Thursday, 3 October 2013

Blackberry and Apple Jam

It is that time of year again when blackberries appear on the bushes all around (actually it's past that time but I did miss the boat a little bit this year). Last year I went blackberry picking with friends and we picked enough to make jam for the year. I still have a few jars left and it tastes great. I was all set this year to repeat this and add more jam to my cupboards. Jam is a lot easier to make than I thought and great to have homemade stuff to give out during the year (and to eat yourself of course)

After a bit of research as to good places to pick blackberries I went off walk about three weeks ago with my Mum and J in the buggy to see what we could find. The answer, not a lot. The bushes had been stripped by more enterprising blackberry pickers. I actually picked last year towards the end of September but it seems this year the early bird caught the worm, or ate the blackberries if you will. My friend and her mum went off to Wicklow, picking where we did last year and reported back the same news, the bushes were bare.

After 2 hours of walking, including a hairy moment with me climbing behind a tall fence we had picked a pathetic amount of blackberries but we'd done our best. There would definitely be no jam making this year though. Undaunted, I proceeded to make a blackberry and apple tart for my Dad, who is a huge fan. I hate fruit tarts, really they are just a waste of pastry. There are so much more delicious things you could make but Daddy HNW has a sweet tooth and needed his pie.

Here is the finished result. A rather sad looking pie as I had less than half the blackberries that the recipe asked for. I knew this going along so my pastry work got very half-hearted towards the end. I was tired and I wanted to be making something that I could sit down and eat afterwards! Paul Hollywood of GBBO fame would also have been disgusted at the soggy bottom on this bad boy.

So, I was all set to give up on my blackberry jam plans for the year but hope was not lost! Last week my father in law was visiting and we went up North for two days so he could see a bit more of the country. We had a lovely trip visiting the Giant's Causeway and around that area and also a day in Belfast. We stayed in a  little holiday home that was down a country lane and there were blackberries everywhere! I only noticed as we were leaving so was raging at myself for not going out earlier for a long walk to stock up. Still, I picked blackberries for about 20 minutes and got enough to fill a 1l freezer bag. Adding in some apples made a respectable amount of jam.

I picked 1.4KG of blackberries so made jam using these and 600g of Bramley Cooking Apples.

Blackberry and Apple Jam

Cooking Apples
1 Orange or Lemon
2 Cloves


First of all, wash your jam jars and lids in hot soapy water. Then put them all in the oven at 50C to sterilise them. I just left mine in while the jam was cooking.

Destalk all the blackberries and add them to a large soup pot or other heavy bottomed pan

Peel and core the apples and slice them into relatively small chunks and add to the pan.

Add about 150ml of water, the juice of one orange (recipes usually say lemon but I only had orange which I now actually prefer) and 2 cloves.

After this photo was taken I had to remove the apple pieces and chop them smaller, otherwise they never would have softened enough. You really need to cut them into small pieces.

Bring the pot to the boil and then allow to simmer until the fruit is smooth and has a fine consistency. I had to simmer for about an hour due to my big apple pieces. In the end I also had to add the mixture to my mixer to get the consistency fine enough.

Sieve the fruit to remove the seeds and cloves. I like the seeds in my jam so once the cloves were located I poured the rest back in the pan.

Add granulated sugar - you need to add the same weight in sugar that you had in fruit so I added 2Kg of sugar. (A lot of people think you need pectin to make jam but it's really not necessary - why complicate things?)

Let the mixture simmer for about 20 minutes then test to see if it is "set". You do this by taking a small amount of the mixture out with a teaspoon and dropping onto a clean, cool and dry saucer. If the drops do not run into each other when you tilt the saucer to the side then the jam is ready. If the jam is not ready let it simmer for a further 5 minutes and test again.

Pour the jam into the sterilised jars, close the lids tight and then tip the jar upside down and then upright again. This helps to create a seal. Then, Voila, you have lots of lovely jam!

Here are my finished products (excuse the messy counter behind them!)

It really doesn't look very attractive but I'm planning to get labels and some gingham material to make them look all pretty so I can give them to friends/family. I had some jars saved from when I had used them throughout the year but I'm planning on making more homemade preserves for Christmas presents so will need to buy some more. Allpack is a great place to stock up.

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