‘Cause I been doin’ a lotta jammin,’ and I wanna jam it wid you.
Last year, I only made strawberry jam, and I THOUGHT I made enough for last at least part way through the winter, with something like 12 half pints, but I was so wrong. WRONG because Zak liked it so much that he invented reasons to eat it. Totally unnecessary peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on good bakery bread with good peanut butter were made and consumed just so he could eat more of that strawberry jam.
This year, I made twenty-one half pints of it and then froze a bunch of berries to make more when that ran out. I made strawberry jam back in May, and guess what? I already have to break out some frozen berries to make up another big old batch.
But that’s not the jam I made today.
Oh, no, chile.
Strawberry jam is good, but what I made today is like heaven in a jar.
Because Kat, Zak and I went out to our friend, Rick Vest’s farm and picked blackberries from bushes that were burdened with heavy fruit. And to me, there is nothing better than homemade blackberry jam. Nothing. It’s SO good. So tangy-sweet, sticky and the color–red-violet–is just eye-popping.
And, if you leave the seeds in, which I always do, blackberry jam is simplicity itself to make.
Why do I leave the seeds in?
Well, I figure when I eat blackberries, I’m eating the seeds so why should I object to the seeds being in the jam? I mean, really. Plus, I’ve found that if you try and remove the seeds, you lose a lot of the fruit pulp, too, and I refuse to waste something that I spent hours in the hot sun picking in the company of bees, wasps, mosquitoes and a child complaining of heat and thirst.
So, when you eat my blackberry jam, you’re eating it with the seeds. And if I use it in any of my baking, you get the seeds. If you don’t like the seeds consult with a less lazy blogger to find out how to remove the wee buggers without ending up needing to pick a thousand pounds of berries for a few pints of jam. I’m just not your girl for that process.
And while you’re looking stuff up, find out how to clean and treat your jars, lids and rings for safe canning by looking at the USDA National Center for Home Food Preservation’s website. They have all the information you need to know to can safely. They will of course, also try and scare you to death about canning, but the fact is, lots of us have canned for years and never killed anyone yet, so just follow their directions to prepare your half-pint canning jars, new lids and rings for this recipe and you will not go wrong.
For this recipe, I cleaned and sterilized 18 half pint jars, lids and rings, but ended up only using 17 of them. You might end up with 18. It could happen–you never know.
AND now, let’s talk about pectin.
Pectin is a surprisingly sore subject with lots of folks who make jams, jellies, preserves and marmalade out there in the food blogging world, because apparently there is a contingent of “preservistas” who think you just suck the big wang if you use any kind of pectin to get your jams to gel and will get all huffy and be like, holier than thou about it.
I say “horse-hockey.” If you want to use pectin, use pectin. If you don’t, don’t. But I will tell you what–my Grandma made literally gallons of the clearest, most delicious wild blackberry jelly in the world–we’d literally pick the tiny seedy things in five gallon buckets so she could extract enough juice–and she used pectin.
If it was good enough for Grandma, then it’s good enough for me.
Look, pectin isn’t evil. It isn’t artificial, and the use of it doesn’t denote that you’re a bad jammer. It’s nothing more than a substance that exists in fruits in their natural state, that when placed in the presence of sugar and heat, causes your liquidy fruit juice to turn into a nice, thick gel. That’s all. It’s not extracted from a cow’s stomach or made out of plastic. It’s fine and dandy, and I use it, and you can, too.
That all said, I tried out a new to me pectin today and am a convert to what I see is the pectin of choice for all the food blogging world. That would be Pomona’s Universal Pectin, and instead of relying upon sugar to make it do it’s job and make a gel, it utilizes calcium.
Now, before you start frothing at the mouth about the calcium, remember, you need it for strong bones and teeth, so hush and listen. Pomona’s is made from citrus peels–again–nothing bad there–and it has two packets in each box. One contains the powdered pectin and the other has the calcium powder. You can tell them apart because the calcium is in the tiny packet.
Before you start jammin,’ though, you need to make calcium water, and Pomona’s has directions on how to do it right in the box. You just mix 1/2 teaspoon of the calcium powder with 1/2 cup of water in a small clean jar with a lid. You use the directed amount for your recipe and the rest you can keep sealed up in your fridge for the next time you haul off and preserve some fruit for winter.
After you do that, you can start jammin’ with impunity. All you do to make cooked low-sugar jam (AH HA! Now you know why I like Pomona’s Universal Pectin. I can make low-sugar jams that taste great and gel exactly the way I want them to!) is mix the mashed up fruit with the directed amount of calcium water and lemon juice if you need it to balance the flavors, and bring that mixture to a boil. Meanwhile, you measure out your sugar, stir the pectin in completely, and when the fruit boils, you stir in the sugar, and keep stirring for about two minutes while the lovely scented fruit mixture bubbles happily away. This makes certain you dissolve the pectin thoroughly into the fruit and juice. You bring it back to a boil, then remove it completely from the heat and pack your jars. Then you use your hot water bath canner and process it in boiling water for ten minutes, then take the jars out and sit them on a towel to cool off and seal properly. And voila! Jam.
It really is easy.
And it gels up much better than the regular grocery store brands of pectin that I’ve used for years. It’s more reliable, from what I can tell.
So, finally, we get to the recipe for the jam pictured above. It’s very simple, it uses Pomona’s Universal Pectin, which you can get at local natural food stores, Whole Foods or online.
Once again, if you want to remove the seeds, keep in mind you will have to have picked more berries. For my recipe, I got 2 mashed cups of fruit from each quart of whole berries–if you remove the seeds, it will be a much smaller ratio of fruit. Think about that while you are picking or buying berries.
Summer Blackberry Jam
10 cups fresh blackberries, washed, picked over and mashed
5 teaspoons calcium water
5 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons butter
5 cups sugar
6 teaspoons Pomona Universal Pectin
1 1/2 tablespoons Cortas rosewater
Put the fruit, calcium water, and lemon juice into a heavy-bottomed pot on a medium low fire and bring to a boil.
While the fruit is heating, stir together the sugar and pectin quite thoroughly. After the fruit mixture boils, add the butter and sugar/pectin mixture all at once and stir the still bubbling fruit for at least two minutes to ensure that the pectin and sugar dissolve thoroughly.
Bring back to the boil and after it boils, stir in the rosewater thoroughly, then remove from the heat and ladle the hot jam into jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headpace. Fit a flat lid and then add the screw lid, making the ring tight.
Process in a hot water bath for ten minutes under fiercely boiling water. Remove from canner, set on a folded towel on the countertop, and leave undisturbed for twelve hours.
As mentioned before, have 18 half pint jars ready. I only needed 17, but I had quite a few scrapings and tastings before I packed the jars, so I might have had enough before Kat, Zak and I started taste testing it.
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