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.
- 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)
- Prepare canning jars and lids and bring water in water bath canner to a boil
- Pour blackberries into an 8-quart stainless steel stockpot.
- In a small bowl, combine pectin and ¼ cup of the sugar. Gradually stir into the fruit. Add butter, if using.
- 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.
- Remove pot from heat and skim off any foam. Let jam cool in the pot for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.