Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Canning Blackberries - The Easy Vs. Hard Way

For the last few weeks I've been busy picking my fair share (or even possibly more) of the local wild blackberries.  They're just sitting there, ripe and FREE!  How could I resist?

I have baked with a lot of them... I shared several of the recipes I've been using here.

Of course, I also had to can some.  Did I mention they were EVERYWHERE and FREE?

It turns out there are ways to can blackberries that feels like it might kill you, and a nearly effortless way to can blackberries.  Now that I know this, I know how I'll be canning any future blackberries!

Seedless Blackberry Jam Without Pectin
Based on recipes from The National Center for Home Food Preservation and Food In Jars.

Step 1.  Pick a LOT of berries.  No, more than that.  More.  Keep going.  You need 9 cups of berries to make this jam since you'll be removing about a third of their bulk when you remove the seeds.

Step 2.  Got a mountain of berries?  Good.  Toss them all in your food processor and whirl them around until it's berry pulp and seeds.  Now take the pulp and squish it and mash it and press it through a fine metal strainer to remove the seeds.  I guess you COULD just make jam with seeds in it, but I HATE the texture of blackberry seeds.  So woody!  So talented at getting stuck in my teeth!  Repeat until you have squished all the seeds from all the pulp and your arms feel like they are about to drop off.  You should end up with 6 cups of seedless blackberry pulp.

Step 3.  Combine 4 cups of sugar with your 6 cups of seedless pulp.  Bring to a simmer, and add the juice and zest from a lemon.  Bring it back to a vigorous boil and stand over the hot pot and stir constantly so that it doesn't burn.  Boil it until it thickens, or until you feel like you might pass out from heat exhaustion.

Step 4. Fill your jars and process in a water bath for 10 minutes.

Once my 'jam' cooled, I realized that I actually got more of a thick syrup.  I think if I had boiled mine longer, it would have thickened a lot more but by that point I was ready to be done.

So, in all fairness I have to admit I'm not a big jam person.  I do like seedless blackberry jam, but I tend to cook with it instead of spreading it on toast.  So I'm not too upset that I ended up with a syrup, since that should work just as well in things like jam bars and stuff.

But the process just seems so tedious... so picky.  Surely there was an easier option?


Canning Whole Blackberries
Based on recipe from The National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Step 1. Pick as many blackberries as you feel like.

Step 2. Make a sugar syrup (I used a 'light' syrup, with 2 cups of sugar per 5 cups of water).

Step 3. Pour your washed berries into canning jars.  Pour enough of the hot syrup over them to fill the jar.

Step 4. Process for 15 minutes in a water bath.  DONE.

I plan to use these berries to make blackberry cobbler this winter.  The pint jar conveniently holds 2 cups worth of berries, which is exactly how many berries the cobbler recipe calls for.  Obviously fate is at work here.

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