The tale of the blackberry jam…

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When I was a kid, I’d visit my paternal grandparents in a small town called Hearne located in the central part of Texas.

Ovid Sherman & Laura Eleanor Simpson

Ovid Sherman & Laura Elinor Simpson (Yes, one of the main characters from my first novel is named after my grandmother)

They would load up us grandkids in the bed of my grandpa’s white Ford pickup and we’d head out to find a dirt road that was lined with blackberry bushes.  We’d pick until our feet were dirty and our fingers stained and then my grandmother would make jelly or jam or cobblers…  Those are such fond memories for me.  We rarely wore shoes, baths were iffy and seatbelts and sunblock were non existent.  I can remember like yesterday my older cousin Becky braiding my hair before we’d climb into the back of the truck.  If you’ve never ridden in the back of a truck – trust me – your hair gets SO tangled and dusty.   I wish I had paid closer attention when my grandmother was canning berries or figs or whatever was in season, but I didn’t, and she and my grandpa have long since passed.

Determined to recreate similar memories for my kids, I recently decided to take Milo blackberry picking and I had BIG PLANS of making amazing blackberry jam with our bounty.

Country roads, blue skies and sweaty smiles - see, things haven't changed that much after all.

Country roads, blue skies and sweaty smiles – see, things haven’t changed that much after all.

I read through several tutorials online and followed the directions on the Ball canning jars box but it didn’t turn out quite perfect.  But that’s okay.  The memories will be great.

The process started well:

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We “pressed” our berries while heating them slowly…

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I may or may not have pretended to be a zombie eating brains during this part… #WalkingDeadFanProblems

At this point we should have just started canning our jam into our sterilized jars.  But some tutorials said to strain your blackberries so you wouldn’t have seeds.  So we did that..

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Now, this is all good and great, however… if you want to strain you will actually be making jelly (no fruit chunks) and you will need to use pectin to firm it up.  I didn’t want to use pectin so I should not have strained the berries so thin.  Whoops…  Next up we reheated our berry juice, added sugar and poured it into jars.

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We finished the process by screwing the warmed lids on the jars (not super tight) and then placing them in a water bath.  (There are a million canning tutorials out there with more details – this is just an overview of our experience.)

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If your lids “pop” (seal) you did it right!  We were 8 for 8 on popping!

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Like I said, if we do this again, we will not strain the berry juice so thin OR we will have to use pectin.  Our jam turned out more like a thick syrup.  HOWEVER, it is divine!  And we gobble it up on toast, waffles and biscuits!  We just had some earlier and it was perfect on these warm biscuits with coffee on this rainy day!

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I can only hope my grandmother knew what a great influence she had on my life.  I wouldn’t trade the time we spent together for anything – what a blessing those hot summer days were.  I can’t pass a blackberry bush or a fig tree or an Assembly of God Church or Lone Star Beer can (thanks Grandaddy) without smiling and thinking of my grandparents.  Cherished Memories. 🙂

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