Monthly Archives: August 2013

Easy Blackberry Jam Recipe


As a young teenager in North County Dublin I rode my bike to school and to visit friends along the aptly named Blackberry Lane.   In the waning days of school summer holidays, it was typical for someone’s mother to set bored teenagers to work gathering the wild blackberries for jam.  Since blackberries do not contain a lot of pectin, the berries were usually combined with pectin-rich cooking apples to help set the jam.  The deep purple jam was a luscious treat on homemade bread or scones with or without Kerrygold butter.

Many of us are intimidated by the idea of making homemade jam because it brings to mind sterilizing jars, copious amounts of boiling water and the fear of botulism.  But making ready to eat jam in small quantities is surprisingly quick and easy.


This quick blackberry jam is a delicious filling for mini jam tarts served with afternoon tea. I followed Irish cooking maven Darina Allen’s advice to heat the sugar before adding it to the fruit so it dissolves more quickly.  I added lemon balm, a member of the mint family that has an interesting lemony-mint flavor, to the jam at the end for a more complex flavor.   The addition of lemon balm is totally optional.  Have fun by experimenting  with other herbs.

This jam is not shelf stable and should be stored in the refrigerator.  If you want to make larger quantities and preserve them follow directions for canning  jam.  The canning and preserving blog is a good resource.   Darina Allen’s excellent “Forgotten Skills of Cooking” has a detailed section on canning, or bottling as it is called in Ireland.

Easy Blackberry Jam

Easy Blackberry Jam


  • 1 small apple
  • ¼ cup water
  • 3 cups blackberries
  • 2 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon balm , leaves torn into small pieces – optional


  1. Heat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Place a small plate in the freezer for testing the firmness of the jam once it is cooked.
  3. Peel and core the apple. Cut it into slices. Place in saucepan with the water. Heat over medium heat for about 15 minutes until the apple slice have softened. Drain apples and mash with a potato masher. Set aside.
  4. Spread sugar on rimmed baking sheet. Place in preheated oven for 10 minutes.
  5. Wash and pick over the berries. Discard any overly soft berries.
  6. Place them in a heavy bottomed saucepan over a medium heat for five minutes until they soften and release their juice. Stir occasionally.
  7. Stir in warmed sugar and mashed apple.
  8. Place back on the heat, bring to a boil, let cook for about 15 minutes. Skim any foam off the top. Add lemon balm or other herb if using.
  9. Test firmness by placing a teaspoon of jam on the chilled plate. It should wrinkle when you touch it. If not, cook jam for a few more minutes. Test on the plate again.
  10. When the jam is set, take it off the heat. Cool, pour into jars and refrigerate.

Gooseberry and Elderflower Fool

Gooseberry and Elderflower Fool

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 5 minutes

Yield: Serves 4

Gooseberry and Elderflower Fool


  • 3 cups gooseberries
  • 3 tbsps. Superfine (Castor) sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 strips lemon zest
  • 3 tbsps. Elderberry syrup (see note)
  • 1 cup organic heavy cream
  • 1 cup plain Greek-style yogurt


  1. Wash gooseberries, if sieving them for a puree there is no need to top and tail the berries. If you desire a chunkier fool with pieces of fruit, top and tail berries. Place them in a heavy bottomed saucepan with the sugar, lemon zest and water. Heat the fruit over a medium heat for about five minutes until the berries burst. Remove the saucepan from the heat, let cool, then chill in the refridgerator for about an hour.
  2. When the berries have chilled, pour off any excess liquid, then using a mixing spoon and a sieve, make a fruit puree by pushing the berries through the sieve. Add the elderflower syrup to the puree.
  3. Beat the heavy cream with a hand mixer until it forms soft peaks, but is not stiff.
  4. Fold in the yogurt. Then fold in the fruit, swirling the puree through the cream-yogurt mixture. Serve in pretty glasses or bowls with a sprig of mint and thin lemon cookies.


Elderflower syrup is available at European, particularly Eastern European, food stores. You could substitute St. Germain, an elderflower liqueur that is widely available.


Seeing gooseberries at Chicago’s Green City Market this week made me nostalgic for a very old-fashioned dessert, gooseberry fool.   Fools are cream and fruit based desserts dating back to the fifteenth century.   They are traditionally made with whipped cream, custard and fruit – usually berries.  Given the time of year gooseberries are in season in the Midwest, custard seemed awfully heavy for our typically hot, humid days.  I lightened up this version calorically and otherwise by substituting Greek-style yogurt for the custard.  As a result, this Gooseberry and Elderflower Fool is refreshingly tart and light as air.

Gooseberries are naturally tart and, like cranberries, need to be cooked with sugar to bring out their sweetness.   Wine-colored gooseberries seem to be the only variety available at my local farmers’ markets, but this recipe can be prepared with the green variety too. The wine-colored variety are slightly sweeter and turn the fool a delicate pink when mixed with the cream and yogurt.  It’s important to use organic heavy cream in this recipe to more closely replicate the rich, yellow cream of Ireland.

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