Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Brandied Blackberry Jam

Canning can sometimes be a bit unpredictable.  Sure, you follow the steps and recipes, try to be as orderly and organized as possible, and do your research before beginning a project, but still, sometimes life throws you curve balls.  And that's okay.  

Finished Jam

Case in point...late last week I officially began my 'canning season' with a brandied blackberry jam, followed by my pickles for the year (during which time one of my jars broke on me...more on that later).  Having never tried brandied blackberry jam, I did a little research about when to actually add the brandy, and it seemed as though most recipes (even those from very reliable sources) called for adding 2-3 tablespoons at the very end.  Doable enough, right?  Well, what resulted was a slightly thinner jam.  Still jelled, but less firm than most powdered pectin jams.  

Crushed berries and pectin coming to a boil
At first I was a little annoyed because the jam was too firm to reprocess with more pectin and sugar as I did last year with the Two Peach Jam, but it was also a little thinner than what a jam really should be.  Wondering what to do, I left it on the counter for several days (during which time it did become a little thicker), and then I tried it on toast and was pleasantly surprised.  You see, sometimes I don't like jams made with powdered pectin because they are too firm, but this jam is still perfect for spreading on toast while also being a little more versatile.  This jam will be lovely spooned over ice cream, into plain yogurt, used in lieu of syrup on pancakes, or used in blackberry jam cake (which is on the menu very soon).  

Three tablespoons of brandy (this is the cheap stuff)
So, I am choosing to do nothing to alter this jam.  That being said, the next time I make it, I will either increase the pectin a bit, decrease the brandy by one tablespoon, or increase the brandy and add it to the crushed berries before cooking.  I haven't decided which to try, but I will let you know how it goes when I do. 

Foam removed from jam-  don't throw this away; have a piece of toast instead!
With all of that out of the way, let me tell you a bit about this jam.  It is a basic blackberry jam made with powdered pectin, but 3 tablespoons of brandy were added at the end.  The brandy gives this jam an interesting and delicious flavor.  One tasting it would not be able to point out that brandy was involved (unless you know your brandy very well) but it would be clear that it had something that most blackberry jams don't.  I really like it, and it makes a delicious, if ever so slightly more grown up,  peanut butter and jelly sandwich.


I did choose to leave the seeds in the jam because I am not bothered by them, but if your berries are excessively seedy or you just don't like the seeds, you can press your crushed berries through a sieve before beginning the jam.  You can also completely omit the brandy if you prefer a basic blackberry jam (the jam will be thicker this way).  






Brandied Blackberry Jam- makes approximately 8 half-pint jars

8 cups fresh blackberries, crushed (will measure 5 cups crushed)
1 box (1.75 oz) powdered fruit pectin
7 cups sugar
3 Tbsp brandy

Prepare your water bath canner and at least 8 half-pint jars, lids, and rings.  Place your cleaned, crushed berries into a large (6-8 quart) pot.  Stir the pectin into the berries, and bring the mixture to a rapid boil over medium high heat, stirring constantly.  Once at a full boil, quickly add the sugar and stir to combine.  Stir constantly until the jam comes to a rolling boil.  Once boiling, boil for exactly 1 minute.  Remove jam from the heat and quickly stir in the brandy (it will foam up, just make sure it is off the heat).  Using a clean spoon, skim the foam off the top of the jam.  Ladle jam into prepared jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Wipe the jar rims to remove any residue.  Top each jar with a sterilized lid and ring.  Process jars in boiling water bath for 5 minutes (alter time based on altitude as needed).  Remove jars from canner and place on a clean towel to cool for 24 hours.  Check seals, label, and store.

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