Sunday, August 16, 2015

Wild Blackberry Preserves

I suppose you may be wondering why I haven't posted in a while. I have been a bit busy with a number of things.

On Friday we went out and collected blackberries (mostly Rubus allegheniensis, a small amount of Rubus flagellaris) and a few incidental handsful of raspberries (Rubus idaeus) and flowering raspberries (Rubus odoratus).

Our haul for the day
My brother also collected Laetiporus sulphureus (chicken of the woods), which he had seen emerge earlier this week and watching for ideal collection time. So that big orange thing is a delicious edible wild shelf mushroom.

Friday night, naturally, we feasted; we ate the Laetiporus sulphureus sauteed in butter and white wine, along with fresh corn (bought from the back of a farm truck, the freshest you can get without growing it yourself) and a bean salad made with the green and yellow wax beans from my father's garden. Then, of course, blackberries for desert.

But of course, that's about 12-13L in that photo, so quite a lot of blackberries. There were, therefore, enough for me to do what I really wanted: canning.

I decided to make wild blackberry jelly and wild blackberry jam. I took about 6.5L of the fruit and started by heating it up, and using a potato masher to squish the fruit:

Blackberries heating to extract juice
 Then I mashed the fruit in a sieve to extract the juice. I don't care if my jelly is cloudy/opaque, I just don't want the seeds in it.

Extracting the juice from the fruit
Extracted blackberry juice
Of course, the problem with making jelly is that you get this perfectly good seed and pulp mixture that is often discarded. I decided that I wouldn't do that; instead, I used it to make jam.

Leftover pulp & seeds
I got about 7 cups of juice from the extraction process. I cooked the juice with the sugar, lemon juice, and pectin:

Cooking the jelly
Then I put the stuff in the sterilized jars and canned it for the requisite 10 minutes in the hot water canner:

Homemade canning rack in hot water bath
Side note: I love this home canning rack. I have actually been puzzled for a long time about most canning racks, because most government (ie research-based) sources recommend that the top of jars in the hot water bath be covered by at least 1 inch of water, but the standard canning rack you can buy will be suspended too high (especially for 1/2L or 1L jars), where the top of the jar will actually extend above the rim of the canner. So I don't understand how these racks can be advertized for pickling, because they don't fit! So I got a cooling rack and asked my father to rig something up; the wooden stand underneath keeps the jars about 2" above the bottom of the pot (reasonably elevated), and because it's a cooling rack, I can put whatever dimension of jar I like in there, rather than the wire frame canning racks which tend to only accommodate certain sizes of jars. There's plenty of clearance for me to cover the jars suitably. Long story short, I do not generally recommend hanging canning racks unless the only preserves you ever make are in 250mL jars or smaller. And even then, water will tend to boil out of the canner with enough headspace above the jar.

I then took the leftover pulp and revitalized it by replacing the removed juice with fruit juice (I had pomegranate & blueberry on hand so that's what I used), then adding sugar, lemon, and pectin. I cooked the lot as with the jelly, and canned the same way.

The result? 19 jars of wild blackberry jelly, and 17 jars of wild blackberry jam (36 jars total) with a large quantity of leftover jam that I turned into fridge jam which has, hilariously, mostly disappeared already even though it has only been ready for about 12 hours. It would appear that it is popular.

A few of my jars of jam and jelly
My recipes are pretty simple. I won't bother noting the sterilization and sanitation procedures here, if you use this recipe make sure to follow proper canning safety for your elevation etc. Ingredients-wise:

Wild Blackberry Jelly

-7 c. wild blackberry juice
-12 c. sugar
-2 c. lemon juice (NOTE: this is to taste -- add more lemon juice if your blackberry juice is sweeter; I like a good tart jelly, but if you like it sweeter you can also reduce the lemon or increase the sugar)
-3 pouches of pectin

Yield: 19 jars

Wild Blackberry Jam

-Leftover blackberry pulp from previous stage (approx 6 c.)
-10 c. sugar
-6 c. juice (dark fruit juice is good)
-3 c. lemon juice (as above, this is to taste)
-2 pouches of pectin

Yield: 21 jars (I ran out of jars, that's why I only have 17; total volume would've filled 21)

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