Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Blackberry and apple jam

One of the benefits of living in the countryside is that we have loads of blackberries growing along most of the paths and small roads. Back home raspberries grow like that, almost like a weed, on roadsides and along fields. Here, I haven't seen much wild raspberries, in fact I don't think I've seen any at all. But instead there are blackberries as far as the eye can see. When I was working my previous job (yes the one that shall not be named) I used to walk about half an hour every morning as we did a car share with the Culinary Consultant who worked in the next village over and during September the road was lined with blackberry brambles and I couldn't help myself and used to snack on some berries on my way to work. A few weeks ago I came home from work to a massive load of blackberries, courtesy of the Culinary Consultant. I had never seen so many blackberries in my entire life. And he did a repeat performance, so we had our freezer stuffed full with almost 6 kg (13 lb) of blackberries. Then, the other day we went for a bike ride and our route took us past some very prolific and new (to us) blackberry pastures. What else is a girl to do than return with some containers the next day? The first brambles closest to the village were all picked clean, but just another 10 minutes or so down the road we found brambles which had huge, juicy fruit in copious amounts. So in less than 2 hours of picking we added another 2.8 kg (6 lb) of berries to our stash. However, a word of warning. Although it's free food, it doesn't come easy. I thought I was well prepared with long sleeves and trouser legs, but I still managed to get endless cuts on my hands and legs, not to mention the fact that nettles easily seem to burn through sports clothing, so next year I need to prepare by buying some military grade clothing to escape the torture of multiple nettle burn. And just as a friendly hint, you don't want to cook anything that involves squeezing lemon juice for a few days afterwards. It may not look like you broke the skin on your fingers, but you did. In multiple places. Trust me.

Although I'm perfectly happy to eat all those lovely little black gems as they are, we thought we should make something out of them (and partly because we simply couldn't fit all of them in the freezer). As jammin' seem to be the theme of this fall, we thought why not look up a nice and simple blackberry jam and try our hands at it. And the interwebs, in their great wisdom came up with Easy blackberry and apple jam from Fab Food 4 All. We doubled up the recipe as we had so much berries. And I can't help but to feel very smug about our hard work, as it equates to over £100 worth of blackberries (based on the cheapest price for fresh blackberries on the Tesco website). And I bet ours are better as they are sun ripened and only picked fresh and ripe and put straight into the freezer (or in this case, jam pot) so they have maximum flavour.

Simple Blackberry and Apple Jam
600 g blackberries
500 g cooking apples (we used a mix of cookers and sweet apples, as we used windfall from our neighbours tree that had landed in our garden)
1.1 kg sugar
300 ml water
1 cinnamon stick
(10 g butter)

The howto:
As with any other jam, prepare your jam jars by washing them in hot soapy water. Shake to remove excess water, but don't dry. Place the wet jars and lids on an oven sheet covered with newspaper making sure they don't touch each other. Put into oven, and turn oven on to 120 degrees C. Leave jar in the oven until they have been at least 10 minutes in 120 degrees. Leave oven on and the jars to wait in the hot oven until you are ready to use them (they should be hot when you pour the hot jam into them so the glass doesn't get damaged).

Peel, core and cut apples into small pieces. Add apples with the water and cinnamon stick into a large saucepan, bring to a boil and let slowly cook for about 10 minutes. Add the blackberries and simmer until soft (about 15-20 minutes). Add the sugar off the heat, stir until dissolved. Bring back to a rolling boil, and let cook until jam has set (reached 104 degrees C). You can also test setting point by placing a few small plates in the freezer before starting the jam making, and when you think the jam is done, drop some jam onto a cold plate and let stand for a minute. If you push the jam with your finger and it wrinkles it's done, if it remains liquid, let boil for 3-5 more minutes and test again. Remove excess froth with a ladle. The original recipe suggested to then stir in the butter to remove the rest of the froth, but I don't like the idea of putting butter in my jam, so I just accept that there will be a few remaining bubbles in the jam. The jam seemed rather runny when I poured it into the jars, but it did set nicely. Apples have quite a bit of pectin so it will set although you think it won't. 

Ladle the jam into jars, and put some parchment paper over the jar opening before securing the lid. I store all my jam in the fridge to make it keep longer, but so far everything has been eaten before it has gone bad.

The verdict:
Of all the jams we have made so far, this is the sweetest one. I don't consider that a bad thing, but if you aren't into sweet jams keep that in mind. It's always a tradeoff as the sugar helps keep the jam for longer but at the same time a lower sugar jam does have more fruity flavour to it. But you do feel the wonderful flavour of the blackberries. As the apple cooks it will turn into complete "mush" so it does give a slightly different texture from a pure berry jam. I really liked how the jam turned out, but it does taste more "sugary" sweet than the other jams we made (plum jam here and fig jam here). On Saturday I will show you one fabulous way of using the jam, although plenty of it has also been devoured on toast and mixed in my morning oatmeal. And maybe a spoonful or two has been eaten straight out of the jar (but remember to only put clean spoons into the jar, if you have licked it, it shouldn't go back into the jar. This will help keep the jam for longer).

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