Get blackberry-jammin’

“big dark blobs burned like a plate of eyes”

Seamus Heaney, a poet I hugely admire and have been lucky enough to see read in person, is who I hand over to to describe this time of year in England, where blackberries and greed abound:


Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full,
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard’s.

We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn’t fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.

by Seamus Heaney

So don’t squander your blackberries (I’m hoping there will be a final flush soon, if the sun comes out again)

by doing this:
to make this:
It is REALLY REALLY EASY. TLM has had the first jar, and apparently tastes good, is the right consistency and (honour of honours) tastes “just like normal jam … “!

Ingredients – make 7 jars (which should be sterilized beforehand – by a thorough wash with soapy water, then leave them to dry in a medium-hot oven and make sure the hot jam goes into hot jars before screwing the lid on tight tight tight!)

  • 1700 g blackberries (this is about an hour’s worth of picking for one person, and the most a single person can take before being prickled beyond tolerance)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 150 ml water
  • 2 sachets of pectin (8g sachets)
  • 1500 g sugar

How to make it

Put two or three saucers in the fridge. Wash the blackberries, dislodging any bugs (I try not to drown them, after all they were only being greedy too). Add the blackberries, lemon juice and water to a large pan and boil gently for 30 minutes. After this stage, add the sugar and pectin and boil rigorously for 5-8 minutes. Mine took about 8 minutes until it reached ‘setting point’. This is where the cold saucers come in handy… to know when your jam is the right consistency (and not just a mushy syrup), you spoon a little jam onto the cold plate, let it cool slightly, and then draw your finger gently across the top. If the jam puckers – just a little – then you have reached setting point! You don’t want full on wrinkles, just a little resistance rather than liquidity. Be warned that this is probably runnier than you think it should be for jam. Don’t worry if you think it’s far too runny as you spoon it into the jar, as the jam will thicken when it cools. For me, runny jam is better than jam you have to chop up with your spoon.

Try it!

It really hit home that this is a way of preserving, and so when I was using up the last of my apples in the garden and needed a bit more fruit, I bunged in some of this blackberry jam (removing some of the sugar from the crumble recipe to make up!) and it was scrummy.

2 responses to “Get blackberry-jammin’

  1. Anonymous August 27, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    One jar for mum please!

  2. Chef Fresco August 27, 2009 at 1:04 am

    Aww how fun! This reminds me of my childhood – my parents would pick and pick and make lots of delicious jam šŸ™‚

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