Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Four Berry Jam
Blackberry season is different every year. It is somewhere in July or August. I guess the sun and the rain influences it somehow.
But it never lasts more than a couple of weeks. First the berries turn red, then they turn dark purple. You have to taste them, because they take a few days to sweeten after turning dark. Then you have to race the deer and other critters to get them before they are all gone.
We have acres of berries. They grow in most areas that have a lot of sun and that we don't mow or bush hog. The best ones are always in the middle of a patch. I prefer to drive and walk a long way to pick the easy berries on the edges of a patch.
You can climb in to the middle of a patch, but the berry vines wrap themselves around you and getting out is a painful process.
So I drive around and get the easy ones first.
Lee and I went out picking one day after dinner. It was coolish and a not too humid. Perfect for berry picking. We both picked for an hour or so, using small containers for picking and then dumping them into a large storage bucket..
We looked for the best of the easy berries. Don't get me wrong. You ALWAYS get stabbed by the thorns. And you always get purple fingers. But it was a nice evening and we had a good time.
I got rid of any bugs and leaves in the bucket and then placed the berries in storage containers and then in the refrigerator for the morning.
Wild blackberries have a fairly large seed. I always run mine through a food mill. This gets rid of most of the seeds, at least the largest ones. I always rinse and pick through for any leaves. Fortunately, I had gotten rid of the bugs the night before. My father would have said something about a little protein in the berries never hurt anyone, but YUCK!
I followed the recipe on the Sure-Jell pectin and made a batch of blackberry jam. A few years ago I wrote a more complete recipe for the blackberry making and you can see it here http://shenandoahgatewayfarm.blogspot.com/2012/06/ripe-blackberries-already.html
I had hoped to have enough berries for two batches, but I didn't. I didn't want to go picking again, because now it was hot. Lee brought in a small bucket, but after running all the last of the berries through the food mill, I only had about 1 cup of blackberry pulp. (Do you know how long it takes to pick enough berries for one cup of pulp? A berry long time!) You need about 5 cups of fruit for one batch of jam. It is a mystery how 5 cups of fruit and 7 cups of sugar ( I KNOW, SEVEN!) make about 9 cups of jam, but that is how it works!
Earlier in the week, we had made a Sam's Club visit. I bought a large clamshell of blueberries and one of strawberries. We were expecting B&B guests and I had hoped to use the berries for the breakfast, in addition to freezing the rest of the blueberries and eating the strawberries ourselves. I still had all the fruit and the strawberries did not look as thought they would survive until the weekend, so they were fair game for jam making.
The Sure-Jell instructions had a recipe for Three Berry Jam. It was different berries, but I decided it would work for me. Oh, wait! In the back of the refrigerator was a few raspberries we hadn't finished. So I went for Four Berry Jam.
Four Berry Jam
1 cup blackberry pulp after you process it in a food mill.
3 cups strawberry pulp after you remove the stems and run them through the food mill
1 cup blueberries after mashing with a potato masher
a handful of raspberries mashed with the blueberries
7 cups sugar
1 package of Sure-Jell
Every package has instructions for a variety of jams and jellies. Basically, you add the Sure-Jell to the fruit pulp in a large pan. This particular mix of berries made produced a gorgeous color of blues, reds and purples.
Heat until a rolling boil. Add the sugar and continue cooking until it comes back to a rolling boil. Cook for one minute and then pour into very clean jars that have been in boiling water. Screw on the two piece lids
Place the finished jars in a VERY large pot of boiling water that is at least 2 inches above the tops of the jars and boil gently for 10 minutes. Time it. Remove the jars and let cool.
This recipe made 9 and 1/4 jars of Four Berry Jam. Plus, I had 9 jars of blackberry jam. I'm going to have enough to last us the year and still have plenty to give as gifts.
I wasn't sure if my invented batch of jam would be good. I love the blackberry jam. I waited for the next day and opened the 1/4 jar. It was so good. The best jam I ever made. I wish I could offer this jam to our B&B guests, but the county won't let me. I guess I could mess up on the whole sterilizing thing and poison a few, but I have made a lot of jam over the years and haven't poisoned hardly any one, yet!!!
One really nice thing about this recipe is that it is mostly strawberries. Right now these are plentiful and not too expensive. And no thorns, bugs, humidity and purple fingers were involved in the collection of said strawberries. We did have to drive to town, but we were going anyway! Store bought, seedless blackberries would be easy to get, along with the blueberries, so anyone that doesn't own massive acres of berry filled property could easily make this delicious jam. Just throw in a small clamshell of raspberries and buy a bunch of sugar and you are in business!
We still had enough ripe, easy access berries for Emily, our most recent B&B guest to get a fast quart of berries. I drove her around in the Mule until we found a likely patch and left her to her own devices. Lee had cut the thumb and first two finger off of a pair of old gloves and she borrowed them to TRY to keep from getting stabbed too many times. She seemed happy, so I was, too.
The berries are still ripe and I can't tell you when the berries will be ripe next year, but guests are free to get in a bit of pick-your-own-berries time while they are here. A great breakfast and all you can pick berries seems like a good deal to me!