Himalyan blackberries are an invasive species to the Pacific Northwest that I both love and hate. I hate them because they take over and have these wicked thorns on them. I love them because they are prolific bearers of beautiful, juicy fruit which I like to turn into jam.
There is a grouping of overgrown shrubs on the edge of my neighbor’s yard that is overrun with blackberries. A few months ago my husband parked our truck in such a way that the ladder rack pushed the vines back to reveal dense clusters of berries. It was fun to stand in the truckbed and harvest a bounty of berries.
The challenge with blackberry jam is the seeds. Himalyan blackberries are cursed with big, tough seeds. Certainly they soften up after cooking and processing, but the seeds still manage to take away the joy of eating the jam. As such, I only make seedless blackberry jam.
As a child, I helped my mother make jam, and that is why I make jam today. She had this awesome piece of equipment called a Victorio (see left) that would puree the fruit and separate it from seeds, cores, and skin if needed. The victorio was an impressive piece of equipment, but too much fuss for me.
To remove the seeds, I employ a low tech method that calls for a wire mesh strainer, a potato masher, and gravity.
I began with an 8 quart bowl of berries. I ended with 10 pint jars of beautiful jam.
Getting Rid of Seeds
Then they go into a wire mesh strainer that is sitting in a mixing bowl, whereupon I smash them with a masher to release the juices. Periodically over the next 24 hours I will pour off the juice from the bowl, scrape the outside of the strainer, and mash the berries again.
Once I have the juice, I can make the jam. I follow standard water processing procedures and work with the suggested recipes off the pectin. These last couple years I have started augmenting my jams with tasty add-ins like lemon zest, basil, and spices.
(A word of caution – do not go messing too much with tested canning recipes because it is easy to lower the acidity and create an unsafe product. Note that when I added, with the exception of the small amount of spices, I actually added acidity i.e. balsamic vinegar, citrus zest)
- Citrus Blackberry – Included orange and lemon zest
- Balsamic Blackberry – With a touch of balsamic vinegar and a generous amount of fresh basil
- Spiced Blackberry – Chili Flake and authentic Dutch Speculaas
Yield: Approx 8 cups
A jar of pectin is perfect for the small batch canner. Measure out how much you need and save the rest for later.
|Mise en Plas:
- Prepare the water bath. Spread out 2-3 towels on the counter close by the water bath, these will protect the counter from the hot jar and provide a cushion to the hot jar.
- Combine fruit, pectin, and lemon juice in an unheated pan. Stir very well to dissolve pectin.
- Bring the fruit up to a full rolling boil. This means that the boil does not stop when it is stirred.
- Add all the sugar in one dump. Also add any add-ins at this time. Stir to dissolve.
- Return the jam to a full rolling boil. Skim the foam from the surface as it returns to a boil.
- When it is at a full rolling boil set your timer for one minute. Stir constantly. Remove the pan from the heat after the minute.
- Place the hot jars on the towels. Also pour boiling water from the water canner over the lids, just enough to cover them.
- Pour or ladle the jam into the jars, leaving ¼ inch of headspace.
- Carefully wipe the rims of the jars with a damp paper towel to clean them.
- Place a heated lid on the top of the jars. Place a jar ring on each jar and screw down until ‘finger tight’ (you do not have to wrench on it, just close it down.)
- Place the jars in the canning rack. Space them so that they do not touch. Carefully lower the rack into the boiling water bath.
- Bring the bath back up to a boil. Once it is boiling set your timer for 10 minutes.
- After the timer goes off, turn off the heat to the burner. Let the jars sit in the canner, with the lid on, for another five minutes.
- Use the jar lifter to lift each jar out of the water bath and place it gently on a towel. Avoid touching the jars for 24 hours.
- 24 hours later, label each jar. Call out the flavor, and mark it with an expiration date of one year.
Homemade jam is a lovely and well received gift. In addition, your homemade jam becomes a pantry ingredient. Jam is fruit + sugar, so it is a delightful base for glazes, marinades, and a variety of baking applications. Artisan jam, cheese and crackers are a delightful thing to bring to a party. Bring a second jar for the host or hostess to enjoy by themselves. Give a jar of jam as a thank you to associates and colleagues. Thin it out and turn it into syrup. Fill crepes with jam and cream cheese.
Jam is versatile, fun and rewarding. Feel free to send me an email or leave a comment if you have any questions!
Hot Kitchen uses jam in a several recipes. You can get ideas for jam by watching these episodes:
#69 – Brie Saganaki Bites – Click to watch
#58 – Strawberry Shortcake Whoopie Pies – Click to watch
#49 – Chocolate Pave – Click to watch