Blackberry jam: only 3 ingredients and without pectin

     

    Blackberry jam

     

    Time:      prep. 10 mins
                    cook. 50 mins
    Yields:    easy
    Dosi:       1,2 kg
    Cost:       low

     

    Summer for many means sun and sea; others prefer to immerse themselves in the hinterland for long walks in the green, firming up their muscles, gaining good vibrations and a little treasure: blackberries, for example, seem to be there numerous waiting to be picked.
    Blackberry jam (or other fruit) constitutes one of the main ways to conserve summer in a jar and bring it to the table during the dreary, dark winter mornings.
    But now let’s take a look at why blackberries in particular deserve a much-needed closer look.

    Properties and benefits of blackberries

    Blackberry jam is rare and delicious without any doubt, but I have not chosen to talk about blackberries only because of their goodness.
    These little gems are precious for two reasons: first because they are natural (I am referring to wild ones) and grown without pesticides and second, in spite of their size, they are full of bio-molecules with nutraceutical activity.
    In fact, blackberries (Rubus fructicosus L.) contain a wide range of phytochemicals with biological properties, such as antioxidant, anti-tumor, anti-neurodegenerative and anti-inflammatory actions: thanks to the presence of several high-ranking functional bio-molecules such as ellagic acid, tannins, ellagitannins, quercetin, gallic acid, anthocyanins and cyanidins also called phenolic compounds[1,2].
    Too bad, however, that these little treasures are only available for a short period of the year, and incredibly perishable.
     

    How to eat blackberries

    – Eating fresh fruits ensures maximum vitamins, antioxidants and minerals, without any doubt

    So if you are buying them, I suggest you limiting yourself in purchasing them. On the contrary, if you are foragers like me, it is natural to come home with a basket filled with industrial quantities; clearly, in that case consuming all that fresh bounty (before it goes bad) would not be humanly possible; especially since eating more than 250 grams of blackberries would lead to some problems: the sorbitol naturally present in blackberries could cause diarrhea, resulting in the loss of all the nutrients at the highest level just introduced.

    wild blackberries

    In addition, as already mentioned, blackberries are highly perishable: keeping them at room temperature or in the refrigerator for more than a few days is not possible.

    – Freezing them is the second best way to get a high amount of nutrients

    Wash, dry and freeze the blackberries inside single portions (best eaten immediately after thawing). You can use frozen blackberries for a myriad of preparations: even for a healthy ice cream.

    – Preparing a blackberry jam

    We may not get the maximum phytonutrients present in the fresh or frozen berries, but it becomes the only option that can provide an optimal compromise to please everyone: both those who hate to waste food and those who want only the best from a food (albeit with all the limitations which I will explain later).
    In addition, instead of buying industrial products with even fewer nutrients and greater environmental impact, making your own blackberry jam at home is an even more appreciable idea, also from an economic point of view: a jar of about 400 g of organic blackberry jam costs around 5 euros (in Italy); your product, on the other hand, better under all aspects, costs only a tenth, which is really priceless!

    Jam or marmalade: which term is right?

    The Codex Alimentarius is very clear on the subject. In fact, the specific decree defines marmalade as “the mixture, brought to an appropriate gelled consistency, of water, sugars and one or more of the following products obtained from citrus fruits: pulp, puree, juice, aqueous extracts and peels”; thus reserving the better-known term of preservation only for citrus fruits, leaving the name jam to refer to all other fruit varieties with the following definition: “mixture, brought to an appropriate gelled consistency, of sugars, pulp or puree of one or more fruit species and water.”
    In light of this, we might speak of an orange jam, but not blackberry marmalade; fortunately here in CHE’s world no one will criticize you if you “misuse” the commonly used term.
    Said semantic-technical clarifications are designed to bring clarity between commercial products, nothing else; very few in the world, in everyday life, enjoy such distinctions!

    There is nothing terrible about homemade jams

    If you are skeptical about jams, you should think again: true, fresh fruit always beats any other version, but good old jams are not exactly devoid of functional nutrients.
    In a research done on blueberry jam, it is found that although the content of phenolic compounds and antioxidant capacity are reduced [3], they do not go to zero even after 13 months of storage[4].
    Then again, jams boast a dizzying history.
    We find the first written recipe for a form of jam, from the pen of Marcus Gavius Apicius, a famous Roman gastronome who lived between the first century B.C. and the first century A.D. Besides, as a sailor I just cannot feel hostility for jams, given their providential role for sailors of the past, in the fight against the infamous scurvy: despite the rudimentary processing processes of that certain time.
    It goes without saying, in case you have a fruit tree in your garden, or have access to abundant fresh fruit without paying for it, that jams or marmalades are an excellent ally for those who want to degrowth, taking advantage of the resources present and avoiding feeding industrial production. Moreover, if you want to eat locally and seasonally, jams create a great alternative to keep your winter tables away from monotony.

    At this point it becomes obligatory to report to you my thoughts on the use of sugar.
    Sugar is an industrial food that should be eliminated or drastically reduced from the diet; nevertheless, to prepare a jam, it must be used (albeit in reduced quantities). For a healthier choice, you can opt for whole cane sugar, event it is still a sugar (with all cons) it is far better than refined white sugar.
    Sugar, by binding to the water in the fruit eliminates the vital source for the proliferation of microorganisms responsible for the spoilage of blackberries (and fruit in general).
    There are several recipes for blackberry jam that call for the use of sugar in a 1 to 1 ratio with the fruit: which results in a longer shelf life; however, in my opinion, the result of the ratio in question, would return us not a jam, but a blackberry candy
    !
    Because blackberries have medium to high acidity (pH 3.2 to 4.5), with the addition of 1 tablespoon of lemon juice the risk of botulism is reduced to practically zero.
    To be in line with the Italian Ministry of Health’s instructions, you should never go below 700 g of sugar per 1 kg of fruit: this way blackberry jam can be stored for up to 1 year in the pantry.
    On the other hand, in case you want to reduce the quantity to half a kilo (or less), I recommend storing the jars in the refrigerator, so as to dispel any doubts, consuming them within no more than 6 months.
     

    Ingredients for blackberry jam

    1 kg blackberries
    500 g whole cane sugar
    2 tablespoons of lemon juice

     

    Preparation

    First remove any foreign objects (branches, leaves, thorns, etc.); then remove crushed or overripe specimens.
    Finally, wash the blackberries destined to become jam.
    After that, combine the blackberries inside a large pot with the sugar and lemon juice; start cooking over low heat and closed lid, stirring frequently so that it does not stick to the bottom of the pot. Remove any foam on the surface during cooking. The lid will serve to keep the liquid formed from evaporating; otherwise, for a thicker jam, just leave the pot without the lid.
    About 20 to 30 minutes from boiling should be enough for the jam to thicken, by gelling.
    Continue with the cooking until the necessary density is reached (about 50 min. in all), but lower the heat to the minimum so as not to caramelize the sugar: this is a crucial step, as turning off the heat too soon would result in a liquid jam; conversely, cooking over the gelling point would result in a jam that is too dense, destined to harden even more as it cools: basically a waxing.
    It takes a fair amount of experience to figure out the right time; or you can do a little test by pouring the contents of a teaspoon of the future blackberry jam onto a saucer; then tilt it: if it flows quickly wait a few more minutes of cooking; otherwise turn off the heat.

    If you wish a jam that sets to gel sooner (thus saving cooking time), macerate the blackberries with sugar and lemon juice overnight in the refrigerator or if it is not so hot in room temperature (instead of cooking them directly with sugar): more pectin is released during maceration, which will trigger the jam to gel sooner. In the morning proceed to cooking normally your jam (without adding more sugar, of course).

    Some recipes recommend adding pectin; nothing could be more unnecessary for blackberry jam: blackberries already contain a good percentage (0.63%) of pectin (calcium pectate) by themselves, almost as much as apples (0.55%) and bananas (0.63%)[5]. However, another trick to increase the percentage of pectin naturally exists, and that is to substitute a little (no more than ¼ of the total) ripe (black-colored) fruit for unripe (ruby-red) fruit: which allows us to cook the fruit even less and use less sugar.

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    Choosing the jar

    After opening the blackberry jam, consume it within 5-7 days; during this time, the jar should be stored in the refrigerator.
    This is why I recommend using small jars, in case you do not have a large family.
    If even then you cannot finish the jam in time, instead of throwing it away, freeze it (remember to divide it first into several portions)

    Once the cooking is finished, you can homogenize the jam using an immersion blender before turning off the heat if you wish.
    Or remove the seeds by pureeing the jam; I personally keep all the seeds (my gut microbiome loves fiber), but I prefer a spreadable consistency, so I just blend it with an immersion hand blender.
    After that turn on the heat again to bring back to a boil and turn off.
    Without wasting any time, hot-fill previously sterilized jars (by boiling them for 30 minutes).
    Close them with new (and sterilized) caps and leave them upside down until completely cooled to create a vacuum.

    phase of leaving the jars upside down

    During this step you should hear the classic clicking sound of the cap, confirming that the vacuum has been created.
    If pressing with your finger on the center of the now-cold cap does not move anything, the blackberry jam is then ready to be stored for the winter; otherwise, if you hear a ‘click-clack’ and see the cap going down, sorry for your loss: that jar is not suitable for storage in the pantry; move it immediately to the refrigerator and consume the contents as soon as possible (or with another new cap repeating the process).
     

    Smart combos

    For a healthy and tasty breakfast, add blackberry jam in your porridge; or in a bowl of homemade plant based or normal yogurt; or for extra energy, spread it on a slice of bread (better if it is whole wheat and sourdough) after a layer of peanut butter.
    In any case, know that by observing the ever-basic moderation in consuming the delicious blackberry jam, that “teaspoon of added sugar” will do you no harm at all.
    And when you open the jar in a rainy winter morning, summer will come out like a genie in a bottle, gifting you a good mood: essential to get through the cold season.

    Happy revolution to you all

     

    Bibliography
    1) Yilmaz KU, Zengin Y, Ercisli S, Serce S, Gunduz K, Sengul M, Asma BM. Some selected physico-chemical characteristics of wild and cultivated blackberry fruits (Rubus fruticosus L.) from Turkey. Rom Biotech Lett. 2009;14:4152–4163
    2)Seeram, Navindra P et al. “Blackberry, black raspberry, blueberry, cranberry, red raspberry, and strawberry extracts inhibit growth and stimulate apoptosis of human cancer cells in vitro.” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry vol. 54,25 (2006): 9329-39. doi:10.1021/jf061750g
    3) Howard, Luke R et al. “Jam processing and storage effects on blueberry polyphenolics and antioxidant capacity.” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry vol. 58,7 (2010): 4022-9. doi:10.1021/jf902850h
    4) Viberg, U et al. “A study of some important vitamins and antioxidants in a blackcurrant jam with low sugar content and without additives.” International journal of food sciences and nutrition vol. 48,1 (1997): 57-66. doi:10.3109/09637489709006964
    5) Robert A. BAKER. Reassessment of Some Fruit and Vegetable Pectin Levels. Volume 62, No. 2, 1997—JOURNAL OF FOOD SCIENCE—229

     

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