Picking wild blackberries is something I truly miss about living in the Pacific Northwest. Blackberry bushes hang heavy with ripe fruit in late August and early September all over the state of Washington. After I finished my year of traveling and before I left for California, I spent an August and a September living in rural Pierce county (which is even more rife with blackberry bushes than the average Washington county) and I took every opportunity possible to go outside and pick them. Blackberry cobbler, blackberry jam, blackberry puree, blackberry pancakes — if I could add blackberries, you name it, I made it.
My most frequent foraging ground was (conveniently) my dad’s backyard. Blackberry bushes wildly spill over his back fence, offering gallons of berries for the picking. And when I’d picked every ripe berry offered there I only had to travel a few hundred feet down the road to another fruitful thicket. Ah, Edgewood.
Anyhow, a couple of weeks ago I went up to Washington for a visit with my family (and the IFBC). I arrived early in the afternoon on a Saturday, and Dad and I spent most of the afternoon sitting on his deck sipping local micro brew and catching up with each others’ lives. From the deck you can spy the myriad blackberry bushes that spill over the fence that marks his property boundary. Perhaps having these heavy, ripe, prickly blackberry bushes in my visual periphery all afternoon reminded me of simpler times past (before I went to grad school and started my ‘adult life’), and inspired me to make jam. I mean, what else does one do on vacation than make jam?
Making jam is a labor of love. No bones about it. For most people, there’s absolutely no way that making your own jam is more cost-effective or time-efficient than buying even the fanciest jam available at Whole Foods or the like. It usually costs more to make your own, and certainly takes more time, but still, there is something just lovely about the exercise. It’s a quiet, thoughtful activity, good for the soul I’d say. And I swear it tastes better! :)
Anyhow, next time you find yourself with access to wild blackberries, consider taking a few hours out of your life to make this delicious and simple blackberry jam. Your quiet side will thank you for taking the time.
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Wild Blackberry Jam
from Christine Ferber’s Mes Confitures
Makes 6 – 7 half pints
1 kg wild blackberries (2.2 lbs), picked over and well rinsed
800 g sugar
juice of 1 medium lemon
1/2 t vanilla extract (optional)
Combine berries, sugar, and lemon juice in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, pour mixture into a ceramic or glass bowl, cover with parchment, refrigerate and let stand overnight.
The next day, pour the berry mixture into a preserving pan. Add vanilla if using. Bring to a boil and cook for about 10 minutes until the jam is set (I use the wrinkle test*). Pour into sterilized jars** and seal***.
Let the jam cool. It is ready to use immediately. Enjoy!
* The Wrinkle Test = put a small plate in the freezer to chill for at least 10 minutes. When you think the jam is done, pour about 1/2 t. of the jam onto the chilled plate, then replace in the freezer for 90 seconds. Remove the plate and push the jam with your finger; if it wrinkles, the jam is done; if the jam doesn’t wrinkle (imagine pushing your finger through honey), continue cooking the jam and re-test in 4-5 minutes.
**The easiest way to sterilize jars is to place them (without rings or lids) into a 250 degree oven for 10 minutes. Sterilize rings and lids by boiling for 5 minutes. Leave rings and lids in hot water until ready to use.
*** To properly seal canned jam, boil jars in a large pot of water for 7-10 minutes. The water should cover the jars by at least 2 inches.