After two years with the blackberries providing lots chigger bites and little fruit, our blackberries have redeemed themselves this year! We have had a bumper crop that has multiplied every day since we picked our first ripe berry on June 1. It appears that they peaked over the weekend, but they remain filled with quite a bit of fruit yet to ripen. We have two varieties, Apache, planted as nothing more than twigs from a mail order nursery and another variety bought locally at Home Depot.
Today, the kids and I made our first batch of jam of the summer! I am fortunate to have a mom that canned when I was young, so making jam is something I have been doing for many years. I was a bit rusty since I didn't get around to making any last summer and forgot all about the need for pectin. The only pectin I had on hand I meant to try last summer was a brand that allows you to use honey rather than sugar. So today was my opportunity to experiment.
For anyone that may not have attempted your own, I took some step by step pictures. I believe it is one of those things that seems intimidating, but is really an easy thing to make.
Here is the brand of Pectin we used today, available at Whole Foods and probably Sprouts:
First we washed up the berries, making sure to pick out all bits of leaves and twigs:
And sampling berries while mashing:
Then add the four cups of mashed berries to pan and bring to boil:
Once the berries come to a boil, this recipe has you stir in the honey and pectin mixed together. Then return to a rolling boil and remove from heat.
Prior to beginning the process, we loaded our jars into the dishwasher and ran them through a full cycle to sterilize. If timed correctly, the dry cycle (don't use the energy saver, you want them dry and hot) will be finishing up just as your jam is boiling.
While the jam is heating, I have another pan boiling up the lids. Right at the end, I add my clean tools to make sure they are good and germ free as well.
A few years ago, I picked up this handy box of tools. Most definitely worth the $10 investment! I believe I found it at Market Street, but Amazon has it available if you can't find it locally.
Using the wide mouth funnel from my set, I ladle the jam in the warm jars, taking them out of the dishwasher one at a time so that they don't cool as I am filling another. I put a lid on each jar as I fill it and then go on to the next.
I usually make some small 1/2 pint jars to have on hand to give away, but when I am making a supply for our family, I prefer to use pint size jars. Using the larger jars speeds up the process.
The final step is to boil the jars in a water bath. I believe there is some debate over whether or not this is necessary, but I am of the opinion of better safe than sorry. My first few attempts at canning, I did not have the big canning pot. I do not recommend trying to skip this important tool! I bought mine for $20 at Walmart.
The pan comes with a little rack that holds the jars and then lets you lower them into the water at once. You want the jars to be covered by at least an inch of water. This is before I lowered them in for their little bath.
The verdict is still out on this recipe with honey. I plan to pick up some more pectin and make up a batch with organic cane sugar as well. This recipe did not make as the recipe I have used in the past. We have cut way back on sugars at our house and cook with honey when we can, but I suspect that homemade jam might just be one of those things that will always be best with sugar!
If you need recipes, extremely detailed canning instructions, locations of pick your own farms, pickyourown.org is an amazing resource.