For the longest time blackberries rated rather low on my list of berries to eat. If given a choice, I always went for the blueberries. As you saw in my last post, I have a deep deep love for blueberries. But several years ago, I went berry picking for the very first time and man were freshly picked blackberries a revelation. Unlike their store bought counterpart, these berries had been allowed the time to ripen on the bushes, developing all of the rich flavors that sunlight allows. They were so juicy that if you weren’t careful when plucking them, they would burst in your hands leaving a vibrant purple stain. The taste of these berries were so different from the hard berries that are somehow at once sour and bland that you find in grocery stores.
To extend blackberry season, I make sure to always make a preserve of some sort. Nothing says summer like berry preserves. For Christmas, TK gave me this beauty, and I have been putting it to vigorous use. As I wrote in my post from last year on Pear and Chamomile Preserves, the great conundrum of jam making is how do you achieve a somewhat thick consistency without cooking your fruit to death. How do you retain as much of the fruit’s natural bright vibrancy as possible? The reason why jam makers swear by this pan is two fold – the copper material conducts heat very evenly and the wide bottom shape of the pan. These two characteristics allows for quick evaporation of liquids. The faster any liquids evaporate, the less time the fruit has to cook. This pan is obviously for the hardcore jammer, so don’t worry, it is definitely not necessary. Before I got this pan, I simply used a wide bottomed sautée pan with great results too. But if you are able to get your hands on one, it is well worth it.
This spicy basil blackberry preserve was inspired by a spicy blueberry jam I had recently in a cheese dip. It was so delicious, I had to recreate it. This is a great addition to cheese plates, maybe with some smoky gouda and goat cheese. I am also thinking it would make a delicious barbecue sauce slathered over some ribs.
S P I C Y B A S I L B L A C K B E R R Y P R E S E R V E
makes 2 8 1/2-ounce jars
2 pounds blackberries
6 ounces raw sugar
1-2 hot chilies (I used Trinidad Scorpions)
1/3 cup sweet basil, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons raw honey
1 1/2-inch nub of ginger, grated
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
Carefully rinse the blackberries to get rid of any dirt. Allow to dry. In a ceramic mixing bowl, combine the blackberries, sugar, and chilies. Gently mix and allow to macerate overnight in the refrigerator. When ready to cook, add the berry mixture to a wide flat bottomed pan (click for advice for happy preserving). Over medium high heat, bring to a broil and allow to cook. Make sure to keep a careful eye on the mixture and stir with a rubber spatula every once in a while to prevent the jam from burning. As the fruit starts to soften gently smash the blackberries to break them apart. After 8-10 minutes, the jam should be coming together. Add the honey, ginger, and vinegar. Allow to cook for another minute or 2. The jam is done when you can draw a line down the center with the spatula and make a well that slowly fills back in.
You can either store these in jar in the refrigerator or process them to store in the pantry. If you decide to take the second route, thoroughly clean and boil the canning jar and lids. Pour the jam into each jar, making sure to leave 1-inch of head space, tightly lid the jar. In a pot, cover with water, bring to a boil and process for 15 minutes. Remove from the stove and allow to cool. During the cooling process, the lids of your jars should pop. If this doesn’t happen, store in the refrigerator.
Eat with cheese.
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