    Happy days!

  15. These are the memories that I had as a kid. I'll never forget those moments. Just like you said... the memories are just as sweet as the fruit. So true and well said!

  16. Loved this recipe. Please please tell us, where did you get those jars?! I'm from Toronto, Canada so not sure if I'll be able to get any...

  17. Love this post!! Just got back from picking apples and berries and can't wait to start making them into delicious things!

    I agree that picking your own fruit just makes the experience and the food so much more special

  18. Nothing compares to homemade jam! I love the pictures of everyone being involved in jam making!

  19. Erin, this looks wonderful. It's so much more fun to forage for your own berries, isn't it? We did it with morel mushrooms too. My mother did lots of canning and jam-making.
    I think the British call this bramble jam don't they? Super recipe!

  20. Nessie and Erin, Thanks for stopping by! I am so glad to have tapped into your childhood memories:)

    P - thanks cutie!

    Hey Stephanie, So funny! We just picked more apples and blackberries yesterday. This time we had a crowd of 7 picking away! What are you cooking up with your bounty?

    Anna, it really is fun to have everyone involved! Might as well put all hands to work, right?

    Barbara, You are so lucky to find wild morels! Yum!.... And I LOVE the name "Bramble Jam" - so poetic:)

    Alexis, Thank you!


  21. Hey Renata,
    I got the Weck jars at a local store here in Berkeley called The Gardener. I tried to buy Weck online from their website for years but could never get them to ship to me. Maybe it would be worth calling The Gardener and having them ship to you.
    (510) 548-4545
    Take care,

  22. Now I'm realizing it's been far too many years since I've picked berries. Beautiful jam with those hand-picked, lovely berries!

  23. beautiful post...
    I love it that you want your kids to have the same experience as most of us did while growing up. It's such a shame simple pleasures like picking berries in a forest are just disappearing...

    and the jam looks incredibly delicious!

  24. Thanks Lisa and M! Maybe we can try to keep these simple traditions alive, right? Picking berries is so easy, fun, and delicious:)


  25. Erin,
    I am amazed that I've just found your blog (searching for savory custards, BTW). It's so incredibly beautiful. Your writing, photography, and food are so soulful and rich.
    Thank You,
    Sabrina Modelle

  26. Hand picked is always better and I like to think that's not just in my head either :D I wish there were more places for picking around here, but so far I've only found a few spots within a few hours drive that I like. Your jam looks lovely! I found you through tastespotting and I've already marked a few of your jams for "must make for fall". I'm going to need to buy more jars!

  27. Sabrina, Thank you so much for your really kind comment. And, I saw your yuzu custard. Yum!

    Anna, Thanks! I often forget to go looking for berries (or other forageable goodies). But when do I remember, and make that extra effort, I am always so thrilled with the result.

    And happy jamming to you!


  28. Erin - this jam looks and sounds amazing. I do have "those" memories from being a for the bucket and one for for the bucket and one for me. We were full by the end of the picking day, but such fantastic memories. :)

    BTW - where do you buy those beautiful canning jars?

  29. Your jam looks amazingly delicious. I want my kids to have these memories too, wonder if they ever will with all these techs nowadays. great photos :)

  30. Lisa, One for the for me.... you nailed it:)!
    I bought the Weck jars at The Gardener in Berkeley. Aren't they pretty!

    Ali, You make such a good point. I do wonder about the tech influence as well with my kids. TV, computer, etc are so seductive, but I find that if I drag them into nature, the kids have so much fun. I keep trying to remind myself to make that extra effort.

    I hope everyone is having a great weekend!

  31. Just found your blog via 6 Bittersweets. Beautiful! We also love those special hand harvested memories :)

  32. Thanks Marla! It makes me so happy to hear that you have blackberry-stained memories too:)


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