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 HomePreservingBible.com 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.
- 1 small apple
- ¼ cup water
- 3 cups blackberries
- 2 ½ cups granulated sugar
- 1 tbsp lemon balm , leaves torn into small pieces – optional
- Heat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Place a small plate in the freezer for testing the firmness of the jam once it is cooked.
- 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.
- Spread sugar on rimmed baking sheet. Place in preheated oven for 10 minutes.
- Wash and pick over the berries. Discard any overly soft berries.
- Place them in a heavy bottomed saucepan over a medium heat for five minutes until they soften and release their juice. Stir occasionally.
- Stir in warmed sugar and mashed apple.
- 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.
- 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.
- When the jam is set, take it off the heat. Cool, pour into jars and refrigerate.