Lately we have been picking a lot of blackberries. Last week we picked a couple of pounds of brambles, or wild blackberries, near the sea shore. On the way home from school each day we look for them along the old railway line. I find nappy bags make very handy containers for spontaneous fruit picking.
I find fruit picking so relaxing. It's like therapy. (Or what I imagine the positive benefits of therapy to be. Maybe I mean it's therapeutic.) All I am thinking about is the task in front of me (although the Mummy radar is never fully switched off). Find fruit, squeeze it to test it's ripeness, pick it and add it to the growing pile in the bag or basket. Reach. Pick. Collect. Avoid the sharp bramble thorns. My mind just wanders all over the place and I feel very peaceful and happy. Not ecstatic happy, just quietly content with life. Does fruit picking make you feel like this? Or anything else?
My Grandmother has a wild tangle of proper, cultivated blackberries in her garden, and I picked lots of those while we were staying with my parent's last week. I hadn't really noticed the difference between the two types of fruit, but the blackberries are so much fatter, sweeter and juicier than their more wild equivalent. She also has a large apple tree and let me collect all the fallen fruit. I will give her some of the jam I made with it. A fair exchange.
So this week I have been having a few jam making sessions. Getting a bit bold and having two pans bubbling on the hob at the same time, get me.
I made blackberry and apple jam, one of my all time favourite fruit flavour combinations. These two early Autumn fruits just balance each other perfectly, producing a jam that is not too sweet and full of earthy, subtly spicy flavours. It's heaven. Especially when eaten on a hot, buttered crumpet with a cup of tea.
To make it I used:
1 kilo or 2 lbs blackberries
1 kilo or 2 lbs peeled, cored and chopped apples
2 kilos or 4 lbs sugar
Pour everything into a very large jam pan (or use two pans - or less fruit) and slowly bring to the boil. Blackberries and apples are both naturally very high in pectin so there should be no need to use preserving sugar or jam sugar, or to add powdered pectin. In fact, my batch reached it's setting point pretty quickly so have your saucer in the freezer ready to check for wrinkles, it wont take long. Start checking after only five minutes or so, otherwise you may have jam with the texture of a rubber ball. This amount yielded 8 jars.
As with most jam recipes, the amounts are infinitely variable depending on what you have to hand. So long as you use the same weight in sugar as fruit, you can't go wrong.
Much more time was spent fussing with fabrics and labels in Autumnal shades. Honestly, it's a good thing I can laugh at myself.
I think I have gone off the label idea I used below. As I opened a jar to eat, I realised that once you'd dispensed with the pretty fabric jar topper, ribbon and label, you had nothing to tell you what sort of jam it was. This is why jam labels need to be stuck on to the jar - so you know what you're eating! Duh. Still, they look very pretty. And our jar was gone in two days so we were just about able to remember what sort of jam we were smearing on our toast.