Monday, August 23, 2010

Blackberry Jam

This is a submission to a blog jump.  To see the other entries, go to

I live in the Pacific Northwest.  I'm always amazed that blogging has no borders, so let me explain.  Blackberries grow as a weed here, everywhere that is untended.  It can be quite a problem if you own land that isn't regularly stomped or grazed on.  They grow in unfortunate places, thick.  Little critters hide in them just waiting scare the pants off of little kids. 

After you've picked all that you can reach, you notice that there are many just beyond reach, high and low, through the stickers.  Grandpa used to take a big board (like a sheet of plywood) and lay it down across the blackberry vines, then stomp it flat.  We'd climb on the boards, the more of us the better, and pick berries.  Then grandpa or one of the boys would come along and move the board.  I love free food.  And I love all the experiences you have teetering away standing on the board picking blackberries.

My Golden Retriever dives into the berry vines based upon sounds or smells that we don't even get.  You hear him thrashing about.  I worry for him.  What will he encounter?  Is there something that might hurt him.  Husband says "he is a dog, afterall.  And he has about an inch worth of down and fur."  Husband is prone to exaggeration.  But no, he emerges from the stickers looking like a freekin' maniac, but basically unhurt and very, very happy.

Okay, so I bought these blackberries from Bizi farms, but I've picked like this many Augusts.  Back when I was poor and single, I made it every year among other things because it made good hostess gifts and other small gifts and because everyone loves it.  The way I do it isn't fancy, but stuff that works often isn't.

Blackberry Jam at the Osbornes
4 cups cleaned blackberries
7 cups sugar
1 pounch liquid pectin
1/2 t. butter, optional

Crush the berries in a large bowl with a potato masher.  Run 1/4 to 1/2 of the berries through a food mill to remove extra seeds.  Discard unwanted seeds. 

Wild berries, especially when grown in unfortunate places, can be seedy but sweet and delicious.  Domestically grown berries can be much less seedy.  Your choice how much seeds you remove.  Return everything you are keeping to the berry bowl. 

Carefully pour the contents of the berry bowl into a large heavy pot with the sugar and bring slowly to a full rolling boil.  A full rolling boil is one that can not be stirred down.  Add pectin and continue boiling for 1 minute.  I recommend using some sort of timer.  Not that you don't know what a minute is.  Just that canning is always easier if you plan ahead and be prepared.  I think they call that Mis En Place in professional cooking.  My Mom called it "Get all your stuff out first." My Mother didn't speak any French.

Ladel into prepared jars.  I recommend running all jars through the dishwasher as part of the Mis En Place thing.  Then, you know they are very clean and spider free. 

Place hot lids and bands on each jar.  Start a small skillet or sauce pan on the back of your stove about the time that you finish crushing the berries.  Bring it to a slow simmer.  Put the lids in the simmering water.  You'll be fishing them out with tongs, so put the tongs in the simmering water.  That way you are ready and everything has been boiled.  The rubber band on the lid needs to make a firm seal on the rim of the jars so make sure they line up. 
I'm not too particular about the bands.  They never touch food. 

This makes me deliriously happy, so feel free to enjoy the process.  The rubber of the lid needs to be firmly against the rim of the jar.  The band holds it in place until it seals.

Process jars in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.  Set a timer and remove them when the timer goes off.  The water level should be just at or just above the top of the jars.  The water should be a full boil.  Don't worry about the pot.  I use my largest stock pot.  Don't go out and buy something unless you really don't have a large heavy pot; then you need one. 

Careful with yourself.  Use pot holders and lifter tools.  Remember to make a memory.


  1. I loved your story about the blackberries - and I'd be worried about the dog too, but I bet he loves snooping round in the blackberries! Your jam looks delicious, and your tutorial is really great. I've never made jam before but you make it sound very do-able.

  2. Oh I curse blackberry vines but we'll be out picking next week! I can't wait for jam and cobblers and syrup. Blackberries are so amazing, aren't they? They should be exceptional this year with the cool temps we've had too. Thanks so much for linking up to Simple Lives Thursday!

    xo, Sustainable Eats

  3. You're right -- as a fellow PNWer -- blackberries are weeds. It is a shame our goats eat all of ours before we get berries, though. :) I like your tip for removing seeds. Thanks for sharing this in Simple Lives Thursday!