Monday, September 7, 2009

Berry Simple

There are so many beautiful berries. And so many delicious things to do with them. The creek-beds in our hometown offer up buckets and buckets of August blackberries. This year we made blackberry freezer jam.

Anne and her mother made cooked jam.
And cobbler.

None of these things should intimidate you. But for some reason they all intimidated me until I actually did them. When I started baking our family's bread I felt like it deserved a finer spread than off-brand jelly (and I was a little hopped up on the satisfaction of "home-made,") so I whipped up a batch of strawberry freezer jam and...lawzie! Buttered toast + jam= paradise to my palate every morning. I knew right then that we'd never go back to store-bought preserves. And it was as simple as picking up a box of pectin at the supermarket, having plenty of sugar and a few empty Tupperware containers on hand, and securing an adequate supply of fruit (1 quart for a batch of strawberry freezer jam).
The folded insert inside the pectin box tells you exactly what to do to make almost any type of jam or jelly you could imagine. My only tip is to follow the instructions with precision -- add all those cups of sugar (don't make them scant to ease your healthy-conscience) the slightest bit of alteration and you won't be happy with the way the jam sets up.
While I'm partial to the charm of picking sun-warmed berries along the creek beds of Southern Oregon, frozen/store-bought berries make lovely jam, too.


Seedless Blackberry Cooked Jam

Like Emily mentioned, making jam often feels intimidating, but I was amazed at how simple it was. If you can read a recipe, you can make jam. What I love most about how my mom does cooked jam, is that she doesn't even use a canner, so you don't have to worry if you don't have all the fancy equipment.

In all her years of jamming, Mom swears by 100% Natural Sure Jell Premium Fruit Pectin. Get yourself some jars, lids, and pectin, and you're ready to go. Mom follows the recipe in the pectin box for Blackberry cooked jam, but also has a few tricks up her sleeve, which I will now pass on to you. (You're welcome!)

First: To crush the berries, my mom uses a food mill. If you want to be a jammer, this is a great investment, and I've found new ones as low as $18 on Amazon. Another good bet is second hand. Think yard sale, Goodwill, or your grandma. If you don't have a food mill, just use a spoon to crush the berries through a sieve. Another hint from Mom--start with frozen berries. It's easier to get them through the food mill. (If you freeze berries in ziploc bags, make sure you put the thawing berries in a bowl--as the blackberry juice leaks out of the bags during the thaw!)
Second: After you've cooked your berries, and mixed in the pectin and sugar, as per the Sure Jell recipe, you need to get your hot jam into your jars quickly. As you might guess, ladeling could prove messy. Mom uses this handy little funnel. Highly recommended.

Third: In order to do cooked jam without a canner, you need to be quick about getting your hot jam in the jars and then boil your lids like this before you put them on.

As soon as you get the lids and rings on, turn the jars upside down. This will help them seal.
After about 10 minutes you can turn them right side up and you'll start to hear each one "click." That's how you know they've sealed. (I love that sound!)

Blackberry Cobbler

For me, dessert doesn't get better than this. I die about the warm berries mixed with the cold ice cream, and the bready topping gives it the perfect texture.

For the berries:

In a small pot mix 1 cup sugar, 1 tbsp corn starch, and 1 cup water. Place pot on heat and bring to a boil. Let boil for 1 min, stirring constantly. Take off heat and add 3 cups blackberries. Pour mixture into 9x13 baking dish. Dot mixture with butter and sprinkle with cinnamon.

For the top:

In a small bowl mix 1 cup flour, 1 tbsp sugar, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, and 1/2 tsp salt. Mix in 3 tbsp butter. Add 1/2 cup milk. Drop topping in spoonfuls onto fruit.

Bake @400 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Serve over vanilla ice cream. Love every delish minute of it.



rhall said...

Love the beautiful color of blackberry products! By the way,You can make your blackberry jam without a food mill, but the food mill allows you to make a seedless jam. (Blackberry seeds are big.)You can use the pulp to make freezer jam too.

We made a cobbler yesterday. Yum! Betty Crocker gets credit for that recipe!

rhall said...

Have the lids hot BEFORE you put the jam in jars, even good to put a lid on each one as you go, to keep the jam hot, before you put on the rings. Work fast. (That "funnel" is especially for canning, has a large opening.)

Yes, freezer jam is much easier, but we don't always have a lot of freezer space. Cooked jam properly sealed keeps a long time on your shelf.

Another random comment-I never think of myself as old, but those are old-looking hands!

Love BLOOM Anne and Emily. You are both inspiring.

jeanine said...

Looks delish! And now I want to go make some jam!

Linds said...

Yummy! Time for a supermarket run.

Christina said...

I tried Pomona's Universal Pectin this year for my jam making - it's an alternative to the regular pectins and it allows you to use any thing you like to sweeten and calls for a lot less sweetener than the traditional pectins - I did one batch of cherry jam with honey and one with agave. I thought the flavor was really good and I felt good about using less sugar. I don't know if you can find it at most grocery stores? I would think more natural-type markets would carry it. I found mine at a fruit stand and it's also available in our local grocery store here on the island.

We'll have to try your cobbler recipe - Joshua loves blackberry cobbler!

rhall said...

I have also tried pectins that allow you to use less sugar. You do end up with a somewhat different product, much fruitier of course. My jam-loving husband prefers the traditional stuff.We would all be better off with less sugar! And that includes high-fructose corn syrup!

Emily Anne said...

Thanks for sharing your wisdom with us, Rozanne. I love that you popped in on the comment thread; your point about freezer vs. shelf space is a great one. We hope this isn't the last time we hear from you at Bloom :)

Joan said...

Mmmmmmm...berry cobbler. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING is better than that (at least as far as desert goes).