A few years ago if you’d asked me what my favourite bought jam was I would have answered “some type of berry jam”. Until this year I had only ever made one batch of berry jam. We eat all sorts of other yummy scrumptious jams and marmalades. All home-made jams are just so tasty that I have had no specific need for berry jams. But this year we have blackberries in our driveway and hanging over a fence down the road and my local fruit shop keeps having amazing specials on strawberries.
I looked up my jam making books for a recipe and they all warned about the low pectin content of berries. They all suggested adding pectin, using the special sugar for jams that contains pectin or accepting a runny jam. None of these seemed acceptable to me. I want a jam that’s only composed of fruit and sugar and I want it thick and chunky. So I’ve been experimenting with adding apple to my berry jam mix. I’ve worked out the right proportions now so that the apple doesn’t reduce the lovely rich berry flavour but I have a nice chunky properly set jam. It’s more a guideline than a recipe but I hope you enjoy it as much as we do. So far I’ve made strawberry, blackberry and mixed strawberry/blackberry. I’m pretty sure it would work with other berries too. They taste divine and berry jams are now on my annual must-make list.
Berry and apple jam
Wash and prepare your berries. I chop strawberries into the approximate size chunks I want in my finished jam – mostly this is quartered.
Weigh the berries
For every 500 g of prepared berries (or part thereof), you need one medium apple and the juice of half a lemon.
Grate your apple and weigh how much you have.
Make a note of your total fruit weight (prepared berries and apple) because you will need to add the same weight of sugar (e.g. 900 g of prepared berries plus apples, then you need 900 g of sugar).
Add grated apples and lemon juice to a large saucepan that looks like it can hold at least double the volume of your total fruit. Add a splash or two of water and simmer until the apples are soft and mushy. This normally takes me about ten minutes but will depend a bit on how much apple you have and the apple variety. Add a little more water if you need it. I normally leave the lid on for cooking the apples.
Add your berries and mix into the apples. The lid should be off now unless you want it on for a minute or two to help bring your fruit back to the boil. I don’t cook my berries for long here because I like chunky jam, if you’d prefer a smoother jam then cook until your chunks of fruit are so soft they fall apart. I normally cook them at a low boil for about 5 minutes for the blackberries and 10 minutes for the strawberries. When I made the mixed jam I added the strawberries first, simmered for 5 minutes and then added the blackberries for the final 5 minutes. Raspberries, boysenberries etc are likely to only need 5 minutes whereas blueberries might need closer to 10 minutes. If you have large quantities of fruit (e.g. more than about 1.5 kg) it might take longer.
Add your sugar and stir until it dissolves. Lightly boil your jam until it reaches setting point (see notes below on how to determine this).
Turn off the heat, place the lid on your pan and let it cool for ten minutes. This cooling helps to ensure even distribution of fruit chunks throughout your final jam. You can skip this step if you’ve cooked everything until its mushy or you don’t care if all your chunks fall to the bottom of the jar as the jam is setting. Don’t leave longer than ten minutes or the jam may cool too much and your jam may spoil in the jar during storage.
Pour/spoon the jam into sterilised jars and seal.
Enjoy on fresh buttered bread. Yum!
** I sterilise my clean jars by placing them in the oven when I start the jam process, I turn the oven on to 100 °C and make sure they have at least ten minutes at the fully heated temperature. I sterilise the clean jar lids by placing them in a big bowl and pouring boiling water over them to generously cover all the lids. Make sure there are no air bubbles because the entire surface of the lid needs to be in contact with the water. I leave them for 10 minutes before picking them out with sterilised tongs and leaving them to dry face side down on a very clean tea towel. Other people boil their lids for 10 minutes. I sterilise all spoons, tongs etc by pouring boiling water over them
** Determining setting point. I place a saucer in the freezer when I start making jam. Once the sugar is in I place a dollop of jam on this saucer every five minutes or so and return it to the freezer for a few minutes. I then push my index finger through the slightly cooled jam. If the jam wrinkles and puckers and generally shows setting tendencies then I know I’ve reached setting point. If you haven’t made jam before it does take a few goes to get a feel for it. You can go over setting point you’ll just have a very thick jam and if you go too far it might caramelise the sugars. But it’s still edible.