In the past two weeks we have joined the schoolhouse group as people who own a historic schoolhouse. This is the most amazing and cute house, complete with chalk board and wood stove in the center of the room. One of the many things that we loved about the house was the garden. The garden includes apple, strawberries, lilacs, mint and blackberries. So far, the black berries have won the most attention. I am terribly proud of my blackberry bush..It just keeps producing copious amounts of berries!
Most of the berries go into jelly. I make jelly because the blackberries, as good as they taste, are seedy. Who wants to eat seeds on toast? Not me. That’s why I need juice. The juice is also yummy over ice, mixed with tea or boiled down for syrup.
To make the juice, I heat the berries with a bit of water and simmered until soft and juicy. Then I strain the mash through a cheesecloth to remove the seeds. I don’t have a strainer but I do have cheesecloth and a bowl. It works just fine the occasional small batch. But if you plan on a large batch of juice then certainly invest in a jelly bag.
To make jelly, bring 4 cups of berry juice and 7 cups of sugar to a boil over med-high heat. Stir to dissolve sugar. When the berry syrup comes to a roiling boil add two pouches of liquid pectin and return to a boil. Boil hard for 1 minute. Remove from heat, skim foam, and ladle into hot jars. Process 10 minutes in boiling water. This will yield 8-9 half pints of jelly.
I made 3 batches using this method. The first batch of jelly was classic blackberry. The second batch of jelly was Black Pepper Berry, and the third was Lemon Basil Blackberry. How did I come up with the lemon basil flavor? One of my favorite herbs from my garden this year is a lemon basil which smells like candy. I harvested it, chopped it and tied it into a cheesecloth so that i could add and remove it easily. I learned that flavorings are best added just after the sugar melt point and that you should be heavy handed because the flavor will absorb over time.
I plan on pairing the Black Pepper Berry jelly with cream cheese or brie and crackers. The Lemon Basil Blackberry will make a tasty sauce for chicken or maybe it will go with lemon curd in a tart.