It’s blackberry pickin’ time again!

The blackberries are early this year.    No, we don’t have blackberries in our garden but we do live close to a U-pick farm.  Last Thursday we bounded out of bed early to be at the blackberry patch by 7:00 a.m.    We picked twenty pounds (16 quarts)  in about twenty minutes.   (If you are in the Tulsa vicinity, please check out the farm.   They are always super helpful and provide buckets and gloves for picking and there is a very cute farm dog wandering the many rows of blackberries.)

We also bought a small bear of blackberry honey.

They were abundant and huge.

This was the norm not the exception.

(Last year we only picked twelve quarts and I thought that was a lot!)

I love to experiment with recipes and make something a little more exotic and it pains me to make plain old jam!   I made some delicious Blackberry-Lemon Jam with Thyme last year and I wanted something equally unique this year.   I pulled out my Blue Chair Jam Cookbook by Rachel Saunders.   My best friend and Godchildren had given me this cookbook last year and I have been anxiously awaiting jam season to use it.    (Rachel’s story has always intrigued me with her artisanal approaches and her successful business.)

I found an interesting recipe for “Blackberry Jam with Lemon Basil.”   Not having any lemon basil in the herb garden, I went out to see what I did have.   Aha!    Cinnamon basil.   Sounded like a substitute for me.    I tweaked the instructions just a bit.

Blackberry-Lemon Jam with Cinnamon Basil
Inspired by Rachel Saunder’s “Blackberry jam with Lemon Basil”

3 1/2 lbs. fresh blackberries
1 3/4 lbs. sugar
3 oz. fresh lemon juice (strained)
5 sprigs of cinnamon basil (about 3-4 inches long and the leafier the better)

In a large kettle, combine berries, sugar and lemon juice.    Stir while heating slowly.   A few of the berries will be crushed but don’t use a potato masher like some jam recipes call for, just gently stir while sugar is dissolving.

After sugar is dissolved, increase heat to high and cook, stirring frequently.   Boil for about 18 minutes.   (At this point, Rachel uses a frozen spoon method.   Check out her website if you want to try that.   I found that 18 minutes worked well.)

Remove from heat.   I had very little foam on this jam, but if you have any appear, skim it off at this time.    Place the basil sprigs in the jam and stir.    Let steep for 4-5 minutes.     Remove sprigs with tongs and discard.

Place jam into hot sterilized jars and seal.    Make sure to listen for pops.   If they don’t seal, store in refrigerator.

This recipe made four pints of jam.

This is a pretty tangy jam but the slight hint of cinnamon from the basil definitely comes through.

I already sent one half pint to a friend for taste testing.

I had to call my mom (the old home ec. teacher) when it came to Rachel’s tips on sterilizing jars.   She sterilizes her jars in the oven.   Mom says that that is an old way to do it and according to modern canning tips and techniques, it is outdated and may not be safe.    However, when I asked mom about water bathing the jam (which Rachel doesn’t have in her instructions), mom said she never does that with her jam either BUT that modern tips and techniques do advocate a water bath for all canned goods.     So, I will leave you with this information and you can process your jam as you see fit.    If in doubt, store it in the freezer or refrigerator until ready to use.

My next experiment involved limes.   I loved the blackberry margaritas we made last year, so I wanted to capture that lime essence in a jam.    This time, I used liquid pectin and sort of followed the recipe in the insert.

The supplies.

Blackberry Lime Freezer Jam

2 c. crushed blackberries (about 2 pts.)
4 c. sugar
1 pouch liquid pectin (I used Certo.)
2 T. fresh lime juice
2 t. lime zest

Wash and rinse plastic sealable containers suitable for freezing.     (I usually use a three cup container.)

Wash and rinse blackberries and crush.   You will need 2 cups of crushed berries.     (A potato masher works best for this.)    Keep the berries fairly chunky.

Stir sugar into crushed fruit and let set for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a separate small bowl, stir together liquid pectin and lime juice.   After the ten minute, stir in the pectin-lime mixture.  Stir constantly until sugar is dissolved, about three minutes.

Stir in lime zest.

Pour into prepared containers.  Make sure you leave a 1/2 inch gap at the top.   Jam will expand in the freezer.

Let stand at room temperature for 24 hours until set.    Refrigerate up to three weeks or store almost indefinitely in the freezer.   (The Certo instructions say one year, but in my freezer clean out frenzy, I found some undated peach jam that I am pretty sure has been in there for a LONG time.)

My intent was to make a traditional cooked jam and just add lime, but I couldn’t get past the 7 cups of sugar needed for that recipe.   Four cups is plenty!   So, I found two packets of pectin for sugar free jam.   My father is a diabetic and so I have always wanted to try this for him; I just never have had all the ingredients.   Most sugar-free pectins call for white grape juice.  I made a point of having the juice on hand this time.    I made two batches and followed the directions on the packet, BUT I added a bit of ground cinnamon to one batch with a little agave nectar for sweetness.   On the second batch, I added three cinnamon sticks to the pot while it boiled and added about 1/2 c. of blackberry honey.   (Cinnamon is suppose to be good for diabetics as well.)

I also broke down and made a traditional jam with lime juice and lime zest (similar to the freezer jam version) and the SEVEN CUPS OF SUGAR!  I used the recipe on the pectin insert and just added the juice of one lime and about two teaspoons of lime zest.

That’s a lot of jam.

Wow—I still had blackberries left.   I made a blackberry cobbler based on Blueberry Lavender Cobbler with Ginger Struesel.

Blackberry Lavender Cobbler with Ginger Struesel

I had a whole lot of struesel left over so I made some blackberry muffins and topped them as well.

They’re not very pretty!

I then whipped up a pitcher of blackberry-lime margaritas.

It is happy hour!

Whew!    Twenty pounds of blackberries yielded fifteen pints of assorted jam, one cobbler, seven jumbo muffins, and a gallon and a half of frozen berries!      Oh, yeah, and the margaritas.   I am going to go have a glass now!






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