Eating seasonally is great for your health and your tastebuds. Here’s how to turn blackberries, which are in season between August and October, into jam.
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There’s barely anything that is as satisfying or nostalgic as jam. Whether you’re pairing it with a pastry and a fresh glass of orange juice on a hot summer’s day or spreading it onto toast as the ultimate comfort-food snack in the winter, its fruity taste and unique texture always does the trick. Although a jar of jam is easy enough to come across in the supermarket, some would say that you haven’t experienced the preserve at its best until you’ve tasted a fresh, homemade version, especially if the fruits used in it are in season.
And with blackberries at their peak in the UK right now, this is the perfect opportunity to try making your own jam. The best thing about homemade jam is that you can make it in big batches, so you can store it in your fridge for up to a year or gift it to your friends (and gain some serious brownie points). You could even make the most of the last of the summer days and evenings and go foraging to find your own blackberries, if you’re really looking to impress.
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Perfecting the flavour and texture of your jam is no easy task as a beginner, though. So we recruited the help of Elspeth Biltoft, the founder of Rosebud Preserves, to share her recipe and tips for making a delicious blackberry jam. Elspeth has been making jams since she was 15, making it her career in 1989.
Here, she shares her blackberry jam recipe, which incorporates apples and various spices to give it a well-rounded, unique taste.
What you will need to make blackberry and apple jam
Makes approximately five 227g jars.
- 2kg fresh blackberries
- 500g Bramley apples (or other suitable cooking apples) – apples should be peeled, cored and grated on a coarse grater.
- 1.7kg golden granulated sugar
- 330ml water
- Zest and juice of two small or one large bergamot OR zest and juice of two limes
- Various spices – 1 cinnamon stick, 4 black peppercorns, a heel of fresh ginger (an inch cubed), a fresh bay leaf – all in a square of muslin tied with string.
- 5 x 227g glass jars
- 5 x suitable twist off lids
- Sharp knife
- 10 litre heavy-based saucepan or a large non-stick sauce pan with a large surface area
- Large heatproof container
- Measuring jug
- Sugar thermometer
- Wooden spoon
How to make blackberry and apple jam
- Prepare the glass jars by washing thoroughly in hot, soapy water. Rinse, drain and then place in a warm oven at 50°C until the jam is ready for jarring.
- Prepare the cooking apples as per ingredients list – apples peeled, cored and grated on a coarse grater.
- Place the apples, blackberries and spices in the heavy based saucepan and add the water.
- Simmer very gently until the fruit is tender – approx. 10 mins.
- Add the sugar and stir constantly over a very low heat until the sugar is dissolved.
- Zest and juice the bergamot or limes, combine the juice and zest by mixing in a food processor until the zest is very small, then add the juice and zest to the fruit, turn up the heat and cook to a rolling boil.
- Every few minutes take the pan off the heat temporarily and test with a sugar thermometer until the temperature reaches approx. 104.5°C, when the jam should be set.
- Ladle the jam into the heatproof container, remove the spice bag, allow it to cool and then squeeze the juices back into the jam. Then use the measuring jug to fill the jars and then lid the jars immediately.
- Label and date the jars when cold.
- Enjoy after seven days but keep unopened for no longer than a year.
Elspeth’s tips for making jam at home
Elspeth makes all of her preserves without pectin, in order to ensure they taste fresh and the ingredients are as healthy as possible. “Instead try generous quantities of fruit and a little lemon juice,” Elspeth recommends.
Choose your sugar carefully
“Golden granulated sugar is perfect for making jam,” Elspeth says, explaining that it’s important you opt for golden granulated sugar over other kinds of sugar. “It is less sweet than sugar made from sugar beet and gives a slightly mollases-like flavour to your preserves.”
Remove your jam from the heat immediately
“When cooking your jam, remove the finished product from the heat and pour in a heatproof container,” Elspeth advises. “This will prevent your jam from continuing to further cook and spoil.” Elspeth explains that the texture of your jam is largely down to the length you cook it for so it’s important to be precise.
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Storage is important
You might be tempted to put your jam in any old plastic container you have lying around but Elspeth says that it’s important to store it properly if you want it to last. “Avoid wax discs and cellophane tops with rubber bands. Instead, buy appropriate jars with matching twist off lids. Jar and cap as soon as possible to draw a vacuum,” Elspeth says.
Be specific with your fruit
If possible, you should try and make your jams with seasonal fruits for the best taste. Elspeth adds that there are a few other things to look out for when choosing your fruits. “Fruit should be fresh, firm and slightly underripe and in the case of soft fruits always dry before cooking,” she says.
Practise makes perfect
“We love instant gratification and we’re used to it but when it comes to making things at home, you’ve got to practise,” Elspeth says. You should label each jam you make with the date you made it and, as you try it, any notes about how it tastes and how you could improve on it. That way, you have some things to improve on the next time you make it.
Elspeth Biltoft, founder of Rosebud Preserves
Elspeth is the founder of Rosebud Preserves, a food business based in Yorkshire.
Images: Rosebud Preserves, Getty
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