Jam

I’ve been collecting jars from thrift stores for a long time—too long, really.  I had fine lofty plans for a cupboard full of jam last fall, but somehow the sunny late summer days when I could have been picking blackberries just slipped by and before I knew it, winter was here, it was raining, and I was still buying my jam at the grocery store.

As I’ve been out running this summer, I’ve been watching the blackberries flower, then fruit, then ripen.  Finally it was time, and my sister and I went out and picked a million blackberries on a beautiful sunny afternoon.  And that was it.   I was committed.  With two gallons of berries in my fridge, the clock started ticking.  The very next afternoon, I got out my equipment, my cookbooks, and a whole lot of sugar.  I mean a TON of sugar.

I had never made jam before.  And the part that confounded me for a while was the strongly worded but completely opposite directions in all of the books.

Sterilize your jars in the oven, one book suggested.  NEVER sterilize in the oven, said the next, the jars might explode. Try the dishwasher.  Don’t even bother sterilizing at all, directed a third.

Seal with paraffin!  No, waxed paper!  Only lids and rings will do!

There were long boil vs. short boil recipes.

And the pro and anti-pectin factions.

Then there was the bitter controversy over whether to turn the jars upside down while they seal, replete with italics.

Fortunately, jam making wasn’t particularly difficult.  I chose the most conservative recipe and followed it religiously.  I measured and mashed and cooked, and filled and processed.  And at last, there on my cutting board, were a row of jars, glowing deep purple like jewels, lids popping musically as they sealed.

And the jam, when I finally spread it on my pancakes, was divine.  It tasted like blackberries.  Bright, fresh, summery, and just sweet enough.

That taste of summer will be most welcome when, all too soon, winter is here, and it is raining again.

The recipe I used was the Blackberry Jam recipe from 175 Best Jams, Jellies, Marmalades, & Other Soft Spreads, by Linda J. Amendt.

Blackberry Jam

  • 5 cups crushed blackberries
  • 1 box (1.75 oz) regular powdered fruit pectin
  • 6 1/3 cups granulated sugar, divided
  • ½ tsp unsalted butter (optional)
  1. Prepare canning jars and lids and bring water in water bath canner to a boil
  2. Pour blackberries into an 8-quart stainless steel stockpot.
  3. In a small bowl, combine pectin and ¼ cup of the sugar.  Gradually stir into the fruit.  Add butter, if using.
  4. Bring fruit mixture to a full rolling boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly.  Gradually stir in the remaining sugar.  Return to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly, and boil for 1 minute.
  5. Remove pot from heat and skim off any foam.  Let jam cool in the pot for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace.  Remove any air bubbles.  Wipe jar rims and threads with a clean, damp paper towel.  Center hot lids on jars and screw on bands until finger-tip tight.
  7. Place jars in canner, making sure they are covered by at least 1 inch of water.  Cover and bring to a gentle boil.  Process 4-oz jars and 8-oz jars for 10 minutes; process 1-pint jars for 15 minutes.
  8. Remove jars from canner and place on a wire rack or cloth towel.  Let cool for 24 hours, then check seals.  Wash and dry jars and store in a cool, dry, dark location.

A few notes:

I did not use the butter, which is supposed to help reduce foam.  It just sounded too weird.

I put about 1/5 of the berries through a sieve to reduce the seeds in the finished product.  Next time, I’ll use a food mill for that, because it was awfully hard to mash those berries through the sieve.

If you’ve made jam before, this is probably enough information for you.  If you haven’t, I think that the whole book is necessary to make the jam properly.  It is full of precise step-by-step instructions and a rationale for each of them, tips in side bars, and equipment lists, all of which contribute to the success of the jam.

*****

I am very excited to be attending the International Food Blogger Conference this weekend.  This is my first blogging conference and I’m looking forward to everything: workshops, speakers, food, wine, and especially meeting some of my fellow food bloggers.    Stay tuned, as I’m sure I will have lots to share about this next week.

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16 thoughts on “Jam

  1. kristy

    I love making my own jam! You’re so lucky because you can easily get the commercial pectin from the store, while I have to make my own natural pectin. A lot of work but still loving it! Thanks for sharing & have a nice day.
    Kristy

    Reply
  2. Michele

    Dear Chowgirl,

    Congratulations on your first jam making. If you want to try it with less sugar, get some Pomona’s Universal Pectin (available at PCC). It uses a pectin that is activated by calcium rather than sugar content (in the package is an envelope of calcium powder that you dissolve in water and add to the jam), so you can use much less sugar than traditional jam and it tastes even more like fresh fruit.

    Also, in response to a comment you left on someone else’s blog about cardoons, you can get them here in Seattle. They sell the plants at City People’s Garden Store (and probably other good nurseries, e.g. Swanson’s, Molbaks). They are perennials. I bought two plants and put them in my front yard several years ago and they are still going strong. They spread (send up new bunches from the roots) and you can divide them or just cut them back/take some out. They are as delicious as the Italian cook said, a pain to harvest and prep, but worth it.

    best,
    Michele in Wedgwood

    Reply
  3. Tami

    How exciting! I think when you first make jam, it doesn’t really matter which method you go with. You’ll have your own journey. I’ve been making jam for years and have learned my own preference in recipe and technique. Its so much fun. I still get giddy each time, but I certainly remember the very first batch of jam I made so many years ago. I felt like Superwoman! Happy preserving! PS, I was hoping you’d say the conference was horrible so I wouldn’t feel bad about missing it:) NEXT YEAR!

    Reply
  4. SMITH BITES

    I’m sooooo excited that you’re at IFBC this weekend and cannot wait to hear all about your adventures! I’ve been following the tweets on Twitter (are you on twitter? have looked so if you are, pls let me know as I’d like to follow!) Back to jam – made jams years ago and now that we’ve had a garden, am back at it again; it’s so nice to be able to control how much sugar, etc. not to mention how delicious it is when winter rolls around and everything is a frozen tundra! I am one that flips my jars upside down to seal – works like a charm!

    Reply
    1. The Rowdy Chowgirl Post author

      Debra-I just got home from the conference and I am exhausted! It was wonderful and I will blog about it. I’m not on twitter, but there were some hilarious tweets coming from that crowd!

      I didn’t flip my jam jars, based on the dire warnings in the book I chose. But they did seal nicely. I get the feeling (in spite of the dire warnings) that there’s a lot of wiggle room for variations in preserving methods with jam because of the high sugar content.

      Reply
  5. Sarah

    That jam looks divine. I was fortunate to have a friend give me a jar of her fresh strawberry jam earlier this summer. We never ate a whole jar of jam as fast as that one–tastes just like summer. Enjoy your harvest!

    Reply
  6. Stella

    Oh Rowdy, that’s so nice that you made jam this year. And all of the contradictory advice is too funny. I find a lot of that too when I’m trying to figure out something culinary. Everyone has their own way, I guess…
    Your jam looks delicious, and I want some jars like that. Did you get them at a major outlet that might be here in FL too? I can’t find jars anywhere:(

    Reply
    1. The Rowdy Chowgirl Post author

      Stella-
      I have several sizes of jars, but the ones in the picture are just basic 6 oz Ball jelly jars. I got them at a thrift store, but you can definitely get them anywhere canning supplies are sold–even the grocery store at this time of year, around here…you might want to try a hardware store, especially a smaller one. Hope that helps!

      Reply
      1. Stella

        Hey Rowdy, that’s a good idea. I’ll call around before going. I have a sneaking suspicion they have stuff like that (jars) out there on the West Coast areas b/c you guys actually do nice things like canning (smile)…
        Hey, I just saw your photo on Taste Spotting, so yum again! Yeah!

  7. Monet

    Delicious! I’ve only made jam once, but my best friend is an expert jam maker and she always sends me jars of the most delicious varieties. I’m glad you had success!

    Reply
  8. Natalie

    I have just checked on Amazon.com and you can get that book in the States.

    Wow, a food bloggers conference, how exciting. Not sure we have those over here!

    Reply
    1. The Rowdy Chowgirl Post author

      Thanks for the book suggestion, Natalie. Maybe you’ll have to come to a food bloggers conference over here someday!

      Reply
  9. Natalie

    I too have been jam making this week and it was my first attempt at it. I have a great preserve book and would highly recommend it if you can get a copy in the States called River Cottage Handbook – preserves. It has all the information you need about sterilising, setting points and a great table of information about fruits and their pectin levels etc.

    Reply

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