Homemade Blackberry Jam & Blackberry Picking at Eckert`s.
July-August of every year is the best season for picking blackberries and tomatoes in the mid west. Every home has beautiful pots of tomato plants, all ripe with tomatoes in conceivable hues of orange, red and crimson. Summer in fact is the best season for all fruits and flowers specially in the midwest. My daughter aged 6 had been wanting to go blackberry picking for quite some time now, as we do Apple Picking regularly every year during fall, and strawberry picking every year during spring!
Blackberries grow best in warmer, temperate regions and are generally considered less hardy than raspberries. The plants flower relatively late, from May onward, and bloom over a long period. Because blackberries flower late, damage to flowers from spring frosts and freezes is seldom a problem . In the mountain areas where the winters are more severe, the use of hardy cultivars and planting of blackberries on hillsides will help to avoid damage to the canes from the cold.
Hot summer winds can dry the fruit, causing sunscald, and increase the plants’ water demand. In addition, fruit size and plant growth will be compromised.
However, keep in mind that good air circulation should be maintained in the field, because adequate ventilation minimizes disease problems.
Blackberries prefer full sun and a well-drained soil. The weather needed for this fruit is replicated in many farms across the midwest and one such is the Eckerts Farm in Belleville, IL close to the Illinois Missouri state borders. The farm had organised a tram ride to the actual picking area and provided every one with little plastic buckets to pick the fruit. The fruit itself breaks easily on crushing, so it is important to pick it carefully. The instruction was to seperate the vines and look inside to find deep garnet black ripe blackberries which are just right to pick.
The farm also had ripe peaches, home grown tomatoes and orange and green bell peppers. The farm also promises not to use any presticides in their crops. The Eckerts Farm has recently renovated their Country Store to stock every conceivable processed food item made from their freshly grown produce. Their bakery makes amazing pies, cakes, bread, cookies and brownies. The stock all kinds of fruit preserves as well as apple butter, peach butter, orange marmalade, honey butter etc. They also sell fresh green beans, peppers, cauliflowers, tomatoes, zucchini, cabbage, lettuce etc.
We had picked almost 4 pounds of ripe blackberries, 6 pounds of ripe sweet tomatoes, peppers etc. We washed and ate the blackberries enjoying the sweetness bursting from the fruit and then realising the late tartness, apart of course from the fact that it was very very juicy. I wanted to have a way of preserving this fruit even after the season was done, and in a way of treasuring the memories assosciated with it…I made a simply Blackberry Jam/Preserve using very few ingredients and we all agreed that it was way better than the ones at the store made with pectin to keep it for a year or so.
3 cups freshly picked and washed and patted dry.
2 1/2 cups sugar.
1/2 lemon juice.
- Take a clean kadai and put all the cleaned and dried blackberries in it.
- Smoosh it well with a ladle/ spoon and mash it well.
- Add 2/12 cups of sugar and lemon juice and mix well.
- Allow it to cook over a slow flame and mix it well.
- After about 30-45 minutes when it comes together and reduces, with the water evaporating.
- When it reaches a semi solid jam consistency switch off the stove and allow to cool.
- Store in an airtight glass jar for months.
- Use it lavishly on breads and rotis as a spread.
- The amount of sugar used generally depends on the tartness of the fruit. Please regulate the same.