Blackberry jam

***Made a second batch Tuesday  and need to  change a few things in directions — amount of berries for one!

We picked blackberries for the second time this season at the Wilsons’ with their minis looking through the fence (miniature horses can’t look over the fence), waiting for their share and the green-gold June bugs whirring in our faces. In two hours daughter Hannah and I looked like people pincushions from the stickers but picked enough blackberries to make a huge cobbler with coconut-pecan topping, a batch of blackberry-bourbon (ours was blackberry-whiskey) jam and still have enough left to top a couple bowls of cereal. Ah, summer!

We modified the recipe on Garrett McCord’s Vanilla Garlic food blog because a) I had whiskey in the cabinet but no bourbon and it was Sunday afternoon during the disappointing World Cup finals and b) for some reason here at 991 feet above sea level  it always takes  longer to get pectin-free jams and jellies to gel than the recipes say.

For this fabulous jam you need 2-1/2 pounds of blackberries (that’s 8 cups with the Japanese beetles and click bugs removed), 1 pound of sugar (2 cups or just a bit less), 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 1/4 tsp butter, 3 tablespoons bourbon or whiskey and 1 teaspoon vanilla. The alcohol adds an echo of something beyond the field; the vanilla and butter smooth the berries’ acidic bite.

Put a small plate in the freezer. You’ll use this to tell when your jam has become jam.

Assuming you’ve sterilized your jars (in the dishwasher or oven) and lids and rings (in boiling water), put berries, sugar and lemon juice in a non-reactive pot and bring to a boil, mashing if you like (if you don’t, they’ll cook down on their own) stirring frequently to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat but keep jam at an active boil with candy thermometer clipped on side of pot if using, stirring occasionally. Skim foam once and immediately eat what you’ve skimmed off to make sure it tastes OK:)

Recipe said to  cook mixture about 25 minutes. Actually, it took 45 before we dropped a teaspoon of jam on our cold plate (remember that?) and ran a finger through the deliciousness. When your finger’s track remains (and doesn’t immediately close up), you have jam. This is a much more reliable indicator than the thermometer so I’m saving that for candy cooking from now on. Turn off heat, stir in whiskey or bourbon, vanilla and butter.

Fill jars, leaving 1/4-inch headroom. Run a sterilized knife through jar contents to get rid of any air bubbles and clean jar rims and screw-top ridges with paper towel dipped in hottest water you can stand. Process for 10 minutes in a hot-water bath (actively boiling water at least 1 inch above jar tops). Set jars in draft-free spot, leave for 12 hours, then test seals.

Fills 5 half-pint or and one quarter-pint jam jars with just enough left over to make your next morning’s breakfast a bit of blackberry heaven.

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