Jammin’! (And pickling, too!)

June 14, 2017

Blackberry jam. Heaven in a jar, right here.

We have been puttin’ up, up in here, yes, we have.

And we have done GOOD.

The two gallons of blackberries have metamorphosed into 12 pints of blackberry jam. Two pounds of asparagus, which I had kept on the verge of too long without doing something to it, have been pickled, as have two cartons of mushrooms. And I have cooked a veggie dinner.

Quality control. It passed.

The dinner, while good, did not hit the spot. The jam, some left over from the 12 pints I canned, spread on a piece of white toast, did.

My tummy is happy.

It’s the first time I’ve made blackberry jam, and the first time I’ve tried making jam with pectin that it came out right. My strawberry jam last year, I cooked too long, and it never jelled; I have read that I can open it, dump it all back in a pot, add pectin and sugar, and reboil-recan. Lot of trouble, but probably worth it.

I was careful to go exactly by the recipe, with the small exception of increasing quantities by 20 percent to account for how many berries I had, this time. Amazing how well that works. But then, making jam is pretty much simplicity itself. One smushes up fruit and then brings it to a boil with added pectin; one boils it a minute, then one dumps in a metric assload of sugar (blackberries are pretty tart, y’all!); one brings it back to a good boil, and one jars it up and then processes it in a water bath canner.

I had two gallons of blackberries. The recipe said to crush them with a potato masher, and it called for five cups of crushed berries. A gallon made six cups. I did some math (yeah, I know, that’s scary), upped the quantities of sugar and pectin to compensate. I moved my six cups of berries over into a big stock pot, added two ounces of powdered pectin, a little at a time, brought them to a boil, and let them boil (a full, rolling boil) for 60 seconds. Then one dumps in EIGHT cups of sugar, which is the equivalent to a four-pound bag of sugar, which is about, weight-for-weight, what the berries weighed out to.

And you bring it back to a boil. It feels at first like it seized up, but it was just a matter of stirring and stirring (use your heaviest wooden spoon) until all that big glop of sugar dissolves. And then it’ll be a real thin liquid, and you’ll think, well, damn, that won’t ever set up.

But it will.

This is some FINE stuff, some Sweet Baby Jesus stuff, on a piece of toast, I can just tell you. I’m going to fry up a batch of sausage and make a big batch of biscuits and fix sausage and biscuits here one day soon, and those, warmed up for breakfast with a nice smear of blackberry jam….well, there is no better.

Pickled mushrooms, flanked by pickled asparagus.

And then we pickled. Well, we actually pickled first. I had ordered these really cute little half-liter Weck canning jars, because I thought they’d be just perfect for pickled asparagus and green beans. And Aldi had asparagus on sale last week, so I bought a couple of pounds, which I very nearly kept in the fridge too long. I got that out and prepped it this morning, snapping the bottoms off the spears, and blanched them for just a minute. Then after I shocked them in ice water, I got jars ready with garlic, salt, bay leaves, crushed red pepper, and dill, stacked the asparagus spears in, and topped off with vinegar (3/4 full) and water. Shook them up to dissolve things, and there, pickles. They’ll go in the fridge before bedtime tonight.

The other experiment in pickling was mushrooms, recipe/technique courtesy of the same guy whose recipe/technique I use for asparagus. The brine, in fact, is similarly seasoned, but for the addition of 25 percent good Italian dressing (I used Newman’s Own, because, well, Paul Newman).

I used a couple of 12-ounce packages of mushrooms, one of the white button ‘shrooms and one of baby Bellas; wiped them down with a paper towel to get the dab of dirt here and there off, and sliced them. Sliced half a big onion. Whacked and peeled four cloves of garlic. The garlic, a tablespoon of salt, a half-teaspoon of crushed red pepper, a tablespoon of dill and three or four bay leaves, along with the thinly sliced half-onion, went into a wide-mouth quart jar.

Brought the mushrooms to a boil in a roughly 50-50 vinegar-water solution. Drained them. Dumped them in the quart jar atop the onions and such. Filled the jar halfway with cider vinegar; added Italian dressing to the 3/4 mark, and finished it off with water. Boom. More pickles.

Recipe/technique for both come from a poster on the eGullet forum who goes by HungryChris. He didn’t steer me wrong on the asparagus. I’m betting the mushrooms are a winner, too. He says they’re great in salads or just as a snack. I could see them as a cool addition to a cheese board.

All in all, it was a worthwhile day in the kitchen at Chez Keyboard. We will likely not cook tomorrow. And we will be in Busch Stadium watching the Cardinals and drinking Budweiser on Thursday, and I’m coming home Friday and leaving again Saturday, so I reckon I’ll see you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em sometime after that.

Y’all play nice while I’m gone. If you get anxious, go can or pickle something.



2 Responses to “Jammin’! (And pickling, too!)”

  1. I am envious of fresh blackberries. I have raspberries, but blackberries elude me!

  2. kayatthekeyboard Says:

    I’m fortunate to have the you-pick-’em place nearby. I love blackberries!

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