July 6, 2008

Cedarwood Blackberry jam

What could be better than a piece of toasted brioche with homemade blackberry jam.

We spent the 4th of July in the country at Cedarwood, my boyfriend's family house in Hickman county. It's the perfect place to just relax on the porch sipping a beer or go down to the creek and dip your feet in the water. And our timing was impeccable because it's also the perfect place to pick blackberries!

In Tennessee this time of year the blackberries are exploding and you can pick them on the side of the road nearly everywhere where there is a cleared, overgrown sunny patch. I'm told it's a 'trash plant' or a weed that takes over in this climate. Lucky for us! One man's trash is another woman's breakfast.

It doesn't seem like a recipe is really needed to make jam. But I consulted a recent bon appetit column by one of my favorite bloggers, Molly Wizenberg. Hers was simple: about 30 oz of fruit, 2 cups of sugar, 2 tablespoons lemon juice. I used a little more fruit and a little less sugar and didn't do the proper canning--heating the jars and sealing them afterwards. With this small amount of jam I knew we'd eat it quickly with no need for preserving. If I were making large quantities, I would do it the old way.

After washing the berries, combine them with the sugar and lemon juice and let them macerate for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Then in a saucepan over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil and stir; then turn down heat and mash the berries with a potato masher and simmer for about 20-25 minutes until it becomes a thick purée. How to test when the jam is done cooking: put a spoonful on a plate, put it in the freezer and retrieve it after 5 min. If it gels and bounces back when you touch it, it's done. If not, simmer a bit longer. Spoon into clean jars and let sit at room temperature until completely cooled. Store in the refrigerator.

I grew up eating homemade preserves made by my mother's aunt and uncle in Colorado. I remember their apples, peaches, pears and tomatoes and how they tasted of some old-fashioned goodness. They canned a lot of fruit --I assume from their own fruit trees-- and we were the lucky recipients of their labors. I have only recently begun to appreciate these efforts as someone who tries to eat seasonally and locally.

And what a perfect example of a local food tradition this is: pick blackberries on Friday; make jam on Sat. and enjoy it on Sunday. And it's easy! If only I'd had about 5 more lbs of fruit I would have made jam for everyone. Next time I'll endure the heat and prickly bushes a little longer if only to be able to eat homemade jam more often.

1 comment:

  1. Yum! I am lazy and not fond of chiggers, so I stay out of the blackberries and buy seedless jam from the produce stand (it comes from a family in southern Kentucky). I am jealous nonetheless. There are blackberries just a few hundred feet from me, but I'm hoping to be chigger bite free soon!