What says ‘I love my WI’ more than the ritual death of a thousand cuts of blackberry gathering in the summer?
The summer has been frustrating. Frustrating for sun lovers of all sorts, including the local blackberries. Normally the first batch of jam gets made by the end of July. However, our wet and cold spring has delayed the first blackberry harvest until this week.
First, I have a confession to make. I am the sort of cook that drives recipe writers crazy. I rarely measure anything. I cook by taste and touch and smell. That said, I do have some rough guidelines which I can share.
My usual ratio for jam is 1 part fruit to 1 part sugar. This can vary from fruit to fruit, but it’s a good starting assumption. This year’s blackberries are generally small and tart (a result of not enough sun in the early summer) so the ratio is tilted more towards the sugar. While you can make low sugar jams, I find that they don’t set as well and they don’t have as long a shelf life.
I like soft fruit jams because they set reliably and are the simplest of jams. No fancy steps required. Simply put the fruit and an equal amount of sugar in a large heavy bottomed pot and put over medium heat. Stir every few minutes in the beginning to keep the sugar from caramelising. After about 10 minutes, the berries will start to break down and the sugar will melt. At this point, you only need to stir it every once in a while until it begins to thicken. Depending on all sorts of things (sugar and pectin content of the fruit, size of pot, heat setting, humidity, etc) this can take anywhere from 20–50 minutes. Once it starts thickening, stir it every few minutes to stop it from scorching on the bottom. Test it every few minutes to check if the jam has reached setting point. Everyone has a different method for this, so go with whatever works for you. Personally, I stick a plate in the freezer for a few minutes then spoon a few drops of proto-jam on it. If it sticks when you tilt it and a skin forms, then the jam has reached setting point.
Decant into sterilised jars and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.
Jam making is far more an art than a science, so experiment and have fun!