Thursday, July 26, 2012

Blackberry Preserves

Preserves, made from fresh, ripe blackberries, sugar and lemon.
Preserves, made from fresh, ripe blackberries, sugar and lemon.

Blackberry Preserves

Pick your own blackberries have pretty much played out down here in South Mississippi, though you may have a little more luck if you live in the northern part of our state. Of course, you'll still find California berries in the markets everywhere on through early fall, and probably even some from Central or South America too. Local, or as local as you can get, are always going to be the best.

I'm determined to get some plants put in the ground this fall, just so I can grow some blackberries right in my own backyard, although I do think it takes a few years for them to bear fruit. Guess I'd better get busy, don't you think? I don't exactly have my Grandma's green thumb, but it sure doesn't stop me from trying. I have planted and killed more things that I care to admit, but my Grandma actually used to win those "Yard of the Month" awards because of her green thumb. Anybody else remember seeing those signs plastered around town in all the pretty yards?

Since slowly venturing into canning a few things here and there, while I'm enjoying the process, I do find that I have a bit of an identity crisis when it comes to jams and preserves. I can tell you that I am much more fond of jams and preserves than I am of jelly or butters. Jelly completely extracts out the fruit and uses only the juices. Butters are like a thick sauce of pureed fruit really.

Preserves and jams are more closely related to each other, both preserving the integrity of the fruit, one a little more than the other, and both are my favorite way of putting up fruit. By the way, blackberries, like figs, don't continue to ripen once they're picked, so make sure that you use ripe berries, although, if you manage to get a portion of underripe berries mixed in with them, those are higher in natural pectin and well help the syrup set.

I followed the basics of a Ball's recipe, which can be used with both blackberries and raspberries, making some adjustments in the preparation of the berries along with the addition of lemon. I weighed the berries on a kitchen scale for 2 pounds, but apparently forgot to measure out in cups the amount of berries for y'all. If I had to venture a guess in my memory banks, I'd say it was around 8 cups of berries, although berries do vary in size according to species, so you're really better off weighing them to be honest.

In my canning research, I have seen sources across the net that suggest simply washing jars in hot soapy water is sufficient when canning. Personally, I've only ventured into fairly small batch canning, so I feel better sterilizing them in the boiling water I'm preparing for canning with anyway.

If you're interested in moving slowly into canning like me, you'll probably want a basic water bath canning set {affil link}. While it isn't completely necessary, as you can make due with other things you may already have, it sure makes it easier to have the right tools. I also recommend a good book such as Ball's Blue Book Guide to Preserving, although the recipes in their newer editions, are becoming a lot more about promoting all of the convenience products they now sell, than about making basic canning recipes. Fortunately, there are a multitude of other resources {affil link] available today besides Ball.

As always, before proceeding with any recipe, I suggest you consult a professional canning resource for complete details on how to safely can foods, from start to finish, to make them pantry stable.

Here's what I do.

Recipe: Blackberry Preserves

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 40 min |Cook time: 40 min | Yield: About 4 half pints

  • 2 pounds of ripe blackberries
  • 4 cups of granulated sugar
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced

Sterilize jars and lids. Prepare a hot water bath. Wash and sort though berries, picking off any stems or leaves and removing any that are not firm and fresh. Add half of the berries to a large pot and add half the sugar. Very lightly crush with a potato masher, top with remaining berries and sugar, toss and lightly crush again. Add the lemon zest and juice, stir and let rest for 30 minutes.

Place pot over medium heat, and bring slowly to a boil, stirring until all of the sugar has dissolved. Increase heat and cook quickly until berries reach the jelling point at about 220-221 degrees F on a thermometer, roughly 30 to 40 minutes. Skim off any accumulated foam from the top and ladle into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Add lids and rings and process for 15 minutes in a boiling-water canner. Turn off heat and let rest in the canner for 5 minutes before using tongs to remove. Place onto a thick towel to rest for 12 hours. Any that do not seal, refrigerate and consume first.

Cook's Notes: Jelling time is only a rough estimate; it may take longer to reach jelling point. Important to note however, is that the longer you simmer the berries, the more they will break down and be more jam-like and the more they will reduce, meaning you may have less than four half pints at the end. I am not a professional canning expert. Please consult a professional canning resource for details on water bath canning before attempting to home can. Pectin may be used, however follow the guidelines in the package as all brands vary. May substitute raspberries.

If you prefer a more jam-like texture, crush the berries more thoroughly before cooking. Wild blackberries will be more seedy than those commercially raised. To make a seedless jam, you'll need to run the berries through a food mill {affil link} to remove seeds, however you will likely need to add pectin. Consult a canning resource for how to make blackberry jelly if you prefer to strain.


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Posted by on July 26, 2012
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