Mabon season is also blackberry season, and I love them both! Since my local farmer’s market has huge, delicious berries right now, I thought I’d celebrate the season with blackberry jam.
Jam is the easiest thing to make, though it takes some patience and a bit of practice to get it just the way you like. Still, over the years I’ve learned some things that help:
Let it sit – This is my favorite tip, and I wish I could remember where I heard it. But basically, instead of mashing everything together before cooking and trying to decide the best time to add the sugar, you dump the berries, sugar and lemon juice together beforehand and stick it in the fridge overnight. (Though with blackberries, you’ll want to give it a mash or two to get it going.) The fridge does the work, and the macerated berries are a snap to work with the next day.
Use a skillet – Most of us think of making jams in huge, deep pots…which is one reason it takes so long. I learned through America’s Test Kitchen that if you use a large skillet for small-batch jam, it will cook quicker.
Boil then simmer – Most old fashioned recipes (when they didn’t have pectin in packets) start with boiling the fruit and sugar for five minutes, then simmering for 15-30 minutes, stirring constantly. I’ve found this method very effective.
One to One – Basically, what works for me is one cup berries, one cup sugar, juice of one small lemon. (Remember: sugar is necessary for jam to actually become jam.) I use this ratio based on how many cups of berries I have. For this batch, I had three cups and ended up with one full Mason jar of jam.
Blackberry Jam for Mabon
Note: I don’t use any pectin in this recipe, because I don’t like my jam to get too set. I also don’t process this; it doesn’t make much and I can use it up quickly, so I keep it in the fridge.
2-3 cups blackberries
2-3 cups sugar (you should have as many cups of sugar as cups of berries)
Juice of 2-3 small lemons (one per cup of berries)
Combine the blackberries, sugar and lemon juice in a large bowl, mashing the berries lightly with the back of a fork. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.
Pour the macerated berries into a large, non-reactive skillet over high heat and bring to a boil. Boil for five minutes. Lower heat, and simmer – stirring constantly – for 15-30 minutes, until the jam thickens and holds a set on a cold plate.
Decant into a clean Mason jar (I warm it first by filling it with hot water and letting it sit for a few minutes) and refrigerate. You should use it within 2-3 weeks, but mine never lasts that long!
Note: Especially if the blackberries are big, they will leave “cores” in the jam. I personally fish these out because I think they interfere with the final look and texture of the jam. Some people also strain out the seeds, but I prefer a more rustic jam, so I don’t.