Autumn is here and the hedgerows in our valley have an abundance of brambles (blackberries). My husband loves his jams and marmalade so I always make a load of the stuff as he goes through a jar every 2 weeks...fortunately he is in a very physical job to burn up all that sugar. He's also a bit of a traditionalist and sees it as a sign of Autumn if we go 'blackberrying'. but this time he did the 'blackberrying' as I was running a workshop.
Some of my first cookbooks - and what got me into cooking - was the Seasonal Cooking books by Claire MacDonald, she was doing seasonal cooking over 30 years ago: before it became hip to do it. Not only are her recipes good these books are a running diary of the seasons on the Isle of Skye and make really nice reading, If you havn't seen them I would definitely check them out - her hotel is also fab as we stayed there many years ago: and if you are a MacDonald it will have even more significance as her and her husband are heads of the clan MacDonald. In fact thinking about it, the visit to the hotel came first and then I bought the cookbooks. So, I use Mrs Macdonald recipe which I have photographed below but I'll lead you through the production:
A very worn book
Weigh your fruit, double it and this will give you an idea how many jam jars you will need - you need a jar for every 1lb in weight. You then need to sterilise your jars - put clean jars into the oven not touching each other and have the oven at its lowest temperature. Keep the jars there till you are ready to fill them.
So having weighed my blackberries and clearing away any nasties, I then wash the fruit and tip it into the jamming pan. I then add some water to the pan but leave it to below the fruit level - as the fruit will produce its own juices I then slowly heat through till the fruit loses its blackness, becomes red and softer. So it should have this appearance......
Then take a large bowl and put your fruit into a sieve - and the bit I hate - strain the fruit and start to work it through the sieve to get as much of the fruit pulp as possible.
You are then left with the pips and sediment in the sieve - discard.
Now measure your liquid and for each pint of fluid add 1lb of sugar.
On this occasion I also used 1 sachet of Pectin although you do not have to. Pectin will reduce the boiling time and make it set quicker - if you do not have any it will just take longer to boil. Put a saucer or small dish into your fridge or freezer.
Add the sugar and pectin and put over a gentle heat - if you melt the sugar quickly the jam will crystalise later. So gentle heat and when it is all melted turn the heat up and get it to a rolling boil.....
Let the mixture boil - when I say boil I usually have the ring on a medium/high heat, you do not want it to boil over - for 10 mins and then remove from the heat. Carefully - its very hot - put a teaspoon of the mixture on to the chilled saucer and let it cool slightly. Run your finger through the 'sample' and if it seperates and does not run back it will be set. But I doubt if it will be ready: it usually takes about 20 mins for me. Put dish back in the fridge, put pan back on the hob and boil again for 10 mins and re-test.
This is what it should look like when the jam is ready for setting, it will also have a more syrupy appearance.
Then put your jam into a jug, take the jars out of the oven and carefully fill the jars with the jam - it will be very hot. Put some tissue discs on top of the jam and you can put a lid on the jar or you can leave to cool. When cool put a polythene lid on the jar held in place with an elastic band - if using - and label your jam up.
OR get the kettle on, make a cup of tea and have some on a scone...........mmmm yummy!