As I may have mentioned previously, the surfeit of summer berries I collect every summer (see You Have to Make this Peach Berry Crisp), fills my freezer and pie plates. But I don't think I have yet used this forum to extol the virtues of homemade jam.
Homemade jam is one of those nostalgic olde tyme things that reminds me of almost any Robert McCloskey story (I was always fascinated by the endpapers of Blueberries for Sal, which comprise an illustration of a country kitchen in which jam making is in process), but never something I actually considered making myself. That is, until last year.
It took me a few tries to get the jam right, but even if it doesn't thicken the way you like, you end up with fresh berry syrup, always good over ice cream, pancakes, waffles or fresh fruit or cake. So you really can't go wrong.
I am always overwhelmed by blackberries, and once I've removed the thorns from my fingers (it's so satisfying to pick your own for some unknown masochistic reason), am happy to eat them by the bowlful, but now I also like to reserve a few cups to make fresh jam.
The most time-consuming part of the whole process is sterlizing the jars, but I just follow the jar package directions and it's actually pretty simple. I've started to use the smallest jars I can find, and I fill lots and lots of them. The little jars make great hostess gifts and once opened, the jam disappears quickly and is a treat for a few days. I think large jars of jam tend to wear out their welcome and end up moldy and forgotten in the rear of the fridge.
If you find yourself with a bumper crop of berries, try this basic jam recipe adapted from Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker's Joy of Cooking. It's delicious!
4 cups blackberries (you can also use raspberries, gooseberries, elderberries or loganberries)
3 cups sugar
1-2 apples cored and chopped
1. Crush the berries with a potato masher.
2. Stir all ingredients together in a large saucepan over low hear until sugar is dissolved and mixture reaches a boil.
3. Simmer and stir frequently from the bottom to keep jam from sticking.
4. Cook until a small amount dropped onto a plate will stay in place.
5. Pour while hot into sterilized jars prepared according to jar package directions.