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Blackberry Jam\Jelly with Star Anise

Introduction

There is an abundance of wild blackberries around us. Last week we picked at least 10k\22lb of them. Some went into a Southern cobbler (recipe to come), but the rest were destined for jam\jelly.

My issue with blackberries: the seeds; I can't bear them. So seeds out, but I needed to know if they improve the flavour, so we ran an experiment.

We blended the blackberries raw, then de-seeded them using a kitchenaid with the fruit/vegetable strainer attachement. We then made two batches of jam\jelly, one with a muslin\cheesecloth bag of seeds and skin, the other without. To my great surprise our group thought that the jam made without seeds had the fuller earthier flavour.

I should also mention that the jams\jellies that we have been making are what I refer to as 'adult' jams and jellies. The 1-to-1 proportion of sugar to fruit makes sense for commercial producers, but using less increases the concentration of fruit and the flavour.

Blending the blackberries in batches

Tips

Natural or powdered pectin can be used for this jam. We used powdered pectin (derived from apples), mixed with a little sugar and added to heated fruit before the bulk of the sugar.

A copper preserving pan isn't necessary but they provide an excellent and even heat source. As the pan remains unused for most of the year, we prepared it with an acidic rub, lemon halves (or vinegar) with salt works well; this will remove any tarnish. Once cleaned we filled it with water and brought it to the boil. The water was then poured out and the pan dried.

As with apricots, the plum kernels or stones, once cracked, impart an excellent flavour. We did this with about 10% of them.

Ingredients

  • 2.5 kg\5lb of blackberries
  • 1.5kg\3lb of sugar
  • Juice of ½ a lemon
  • 1 star anise
  • Pectin (check the type you purchase for quantity needed)

De-seeding the blackberries

Tools of the Trade

  • A skimmer or large spoon to remove any scum that rises.
  • A ladle and\or funnel
  • Jam jars, sterilised.
  • Blender or food processor
  • We ran all of the above through a full dishwasher cycle then placed them on a tray in the oven at 130°C\250°F\gas mark ½ until we were ready to bottle
  • Cook's thermometer
  • Preserving lids with rubber bands
  • A jam strainer if you wish to simply cook the blackberries whole and then strain the jam

Method

Wash the fruit and place in a colander\sieve. We blended the fruit in batches and then de-seeded them. You can oimit this step if you are going to strain the jam once cooked.

Place the fruit in the pan over a medium heat and sitr until juices start to run from the fruit. Add the lemon juice, star anise and pectin mixed with sugar and stir until completely disolved. Add the rest of the sugar and stir until all of the sugar has disolved, then increase the heat.

Coming to the setting point

Bring to the boil and skim off any scum that rises to the surface as this can sink and stick to the bottom of the pan. There is no need to stir at this time.

Place the thermometer in the jam. It will be ready when it reaches the setting point 105°C\220°F.

A thermometer takes the guess work out it, but we encouraged everybody to test without a thermometer. The key is to test early and often. Put a teaspoon of the jam on a cold saucer and leave to stand for 15 seconds. Hold the plate at a steep angle and look to see if the surface of the jam wrinkles. If so, it has reached setting point and is ready to bottle.

Remove the star anise, it will likely be floating on the top.

Remove the jam jars and bottling equipment from the oven and place on a clean sterlised surface.

Ladle or funnel the jam carefully into the jars, leaving a small space at the top (see photo) of the jar.

Bottling

If using metal lids\caps, leave the jam to cool for 10 minutes. If using flexibile plastic lids, dampen one side of the plastic. Place the dry side over the jam jar and gently stretch and smooth down the sides. Fix in place with a rubber band.

Suggestion

To one batch we added a kilo of ripe peaches, washed, stones removed and roughly chopped. This increased the acidity and high notes and cut the sweetness.