Depending on where in the country you live, the hedgerows will either be flirting with the idea of ripe blackberries or bursting with them. In my neck of the woods, they aren't quite there yet so I thought to experiment with jam making in small amounts, not quite sure how well it would work. Although I do have a large Maslin pan and the various accoutrements for preserving, I felt it would be more useful to go minimal and use what was lying around.
Jelly making is slightly more faffy and time consuming than jam making as you need to strain the juice from the pulp. For this you can use a square of bought muslin, which is super cheap, a square of prepared muslin from the baking aisle, which is not, or a clean tea towel of thin cotton. You will need string to tie it up, and a place to do so; I use the door handle of a high cupboard that has bench space underneath. You may need to get creative. Or buy a jam making trivet.
Quantities are reckoned on the amount of juice that is left after straining, and generally speaking for a pint of juice you will get, maybe just under, a pint of jelly. Essentially this means that, this little recipe, although it has produced an adequate stash, is really simple to multiply for larger requirements. Do not underestimate the joy of bramble jelly, right now it is my meal of choice slathered over hot buttered rye toast so may not last very long.
When it comes to jars, use up what you have in your glass recycling or empty container cupboard. You don't need pretty little Kilner jars with lids, however cute and seemingly inexpensive they may be. Jam and preserves were born of necessity, and using old jars is a big part of it. All you need is the wax paper that covers the top of the jelly, an elastic band and a cover. I used a kit because it was pretty. So shoot me.
You will need a big saucepan, even for a little amount, as it bubbles right up. Taller than wider is better but use what you have. A spoon or spatula for stirring, and maybe a jug for accurate pouring of molten lava into narrow jar necks. And a cold saucer or tea plate.
Lastly, I'm not even going to mention pectin, except for to say; use jam sugar, it is fool proof. Jam making is not an exact science but you will need 600g sugar to 600ml juice. That is to say equal amounts of juice to sugar. From experience I would say perhaps slightly less on the sugar side as it can be very sweet.
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Inactive Time: 8 hours
Total Time: 9 hours
Yield: 1-pint (600ml) jelly
600 g blackberries
100 ml water
500 g jam sugar (approx.)
- Wash the fruit thoroughly in cold water and place in a large pan with the water.
- Cook gently until the fruit is soft and broken down; mash it with a spoon to help it along. Too long, and you will start losing juice, not long enough and you won't get the maximum yield so keep an eye out. Mine took about 20 minutes.
- Lay the muslin across a sieve, over a container big enough to hold the juice and carefully pour the contents of the pan in. Gather up the ends of the cloth, tie securely and attach somewhere to hang over the container. Let it drip naturally, if you squeeze the bag too hard you will get cloudy jelly. That said, you will want to squeeze at the end to get all the juice, especially working with small amounts. I just leave it overnight and start fresh next day.
- When you are ready to start, preheat the oven to 140C.
- Wash your jars (I like to use small ones to minimise waste once opened), and lay them face down on a sheet of paper over a baking tray. Leave in the oven to sterilise and remove once your jelly is almost ready to bottle.
- Measure the juice and pour into a large saucepan. You should have roughly 600ml. To this amount, add 500g jam sugar and set over a medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar.
- Leave the jelly to boil; it won't need long. If you have a thermometer, start testing at 100C. Place a blob of jelly on a cold saucer and leave for a moment. Push at the surface with a gentle finger and it will wrinkle as the top sets. The greater the wrinkle/stickiness, the greater the set on the jam. I like my bramble jelly quite runny so took it off after first test. It took about 8 minutes.
- Remove the pan immediately from the heat and pour the contents into a jug. Pour the jelly into the jars, until up to the lip where the old lid would have been.
- Place a wax disk, shiny side down, on the surface of the jam, and cover with a cellophane disk, securing with an elastic band. You can cover with a pretty paper disk and ribbon, and add a label too.
- That's it; job done.
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