Friday, June 24, 2011

Pectin-Free Blackberry (Punk) Jam.

This year, it appears I've accidentally fallen into making pectin-free jams. I didn't really intend to, I just never purchased any boxes of liquid or powder and then discovered upon reading that it's really not necessary anyway. Sure, packaged pectin makes a batch of jam go a little more quickly, but if it is one thing I am rich in it's time.

My first pectin-free batch was Tigress's rhubarb-lavender jam, which if you need a super delicious jam and happen to love rhubarb is certainly worth your time. I LOVE it: in yogurt, on toast, plain on a spoon. I'm so glad I have 10 half pints sitting on the shelf, since it will likely be gifted to many people and devoured personally. That batch was also my first canning experience this season, which tends to open the floodgates of food preservation via the hot water bath for me. "What else can I can?" all of a sudden becomes my mantra, inspiration coming from unlikely sources.

not bad for iPhone photography in my opinion...

The same day that Punk Domestics announced a Punkberry theme for the summer, my Mother-in-Law asked me to go shopping with her. Although I didn't need anything (except we were also going to a garden center) I perused. I found 18 oz. packages of giant California blackberries at a good price, and they were organic. For about 10$, I got 2 lbs. 5 oz. when I weighed them at home, the perfect amount for a small batch of blackberry jam. I have never concocted my own canning recipe before, and I really wanted to come up with something punky for Punk Domestics. I'm a little early for the July submission date, but this jam can't wait. I am so excited that it worked well and tastes great!

Small batches of jam, as it turns out, are actually better for pectin-free jams, especially ones containing fruit that doesn't have a whole lot of natural pectin. Blackberries, according to one chart I found, are kind of in the middle of the road for pectin containing, whereas the rhubarb jam I started with ranks higher. I still have a lot to learn about pectin-free jam, I almost feel like my jam got too "jammed" by the time it cooled - even though it looked and reacted perfectly to the "plates-in-the-freezer" test. I like the texture, even though it got a little more solid than I was expecting.

What is more Punk than booze? Not much, I'd say. After considering some kind of herby blackberry jam, I settled on a tamer, slightly more ordinary orange version. I figured it would be a good excuse to use a little of my homemade orange liqueur from earlier this year, and I think I was right. The result was tart-sweet jam with a slight booze kick from my not-quite-mellowed liqueur. My ratio was based on methods from Linda Ziedrich (via Julia) and a photocopied recipe for Strawberry Grand Marnier jam that I found in a book from the library. I used weight measurement on the sugar since I used raw, a good conversion table is here.

Pectin-Free Blackberry Punk Jam
yield 3 half pints
  • 2 lbs., 5 oz. blackberries, washed and lightly dried
  • zest of one (organic) orange, grated
  • 540 g. sugar
  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • 1/4 c. orange liqueur (homemade or purchased)
You may use whatever jam-making method you prefer. Since I am new to pectin-free jams this is what I did:

Put several small plates into the freezer for use as jam testers. Ready jars, hot water bath and other canning accoutrements. (Sterilize jars for 10 minutes in boiling water and keep warm. A good canning primer can be found here.)

Mash the berries, orange zest and sugar in a large non-reactive bowl and let macerate for several hours at room temperature. At this point, you can decide if you want super seedy jam, half seedy jam or seedless jam. I opted for half seedy and pushed the macerated fruit mixture through a china cap. Then, I added half of the fruit pulp back to the mixture.

In a large, non-reactive pot, heat the blackberry mixture with the lemon juice until boiling. Skim off the foam (reserve in a bowl, see below...) carefully, and continue to stir pretty regularly until the jam starts to thicken.

Test for the "jam" by dropping a teaspoon or so of jam onto a frozen plate and returning the plate to the freezer for one minute. If you can draw a line with your finger on the plate and no jam runs back into it, you should be at the jamming stage. When sure of your set, remove from heat and stir in the booze. Then fill the sterilized jars, wipe rims, add lids and ring them and process in hot water for 10 minutes. Remove from water bath and let sit for 24 hours before checking for seal.

I was so happy to be reuinited with the flavor of blackberry. I was equally excited to have some fruit pulp and reserved "foam" that I skimmed off the top... Our weather has been so chilly that my kombucha has been taking longer to brew, but this next bottling is certainly going to be blackberry and I can hardly wait. Even though the fruit pulp is super seedy, it hasn't stopped me from eating it. So what if I have to floss a little more often during the day. It's worth it in the flavor department. I have enough leftover that I may try this coffee cake too. In fact, I may do that right now. I am out of dessert after all.  (Here's a pic.)

waste not, want not: blackberry foam.

Also fortunately for me, I planned bread to be out of the oven yesterday afternoon. I shaped my new favorite Peter Reinhart bread into one large pound and a half sized loaf, and had enough dough leftover for about 5 smallish dinner rolls. I never formed sourdough bread into rolls before (except the multi-grain variation) and I liked them a lot. I happen to be a "crust person", and these babies are like all crust. They also were a grand vehicle for newly minted jam surplus.

I have not had blackberry jam in what seems like forever. Growing up in the northwoods, we had a brambly patch of blackberries, one that even though we were semi-rural my Parents had to chase tourists from every so often. We actually called the Summer people "Berry Pickers", and my Mom tells me that in the '60's (when her family ran a drive-in restaurant), come Labor Day, the business owners of the community would line state highway 51 and shout "Goodbye, Pickers!" as they all drove south back to their city homes.

The wild blueberries we picked and our cultivated maze of thorny blackberries are still some of my favorite flavors, my Mom canned both into jams. When our family moved south, to the Driftless Region closer to the Mississippi, our farm came with established raspberries. At first we were all extremely happy with this change, but forever-after it seems I have been craving the deep purple blackberry. I finally have my fix, and though it's a tiny batch that I'll hoard (excepting one jar to my Parents), it's one that I will thoroughly enjoy.

I'm going to try and go the whole Summer pectin-free. I'd like to make my own pectin as well, which doesn't seem difficult just a little uncertain due to the strength of the finished product. So far, however, I do know that it feels good not to rely on that little box of Sure-Jell, knowing that if I don't happen to have one on hand I can still preserve something handsomely. If anyone has any good pectin-related information, send the links my way!


  1. I'm not going to use pectin either. Yum!

  2. I've been making jams for years and never bother with pectin. Maybe a squeeze of lemon or a little grated apple if I think it needs a boost.


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