I love this time of year, it always feels like a time of abundance…. when I was growing up my dad always grew lots and lots of fruits and veg and this last week of the summer holidays was devoted to harvesting and preparing things….
podding peas and beans, picking fruit, topping and tailing blackcurrants and gooseberries, whilst mum blanched things for freezing, boiled and pickled and baked…. it was a whole family affair and my grandad always used to make pots and pots of jams and jellies with the fruit and herbs that we picked. The spare bedroom had rows of jars of jam and jellies made by grandad and I’d get sent upstairs to get a fresh jar when we ran out in the kitchen.
My grandad’s best preserve was undoubtedly his ‘Bramble seedless’….. glossy and rich and totally delicious…. so when I discovered a big area of brambles hidden away in the park a few years ago I immediately wanted to try and make a delicious jelly just like grandad used to do.
I’ve always used this recipe and love it http://www.cottagesmallholder.com/blackberry-and-apple-jam-recipe-430/ there’s no need for added pectin as it naturally comes from the apples….
To be honest I’m not the greatest jam maker in the world…. I used to make it overly runny, more like a really thick syrup, but it still tasted beautifully rich and fruity….. the taste that you can only get from wild blackberries, deep and a bit musky, a flavour that I’ve never got from shop bought blackberries, even though they look really impressive….. I always think it’s a bit crazy buying blackberries for jam they’re so expensive and the wild ones are free and tastier and all over the place.
And then last year all my jam turned out stiff and like toffee from over boiling…. it all takes practise I suppose and has given me even more appreciation for grandad… I never knew his ‘seedless’ to be anything but perfect.
I actually find jam making really stressful and at times frankly terrifying… messing about with large amounts of boiling sugar!?…. and getting the setting point right, all the while your entire kitchen ends up looking like a major crime scene with all the staining, blackberry juice!
but it’s so satisfying and I love that you can keep tasting that beautiful, fruity, late summer goodness right through the winter.
My top tips for starting low stress jam making are:
Use relatively small amounts at first so as not to overfill the pan or have more than one pan on the go at once (1kg blackberries should be fine)
Take your time and clean up and prepare between stages
Have some gin and tonic on hand :)
Keep a sink full of hot soapy water…. there’s always lots to clean up
Don’t wear anything you value…. blackberry juice is a nightmare
Use a timer for the boiling stage (obvious! but this has made all the difference for me…. )
Treat yourself to a takeaway for tea, you’ve spent enough time cooking and clearing up! :)
Today’s jam making has seemed much less stressful than usual…. so hopefully I’m learning; and I’m hopeful that I’ve got the setting point ok this time, the half jar seems to have a definite jelly-like wobble to it!
I might have to make some scones tomorrow to give this a try…. for research purposes obviously