The jam and canning expert, Marisa McClellan from Food in Jars, reflects on her childhood memories around making jam and provides a new-aged twist on a tried and true family recipe.
I grew up in Oregon, where blackberries grow wild along roadsides and in public parks. We had a deep tangle of brambles on the far corner of our property that would go purple with berries every August. A week or two into their season, when they had had enough time to soak up plenty of sun and develop lots of natural sugar, we would put on long sleeves and carefully tuck ourselves in between the thorns to pick the giant, sweet berries.
Once our baskets and tubs were sufficiently filled, we'd go back to the house and make batches of jam for the winter. Because wild blackberries are aggressively seedy, my mom would mash the berries and strain them through a fine mesh sieve. Once the pulp was seed-free and ready, she'd combine it with sugar, lemon zest, and cinnamon, pour it into a wide pan and cook it down into our favorite sweet spread.
These days, I live far away from my hometown, in a place where every blackberry patch is carefully cultivated and each berry is precious. However, I still make a point of cooking up a small batch of blackberry jam each summer, in order to touch base with those childhood days.
I don't push my fruit through a sieve because Driscoll's blackberries have more mild-mannered seeds than wild blackberries And I've traded my mom's signature teaspoon of cinnamon for a handful of herbaceous sage leaves. My jam still works on buttered toast, but also goes nicely with cheese and cured meats. Each bite takes me straight back to childhood and those afternoons spent berry picking.
Check out the full recipe for my Blackberry Sage Jam.
Marisa McClellan is a full-time writer, teacher, and blogger at Food in Jars (three times nominated by Saveur magazine for a Best Food Blog award, and winner of Best of Philly from Philadelphia Magazine). Her first cookbook, Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round, is now available. Her writing appears on The Food Network, Saveur, and Food 52. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband. Visit her at www.foodinjars.com.