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Battlefield Blackberry Jam from The Fiery Cross

Battlefield Blackberry Jam from The Fiery Cross

The Fiery Cross

Jamie and the Governor, shaken out of their nose to nose confrontation, had also retired to the shadows; I could see them, two stiff shadows, one tall and one shorter, standing close together.  The element of danger had gone out of their tête-a-tête, though; I could see Jamie’s head bent slightly toward Tryon’s shadow, listening.

“… brought food,” Phoebe Sherston was telling me, her round face pink with excited self-importance.  “Fresh bread, and butter, and some blackberry jam and cold chicken and…”

“Food!”  I said, abruptly reminded of the parcel I held under my arm.  “Do pardon me!” I gave her a quick, bright smile, and ducked away, leaving her open-mouthed in front of the tent.

Diana Gabaldon, The Fiery Cross (Chapter 72 – Tinder and Char)

As we approach summer’s end, the squirrels among us start to count the stores on our pantry shelves.  Where are the holes?  What will we put up this year?  Much of that depends on how the backyard harvest goes…and what the prices in the produce aisle are like.

And then there’s foraging.  Claire gathered most of the non-meat food she and Jamie ate on the road– from Outlander all the way through Echo — and here on our little rural island, there is no more ubiquitous wild food than the blackberry.

Despite their juicy sweetness and health benefits (blackberries are among the richest source of antioxidants in the world), some islanders regard the blackberries growing everywhere along our roadsides and garden fences as a thorn in our collective side rather than a (free!) tasty nutritional goldmine.

The most common variety of blackberry here on Pender (and across most of the Pacific Northwest of North America) is actually an invasive species.  The Himalayan Blackberry, Rubinus discolour, was brought by European immigrants in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The plants took hold and spread quickly to a point where they are a serious threat to native vegetation, including the smaller, less robust (and now very rare) Trailing Blackberry, Rubus ursinus.

blackberries-apples

It took me less than an hour to pick the 2 pounds of berries I used for this jam.  It would have been a bit faster if I had gotten out a couple of weeks ago, but the easy pickings were long gone by this weekend.  I took along an old wire coat hanger, and used the hook  to pull down the higher bunches of berries that the deer and earlier pickers hadn’t had to bother with.

Just at the end of my pick, OK fan, Saskatchewan resident and frequent visitor to Pender, Lorna, came walking along the roadside on her way to the Saturday Farmer’s Market.  We chatted for a bit, exchanged berry picking stories, and briefly debated the merits of jams and jellies.  It turns out she makes raspberry jam every year, and she reduces the seed count in her jam by straining half of the cooked fruit.

Great idea!  Thanks to Lorna, we’ll all now have blackberry jam with a manageable number of seeds!  Even those of us with incredibly close-set teeth are happy — may we never have to do the bathroom mirror “seed check” again…

blackberry jam pulp

This is an old-fashioned jam, something pretty close to what Phoebe Sherston would have brought to the battlefield at Alamance.

Instead of packages, green apples provide the pectin here.  The recipe includes a range of sugar — the more you use, the thicker and sweeter your jam will be.

blackberry jam

(Click on the title below for a printable version of the recipe.)

Battlefield Blackberry Jam from The Fiery Cross

: Old-fashioned, whole-fruit goodness thickened with sugar and natural pectin from green apples.

Yield: 5 to 6 cups

  • Blackberries – 2 pounds
  • Green Apples (Granny Smith, etc), peeled, quartered and cored – 4 medium
  • Water – 1 cup
  • Sugar – 3 to 4 cups

Add the blackberries, apple quarters and water to a large pot over medium-high heat.  Bring to the boil, then reduce to low, cover and simmer until very soft, about 30 minutes.  Remove from the heat.

Using a ladle or measuring cup, remove 3 cups of the mixture in stages, including all the apples, and force it through a strainer using the back of a wooden or silicon spoon.  Collect the juice in a bowl and scrape the pulp from the bottom of the strainer into the juice.  Discard the almost-dry seeds still in the strainer basket.

Combine and measure the strained juice/pulp together with the mixture still in the pan.  Add ½ cup to ¾ cup sugar per cup of fruit (see notes) and stir well.  Heat over medium, stirring, until all of the sugar is dissolved.  Increase the heat to high, bring to a vigourous boil, uncovered and not stirring, until the jam has reached gel stage (220° F), about 15 minutes.  Remove from the heat.

Skim the top of the jam and discard the scum.  Ladle the jam into hot, sterilised mason jars, cap and allow to cool completely.  Check the seal when cool (see notes).

Notes:

  • Use a large pot with at least 6” of clearance from the berries to the top of the pot.  The mixture needs to boil vigourously and you don’t want the sticky mess of an over-boiled pot.  Trust me.  See the pot in my pictures?  Use a much bigger pot than I did — or half the recipe.  Jam under the elements is never fun.
  • I used ½ cup sugar per cup of fruit and got a slightly loose jam that I’m calling a compote.  It’s fabulous on toast and scones, but also saucy enough to go over ice cream or into the middle of a cupcake.  It’s not overly sweet, either — and the berry flavour really shines through.  ¾ cup sugar per cup of fruit will get you thicker and sweeter jam — more like store-bought.
  • Some people would insist you process this jam in a water bath after capping — I’ve never done that with high-sugar jams, but if you want more information about canning safety and food preservation in general, I strongly recommend this fabulous resource from The National Center for Home Food Preservation.

20 Comments

  1. Kristy R
    September 10, 2012 at 4:20 am

    YUM! i can’t wait to give this one a try! been canning like crazy around here and always love new recipes!!! thank you!

    • Theresa
      September 10, 2012 at 9:54 am

      Great to hear from another squirrel, Kristy! Happy canning….

  2. Michelle Bennetts Heumann
    September 10, 2012 at 5:27 am

    This looks like a straightforward way to make jam. I’ve never tried before because I can remember Mom doing it when I was a kid, and my memories of it are…rather unpleasant. 🙂

    I lived near Victoria for years, until I moved to Calgary 12 years ago, and blackberries don’t seem to grow in Alberta. I miss them terribly – they’re so expensive here! 🙁 I was in Seattle last week and nearly wept at the vast masses of un-harvested blackberries everywhere…such a waste! I almost wish I’d tried to smuggle some back across the border so I could try this recipe…. haha

    • Theresa
      September 10, 2012 at 9:54 am

      Sneaky, Michelle! I know that a lot of visitors to Pender from Alberta spend at least a little time picking blackberries while they’re here…why not?!

  3. Denise Twist
    September 10, 2012 at 6:50 am

    I’ve made two different blackberry jams this season and I can’t wait to try yours! I also have a large batch of blackberry cordial brewing away for the next few months. Right next to my Cherry Bounce! Should be a tasty winter!

    • Theresa
      September 10, 2012 at 9:52 am

      Sounds like you and I share a love for blackberries, Denise! I can’t get enough…ever.

  4. Blakwatr
    September 10, 2012 at 7:34 am

    Well that looks yummy. I have never done home canning before…..so let me know when it is done and I will send my address to you so you can mail it to me. heheheheh

    ps
    Bangors and Mash were outstanding last night. My family loooooooooves that dish

    • Theresa
      September 10, 2012 at 9:52 am

      How about you just half the recipe and keep it in the fridge? LOL — it has a long enough shelf life for that!

  5. The Mom Chef
    September 10, 2012 at 8:15 am

    I’m glad you added the sugar range because I’m not a fan of overly sweet jam. I’m also not a fan of lots of seeds….straining a part of the batch is a fantastic idea. I love ideas that are passed along like that.

    • Theresa
      September 10, 2012 at 9:51 am

      I think you and I would get along just fine, Christiane…:)

  6. Alyson
    September 10, 2012 at 10:21 am

    Every time I visit here, I end up with a new, fabulous cooking idea. Thank you so much!

    • Theresa
      September 10, 2012 at 10:26 am

      Come back often, Alyson! 🙂

  7. Mary Lou
    September 10, 2012 at 6:42 pm

    This year was the first time we got an actual crop from our blackberries. Would have the year before but the deer helped themselves to the bark on our canes the winter prior. With the mudslide into my organic garden a lot of things have been smothered or so overwhelmed they did not grow well or produce well. But I got enough berries for one batch of jam, two batches of ice cream and I have two gallon bags in the freezer for the middle of the winter when I will want ice cream. This year I broke down & bought a good sized Chinoise to strain the seeds out since we have raspberries too.

    • Theresa
      September 11, 2012 at 7:18 am

      Sounds like not a bad crop to me! Next year will be even better…

  8. Lorna
    September 11, 2012 at 5:38 am

    The jam looks delicious! Blackberries may be aggressive, but they’re definitely tasty. Browsing for breakfast is great! Oh, and thanks for the ride. 🙂

    • Theresa
      September 11, 2012 at 7:18 am

      Lorna! Thanks for the seed tip! You can hitchhike in my car anytime…:D

  9. denizb33
    September 11, 2012 at 11:58 am

    Mmm, I love jam. Love the idea too of using apples for pectin instead of anything artificial!

  10. Sarah
    September 16, 2014 at 12:08 am

    I’ve made this jam as the first of many of your recipies for a wedding feast that my sister are preparing to celebrate the wedding episode this weekend, and if they are all as tasty as this is then we’ll be in for an absolute treat! Thank you so much for creating this site, it’s wonderful 🙂

  11. Joanna
    September 8, 2015 at 5:18 am

    I’m making tbis jam again this year and I’m super excited! I won’t lie, I pouted a bit when my last jar of jam was used up at the begining of the year.

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