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If you want the best jam, you got to make your own.

by Brenda Dayne on January 6, 2011

This was breakfast today. Warm bread, fresh from the oven, slathered in butter with lashings of blueberry jam.

Blueberries are usually far too expensive to put into jam. Tonia found the berries in a post-holiday clear out at one of the big supermarkets. Just 37 pence per 200 grams. Rejoice with me.

I was not in the mood to make jam yesterday afternoon, but the berries had been in the fridge for a couple of days, and we didn’t want to lose them. Tonia did most of the work while I reclined in a darkened room, waiting for a migraine to go away. I came down for the all important crinkle test ((Chill a saucer in the freezer then, when the jam has reached setting temperature take the pan off the heat and stir to cool. Trickle some of the jam onto the cold saucer. Wait a minute or so, and push the jam with your finger. If it crinkles, like wrinkled skin, you know it’s set.)) and then ladled the hot jam into the jars; my favorite part.

Blueberries are not high in pectin, so we added a cooking apple to this batch for extra pectin setting power. We didn’t have a recipe but, being old hands at jam making now, we tweaked the one for black currents, and that worked fine. Here’s what we did:

800g of blueberries, washed and picked through to remove twiggy bits
1.2kg granulated sugar
200g cooking apple, peeled, cored, chopped
Juice of one lemon

Put the berries in a pan along with 600 ml water. Bring to simmer over low heat, and simmer 15 – 20 minutes until berries are soft, but not disintegrated. The apple will have turned a rich purple colour and be quite soft, and beginning to disintegrate.

Add the sugar and stir until it has completely dissolved, then bring the pan quickly to a full rolling boil. Boil hard for five minutes. Remove from heat and stir to reduce temperature before performing the all important crinkle test. Make sure the berries are not bobbing to the surface before you pour the jam into sterilized jars. If they are, it means they haven’t yet absorbed enough sugar, so return the pan to the heat and boil for a few more minutes. The apple bits at this point will have completely dissolved all their pectin-y goodness into the jam; any pieces left will be so small and dark with blueberry juice that you won’t even see them.

Fresh bread is best, of course, for mopping up the last dribbles in the jam pan, but it’s not really necessary. Feel free to use your fingers, or eat it off a wooden spoon. That is, after all, the very point of home made jam, isn’t it?

1 estyn January 6, 2011 at 5:04 pm

Oh yay!
I happen to live where there are wild blueberries growing on the mountain which make the very best jam. Nothing like the store bought kind.

2 Barbara January 6, 2011 at 5:32 pm

I love make jam and adore blueberries, so this recipe is a keeper for me. However, I’m confused about one instruction:

“Make sure the berries are bobbing to the surface before you pour the jam into sterilized jars. If they are, return the pan to the heat and boil for a few more minutes.”

And what do I do if they aren’t bobbing? It sounds like they’re supposed to be bobbing before the jam goes in the jars, so why would I need to heat the jam more if they are bobbing? Maybe it should read “If they are not”??

3 kala January 6, 2011 at 8:09 pm

Yum, I love blueberries! I’d really love to make my own jam someday.

4 Brenda Dayne January 6, 2011 at 8:10 pm

Thanks, Barbara. You’re right, that should read,”Make sure the berries aren’t bobbing to the surface.” I’ve made the change.

5 Bee January 6, 2011 at 11:03 pm

Oh yes home made jam is AMAZING, isn’t it?! We’ve been 100% home made jam for about 1.5 years now. No matter how busy I am I can’t not make home made jam because we are now spoilt and can not bring ourselves to eat the store bought variety. 🙂

PS I planted some blueberry bushes this year – so if we have enough berries next summer I’ll give your blueberry jam a whirl

6 M-H January 6, 2011 at 11:32 pm

My mouth is watering… I remember dong the crinkle test with my mum. We had a ‘back passage’ (stop laughing!) which was cold and draughty on even the hottest days, and the saucer would be set out there. When it had been examined we would scoop the jam up with our fingers and eat it.

7 Anne January 7, 2011 at 8:35 pm

My husband made the best grape jam this year, using our own Cape Cod grapes–he added some orange to it. Smelled wonderful when it was cooking, and tastes even better.

Blueberry jam in winter sounds good!

8 Kathleen January 7, 2011 at 10:30 pm

Good recipe. And I just found ‘The Age of Innocence’ on Librivox. Starting it tonight.

9 hunter January 8, 2011 at 1:29 am

I’ve (mostly) switched to home made bread, and I’m starting to ponder the home made jam shift. We have a bunch of pick-your-own fruit places around here, so in the summer I have ready access to astonishing amounts of strawberries and raspberries. We’ve got the giant pot (The Boy brews beer, so we have lots of giant pots). All I’d need is the jars and a bit of research. I have a feeling you’re going to prove to be a terrible influence!

10 Krispian Lowe January 8, 2011 at 11:57 pm

Yum… this is making me feel very hungry. I love the recipe.

I made jam once. A lady at work bought in a carrier bag full of victoria plums. There were too many to make into anything that would keep. I made victoria Jam: Plums, sugar and water > nice jam (except the burnt bit at the bottom which took hours to scrub off a pan).

Have you made anymore birch sap experiments?

11 Rebecca January 10, 2011 at 12:13 pm

The year before we moved I didn’t make any jam. I was trying to get rid of everything possible so there would be less to pack. My 16 year old rationed the homemade jams so they would last. When we got to the last jar, she said (in all sincerity,) “What will we do when we run out of jam?” My mother stepped in with a couple jars and the child did not starve. She did however, take my jams with her off to college.

I do shamefully admit to being a packaged pectin girl. I do add a lot more fruit for a softer set, but prefer the less cooked flavor.

12 Wendy January 10, 2011 at 9:20 pm

One of the best songs from one of my favorite discs!

13 Sam at The Yummy Yarn Studio January 10, 2011 at 9:25 pm

I love home made jams and jellies. Each year I find myself searching back yards for trees that have the perfect crabapples for the perfect jelly. I always manage to find a donator especially when I suggest that payment be a number of jars of the final product. Thanks for the blog post. I think I may just head for some blog inspired toast, jam and tea.

14 Ruth Temple January 11, 2011 at 6:05 am

Jam!

We were blessed with a big bag of Meyer Lemons t’other week. They’re coming ripe around now in these “what passes for Winter around here looks a lot like a rainy April in Minnesota” parts of California. What happened next is of course, marmalade. That’s what she said.

According to L’s dear departed mother who I am SO lucky to have met while she was still around, “marmalade” was L’s first word. One wonders which of them loved it more.

I, too, think upon reading this that it must immediately be time for toast with this here linden tea.

15 marinaaudrey January 11, 2011 at 4:48 pm

Loooove home made jam! Recipe saved to PC recipe folder under “Brenda’s Blueberry Jam”. Thank you for sharing! I’ll have to wait for summer to get good local berries though, not much going on berry-wise in Canada these days 😉

16 Annemieke January 12, 2011 at 6:51 am

Yum. Homemade jam with homemade bread. Nothing better!!!!

17 hunter January 12, 2011 at 7:22 pm

The urge to make lemon marmalade is starting to bear down upon me with almost irresistible weight. I have three bags of meyer lemons and far too much real work to do. A few hours of slicing and stirring sounds like an excellent alternative.

18 Karen January 18, 2011 at 1:26 am

Brenda:

I have just started listening to your podcast. I started at the beginning and I just finished episode 14. I LOVE your podcast. Thank you.

OK, but blueberries? My ground is frozen and under a couple feet of snow! I did make blueberry jam last summer. Normally the berries are VERY expensive. And I never manage to pick a surplus (eat them all and the mosquitoes find you and you have to bolt or suffer blood loss.) But at the end of the season, the groceries around here were almost giving them away. So when life gives you blue berries – make jam. There is something very summery about homemade jam in the middle of winter.

Again, thank you for all the time and creativity you put into your podcast!

19 JJ January 22, 2011 at 4:53 am

Kinda off-topic, but I ran into this amazing vocalist’s website and thought of you:

http://www.hollyfigueroa.com/

20 Lydia January 23, 2011 at 11:42 am

Plum time!
The orchard here is in the middle of the plum season – this year we were unable to water the trees as we are in drought. The other side of Australia is awash and we in South West Western Australia are longing for rain…… Anyway, the plums are smaller than usual and not as sweet. However, I have made some jam – my scales went missing so I had to wing the recipe somewhat! I think it tastes yummy and is just runny enough for me. Perhaps I will make more tomorrow….. The kangaroos and emus just love plums too and we spend hours watching them socialise amongst the plum trees. The little joeys are especially cute when they hop out of the pouch for the first time – they have to grow into their legs. Oh, yes the very best jam I make comes from our little Damson tree which over here is very rare.
Enjoy your blueberry jam!

21 Joan January 26, 2011 at 5:10 am

Oh baby Oh baby….

22 Jennifer January 26, 2011 at 10:17 pm

Hey Brenda, thanks for the link to one of my all-time favorite musicians. I’m always glad when others get to hear her stuff too.

23 Celeritas2 February 2, 2011 at 11:05 pm

That jam looks fantastic, will have to make some one day. I however are in the throes of bread making. I’m currently trying to perfect the Jim Lahey No Knead Bread that was in the NYT a few years back.

I’d love to try your recipe, looks soo good.

24 Mary July 17, 2011 at 4:27 pm

So we should put the berries and all other ingredients in the pan at the start? The recipe does not say when to add the lemon and the apple. Only the sugar. Thanks!

25 Brenda Dayne July 17, 2011 at 9:11 pm

Hi Mary,

Yes, put everything but the sugar into the pan, and simmer. then add the sugar.

Good luck with your jam!

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