Blackberry-Apple Jam, oh my!
Every year at this time, I do a brief imitation of a domestic goddess: one of those people who can cook well and enjoy it. I’m not talking about cooking dinner for guests or even baking pies or bread. I’m talking about canning: in this case, jam.
Making preserves, for most of us in the Western world, is totally unnecessary. It used to be a key to survival: canning fruits and vegetables made them last through the winter, allowing the family to ingest their goodness throughout the year, and not to go hungry before the new harvest came in.
Nowadays, we can buy canned goods all year, and we can store them longer than ever. We don’t need to “put up” cans.
Every year, though, in August and September, there’s an abundance of fruit available: in my case, blackberries from the overgrown vacant lot on the corner, and apples and pears from our own trees. And I get to work preserving them. I make blackberry jam, blackberry-apple jam, applesauce and apple-pear-raisin compote.
I’m not sure why I do this. It’s not something anyone in my family ever did, in my experience. But I love having these homemade jams to give away to friends when I visit. I also hate that the blackberries go to waste when no one picks them.
And I’m sure part of this is avoidance behavior: there’s a lot of preparatory work for school I ought to be doing. But nevertheless, I make jam.
Another thing I don’t ordinarily do is share recipes. As a matter of fact, I’ve never posted one here, and probably never will again. I just don’t feel like any kind of authority, and I’m terrible at actually sticking to recipes. But I’m so enthusiastic about this one, I’m going to anyway.
Yield: about 10 jars
2 kg. blackberries
½ kg apples (preferably granny smith)
(both of these amounts are freely adjustable depending on what you have available, and how strong you want each flavor to be)
A bit of water
Juice of one lemon
½ kg pectin sugar plus perhaps a cup more of plain granulated sugar to taste
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
- Peel, core and cut up the apples in little pieces. Put them on the stove in a very big pot with a bit of water – enough to cover the bottom and prevent the apples from burning. Keep a close eye on the pan as it cooks, stirring often. Depending on your apples, it should take 15-20 minutes until they’re soft.
- While that’s happening, bring a big vat of water to a boil for sterilizing your jars. I use glass jars I save from things like mustard and jam and other preserves. They work just fine as long as they have metal lids. I’ve already run them through the dishwasher, but I boil both jars and lids anyway, to be safe.
- When the apples are soft, add the blackberries, stir them together, and bring to a boil, stirring the whole time.
- Lower the heat and add the sugar, stirring until it dissolves. The original recipe I was sorta-kinda following called for lots more sugar, but blackberries are very sweet anyway, so I add ½ kilo of pectin sugar and then taste it. I like the jam on the tart side, but this year I ended up adding about a cup of regular sugar because it was a little too tart. You could add as much as ½ kilo if you like it sweeter.
- Add the lemon juice and cinnamon and nutmeg (both are optional).
- Bring it back to a boil and let it bubble for about 20 minutes, but stay nearby and stir it often to avoid burning.
- I gather there are a lot of ways to test for doneness. The recipe says to put a plate in the freezer when you start the project. When you want to test the jam, put a dollop on the plate and put it back in the freezer for 30 seconds. When you touch it, the surface should wrinkle. If not, boil for another 5 or 10 minutes. I’m sure the real jam experts can suggest other ways to tell if it’s done.
- Pull one of the boiled jars out of the water, and use a ladle to put the jam into it. (Having the jars and the jams both at the same temperature prevents the jars from breaking. You’ll need to wear gloves or use a dishcloth to hold the jar.) Fill it to within a centimeter or so of the rim. Wipe off around the rim, and add the lid tightly. Then turn the jar upside down to cool. Leave it overnight.
- When you turn it right-side-up in the morning, you should see that the metal lid is concave. It should not move in or out when you push in the center. If it does, you don’t have a good seal, and that’s the jam you should put in the fridge and eat first.
- Make sure to label the jars so you know when it was made and what’s in it!
So that’s it. Don’t expect any more domestic goddess moments this year; not until New Year’s Day anyway; it’s just not my style! How anyone does anything this methodical on an everyday basis I do not understand!