Thursday, August 20, 2009

Blackberry Jamming

For years my father cut back the brush growing rampant in the backyard. One year, he let it slide a bit. By the end of July, there were blackberries everywhere. This is the first year I've decided to make jam. I wore long pants and a jacket despite the ninety-degree heat. I doused myself with mosquito repellent and headed in. My mom had picked all the berries in the front, so I needed to brave the bugs, tall grass and thorns. It was completely worth it. In my quest to cut my family's expenses, "free" jam is a big help. We eat jam on biscuits, English muffins, toast and in soy nut butter sandwiches (my kids are allergic to peanuts). A half pint of blackberry jam runs about $2.99 at Market Basket, the cheapest of the stores in my area. I grabbed my canning jars that I usually use for applesauce, some liquid pectin, a bag of sugar and the berries.Lucky for me, my two-year-old decided to help and was completely sated in mashing the berries. He's at the age where helping mommy cook trumps anything else going on. Can't say the same for my almost-four-year-old. I digress.
The recipe in the box was simple enough. Word of caution: the instructions specifically say that if you change the sugar amount (lessen or use a sugar substitute) the consistency of the jam will be affected. I had planned on adding less than the recommended amount, but didn't want to end up with syrup. We mashed the berries and ended up with 8 cups. Then, we added the sugar. 7 cups of sugar per 4 cups of crushed berries. Goodness gracious that's a lot of sugar. The whole 5lb bag was added to the 8 cups of berries. It almost nauseated me. Then it was off to boil. With the powdered pectin, the mixture is all boiled together. The liquid pectin requires you to add it after the sugar and berries have been boiled. I'm glad I read the directions instead of using an online recipe I had found that didn't specify powdered or liquid. That might have been tragic and instead of pictures of my son mashing, I would have posted a picture of me crying...
I didn't sieve out any of the seeds. I like seeds. I like a lot of seeds. Plus, I just wanted it done.

After bringing the mix to a "rolling boil" (I like that phrase), I added in the 2 liquid pectin pouches, stirred quickly and let it boil for another minute. Then I skimmed the froth off the top, which was a lot easier than I anticipated. It just sort of sat on top and slid off very easily. I ladled it into the jars, leaving a 1/4" to a 1/8" of room at the top. I put the lids and rings on the jars. Then I processed them for ten minutes in a pot. I don't own a canner. Maybe one day I'll buy one.

For years I have simply used a large pot. I pulled the jars out of the pot and let them cool. Now, they sit on my kitchen counter. I have no idea where I'm going to store all my canned goods. I will probably turn the cabinet that now holds all our summer bbq'ing supplies into a pantry cabinet of sorts. My fabulous husband will gladly move it from outside to the basement. He loves when I ask for his help.
Interestingly enough, while picking the beautiful berries, I noticed the detail of the bushes...and they looked very familiar to me. Then I remembered. They are the same plants I have been cutting down and pulling out of the ground in my yard. I have blackberry bushes! I was so excited to know that next year, hopefully, I will not have to leave my yard to gather berries for the winter.

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