One of my fondest childhood memories is going into my grandparents’ back yard looking for ripe blackberries on their vine. In December. Kind of didn’t understand plants back then.If I was lucky enough to be there when the berries actually were ripe (June, not December), I would be treated to a bowl full of them. If I was even luckier, my grandma would step out of the kitchen and my grandpa would then put a couple of spoons-full of sugar over them from the sugar bowl. If I was luckiest, she wouldn’t come back in until I’d eaten them all. Ah, good times. Good times.
Now my boys get to have similar experiences (sans sugar, I hope!). My parents have a LOT of blackberry and boysenberry brambles and every summer we scout for the ripe ones. Combined with our own berries, we wind up with a lot of the tasty, yet sadly, very seedy treats.
Hence the seedless jam. I love the flavor, but I am NO fan of picking seeds out of the crevices of my teeth for hours on end. If you have a secret variety of bramble berry (like Ollalie, Boysen, Raspberry, Blackberry, etc.) that has few to no seeds please share your knowledge! Getting the seeds out for this jam recipe does add a little more time (not much, I promise!), but it’s worthwhile. If you don’t mind the seeds, you can skip some of the steps below, but I will question whether you really mean it.
You can start with either fresh or frozen berries. I usually have frozen since the berries are gathered over time until there are enough to work with (especially after hungry little boys and an Old Man nibble on them!). This particular recipe was geared more for the various types of blackberries and their hybrids, not so much for blueberries, raspberries or strawberries.
This recipe also has no added pectin. I don’t use it for any of my jams and jellies, as I’ve had far more failures than successes, and the flavor is totally lacking. The berries have enough of their own pectin, anyway, so that makes things easier! Speaking of making things easier, this process can be broken up over different days if time is an issue!
Old-Fashioned Seedless Blackberry Jam Recipe
You will want to start with at least 2 quarts of berries, either fresh or frozen. Measure the frozen berries before they defrost, then allow them to come to room temperature in a bowl to collect the juices that are released.
Whether fresh or frozen, the berries will need to be cooked a little to soften them to make seed removal easier and more productive. Place the berries in a pot, add about 1/2 cup of water if using fresh berries, and heat until the berries become soft. The frozen berries could also be heated in their own juices in the microwave, instead.
Place the softened berries into a food mill set with a screen with holes small enough to block the seeds. Place the food mill over a bowl, and start cranking away! Be sure to scrape the bottom of the mill to keep the pulp. Set the seed mess aside, don’t toss it, yet!
After you have collected your berry goo, heat some water to boiling. You will add this water to the seeds, so the amount you use will depend on how much seed pulp you have. I had about 2 cups of seed pulp and used about 3/4 cup of water. There is still a lot of juice and material stuck to the seeds and this will let you extract more of it. This step is optional, but does help capture more of the berry flavor. Stir the water and seed pulp mixture around and then place it into a strainer set over a bowl. Stir the seed mix around to release as much liquid as you can. Add the liquid to the rest of the blackberry pulp you strained out. The seed mush is now ready for the compost!!
**At this point you could put your berry goo into the refrigerator or freezer for using later if you don’t want to finish the jelly making process right away.**
For every cup of berry pulp/liquid that you capture you will need:
- 1/3 – 1/2 cup granulated sugar (use less if the berries are sweet, more if they are tart)
- 1 1/4 tsp. lemon juice
If you are new to the jelly making process, be sure to read Food Canning 101. Once you are ready for the final jelly making process below, put your clean jelly jars (always use more than you think you’ll need) into your water bath pot, cover pot and bring water to boil. You can reduce heat to a simmer while still covered to keep jars hot until you are ready. Put your flat lids into a small pot of water, bring to boil, and reduce to a simmer until ready to use.
Have a wide mouth funnel, cooling rack, ladle, and jar rings all ready to go. Don’t try to prep while your jelly is cooking or you may find yourself with either burned food or contaminated food. Neither is good.
You shouldn’t process more than 4 cups of the liquid (before adding lemon juice and sugar) at a time unless you have a larger than usual sized stock pot. It adds too much time to the processing which can cause your pectin to break down, and you can also have the jelly foam up too much where it can overflow the pot.
Place your jelly ingredients into a large stockpot fitted with a thermometer (see Food Canning 101!). Bring your liquid to a boil* stirring only occasionally to keep the pulp from burning on the bottom and continue to boil** until the gelling point is reached. This is 10 degrees above the boiling point of water at your elevation. For me at near sea-level, I remove my pot from the heat the moment it hits 222 degrees.
*Once your mixture reaches 5 degrees before your gelling point temperature, remove jars and flat lids from their water baths. Place both jars and lids upside down on a cooling rack to allow any water to drain. Make sure lids are not stacked on each other.
**If your jelly threatens to foam over your pot, wave a wooden spoon through the bubbles to break them up. Do not stir your jelly! Just break up the bubbles.
Work quickly to fill jars and put the lids on them, one at a time. Screw the rings on snugly, and turn the jars upside down. This heats the lids and ensures that you will have a good and clean seal.
Once all jars are filled, flip each one back over carefully as they will still be hot. Set them somewhere out of the way to cool completely. Be patient, don’t try checking if they have set. If you keep messing with the jars they may not set at all! Once the jars are cool you should see that they have gelled. This can actually take a couple of days to get a complete set. Remove rings from lids, wipe down rims and rings with a clean, damp cloth, check that the flat lid is sealed well, and then replace rings. Any jars that didn’t seal, or any partially filled jars, should be placed in the refrigerator for immediate use. Enjoy!