Our life living off the land in our log cabin, breathing fresh mountain air, and getting back to basics.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Lise's Wild Blackberry Jam

Wild blackberries grow all over the mountains here.  I thought it would be as easy to collect the berries to make wild blackberry jam as it was to collect the violets to make violet jelly. Boy was I wrong!

The violets grow (or grew, this was a couple months ago) in small "fields", so you can collect a decent amount at one time, enough to make a batch of jelly.  Blackberries, though they grow everywhere, ripen individually, have very picky thorns that stick like glue, and are spread out all over the mountain, including extremely hard to reach places.  This is what you come across, branches filled with stickers where the blackberries grow...some berries are ripe for picking, some still ripening, and often many are overripe.  And because every bush looks like this, it takes a lot of walking to find enough ripe berries. 
When we first started collecting them, we picked many that we should have left alone.  I learned the hard way that the ONLY berries you want to pick are the ones that are totally black (of course I say to myself, they are, after all, BLACKberries!), leaving even the slightly overripe berries for the wildlife.  If you include anything but perfectly ripe berries, the whole bunch quickly rots.

I also learned the hard way, that you can not collect and save the berries in the fridge for more than a day.  No matter how perfectly ripe, this also causes them to over ripen.  I learned that blackberries can be frozen to hold until ready for use, which will be a definite step next time I collect.  You just wash and pat the berries dry, put them on a cookie sheet in the freezer to freeze, then once frozen put them into a zip lock bag until you are ready to use them.  This brings me back to the fact that only a few berries on the mountain bushes ripen at a time, so collecting enough for jam takes some time.

On to the making of the jelly...I had to modify the recipe because I did not have enough berries, so I hope it turns out OK.  I based my modified amounts on what the Bell pectin bottle said were the appropriate ratios, though the end result is still a bit of a guess (I sure am glad I paid attention in all those math classes way back when!).  It will be tomorrow before the jars set and I can taste it to know if it worked.  This is the link to the initial recipe .  What I am giving you is my edited version:

3 cups of crushed wild blackberries
3 1/2 cups sugar
3 TBS + 1 tsp of pectin
1 TBS butter
zest of 1/2 a lemon

After washing and straining the wild blackberries, you mash them, one layer at a time (this ensures the majority of the berries get mashed and release their juices).  I purposefully have chosen to make jam with the seeds, though some time down the road I will try making jelly without seeds.  An aside story, one of the things I gave my niece Hailey for her birthday last April was a jar of my violet jelly.  When I spoke to her sister Sophia, who is also my Godchild, she said her favorite jam was blackberry and she reeeeeeally wanted me to make her some for her birthday.  As her birthday approached in June, the berries were not ripe.  So she has very patiently waited for this jam to materialize!
What you see above is one layer of the wild blackberries being mashed, I started with a little more than 4 cups of whole berries and ended up with 3 cups of mashed wild blackberries. 

Put the wild blackberries into the pot, slowly mix in the pectin, and bring to a boil.

Once boiling, I stirred in the butter (this helps keep the mixture from foaming as it boils, and also give a nice smoothness to the jam) and lemon zest (adds a little tang and brightens the berry flavor, at least it did with my violet jelly and sinfully scrumptious strawberry jam).  Then I added the sugar and brought it again to a boil.

I poured the mixture into cleaned (by boiling the jars, seals and lids) 8 and 4 ounce jars that were sitting in a pot of hot water.  Cleaned the rims, placed the seals, tightened the lids and let them sit in the boiling water for a bit.  Then I took them out and turned them upside down on a rack for about 15 minutes (this should be done in a place without a draft, which is why you will see that mine are outside in the last photo, my kitchen fan was on high to try to get the heat out).  And voila, wild blackberry jam!

 As you can see, I ended up with 4 - 8 oz jars and 3 - 4 oz jars.  Once the jars have cooled for the 15 minutes, you turn them right side up, and wait to hear the delightful little pop each jar makes as it is sealing itself.  This can take as long as 12 hours or so.  If you look closely, the center of the jars on the left have not indented inward yet, but the one's on the right have.  Please note that if a jar does not pop, you should put it in the fridge after it cools and eat it within the next couple weeks. 

Stay tuned tomorrow to find out how it tastes!  Do you have a favorite wild blackberry jam or jelly recipe?  I'd love to know how you make it!

Thanks for reading my blog, you are the best f/f/r/s/f's, see you tomorrow,


Carol said...

Dear friend,
I enjoy reading your blog and will try your recipe. P,my husband, likes blackberry dumplins'(cobbler). A few years ago, I made watermelon jelly for gifts. Last year I made pepper jelly---good with beans. A friend had given me the recipe to use like relish.

Lise said...

Carol, watermelon jelly sounds fascinating! I'd love the recipe, you could email it to liseslogcabinlife@gmail.com if you are willing...:)