We have dabbled with jam making in our household before. One drawback when on a budget is that the cost of purchasing the fruit as well as the preserving sugar works out to be far more expensive that jams you can buy in the supermarket. Even more expensive than your more artisan jams on the shelves these days. But, summertime in the UK means that there’s an abundance of blackberries lining country lanes, pathways and byways up and down the country. Head out with a tub and collect what you need.
So, as part of my attempt to get the girls trying some new things this summer, we decided to head out and pick ourselves some blackberries. Our intention – to make jam.
The trouble with blackberries is that they are produced on bushes (brambles) that are as prickly as they are thick. Moreover, the best, most ripe blackberries always seem to reside in the most awkward of places.
Once the girls had picked the “low hanging fruit” it was up to me and my long limbs to stretch myself into, onto and over the thickets to retrieve the ripe blackberries. Thankfully I had the foresight to wear full-length jeans and a fleece sweater to help reduce the scratches.
Sadly, the pricks from the blackberry bushes weren’t as frustrating as the vast quantity of dog waste that had been left unretrieved by disrespectful owners. Why people can’t or won’t clean up after their dogs is beyond me. I have a ready supply of poop bag in almost every jacket I own – just in case. I digress…
Once we’d collected what I thought to be a good crop in our containers we packed up and headed for home. The fact that dark clouds had rolled over with heavy droplets of rain falling and that we appeared to have exhausted the supply of reachable ripe fruit influenced this decision somewhat. It was also very clear that there was plenty more fruit yet to ripen this summer that we would be going back for.
The recipe that I had obtained said we needed 350g of blackberries. It was a pure guess that what we had collected would be enough. But as most jam recipes require 1:1 fruit to sugar ration it wouldn’t really be an issue if we were short.
Cleaning the Fruit
As with any fruit you’ve picked from the wild, you will need to clean it thoroughly before you start making your jam.
First, we washed the fruit in a colander under cold water for a few minutes whilst gently tossing the fruit around. Then, we transferred the fruit to a large bowl of salty water. As we stirred the fruit around bit os grass and leaves floated to the surface for us to pick out. We covered the bowl in cling film and left the blackberries in the salt water for 3 hours to kill the bugs and bacteria. It was rinsed again in cold water and stored in a container in the fridge overnight.
Making the Jam
Making jam is really quite straightforward and requires just your fruit, preserving sugar and, in the case of this jam, lemon juice. The recipe we followed called for 350g blackberries, 350g preserving sugar and the juice of one lemon. We had 700g of blackberries so we used 700g sugar and the juice from two lemons.
We started by putting the blackerries, sugar and lemon juice in a large pan.
Then we heated it very gently, folding the sugar into the blackberries as we went.
We combined the ingredients and allowed the jam to simmer for 10 minutes. We then did the plate test; put a small amount of the jam on a plate and put that into the fridge for a few minutes. You then take it out and tilt the plate. The jam should crinkle, if it is still runny then return the mixture to the low heat for 5 minutes and repeat until the test passes.
We heated our cleaned jars in the oven at 100 degrees for 30 minutes before filling them with the jam. To keep the mess down Helen suggested making a funnel from some parchment paper which worked brilliantly. We allowed the 3 jars to cool for a few hours before putting them into the fridge overnight.
The Finished Product
We put the jars of jam into the fridge and after a night it was ready to be eaten. I have to admit I snuck in first by having it on some toast – it was DELICIOUS!
Why don’t you get out this summer and pick some blackberries to make your own jam? We’ll be going back for more to stock up for winter. We’ll also be making an apple and blackberry pie (or crumble). I’ve even seen you can make wine, but I’m not sure I’m ready to try that.
For more information on foraging check out the Woodland Trust website. Interestingly, I discovered on there that you can actually eat crab apples, especially cooked as a crab apple jelly. I always thought crab apples were not edible, but now it’s next on my foraging list.
Thanks for reading.