Stewart said this jam is the best he’s ever had. He got so excited about it that he ran out the door to buy vanilla ice cream while the mixture was still cooking, so we wouldn’t waste even the foam I skimmed off the top. Myself, I’m a little bit partial to last year’s Blenheim apricot jam (if fate is willing, I’m going to get this year’s Blenheims tomorrow) but I concur — tayberries are something special. If you’d like a chance to test them yourself, read the details about the giveaway at the end of this post. Entry deadline is July 9.
I had so few of these precious berries that I ruthlessly hoarded them. This is exactly how many raw tayberries Stewart got to eat.
And he savored each one.
Like so many exquisite things, tayberries aren’t easy to come by. They’re a blackberry-black raspberry cross, first bred in Scotland in the early 1960s. Tayberries are bigger, sweeter, and tastier than their Loganberry cousins. They do well in California, but we don’t see many because they don’t lend themselves to easy picking, whether mechanically or by hand. You might get lucky and find some at a local farmer’s market, and a few U-Pick farms grow them. (Have you ever used PickYourOwn.org to find local farmers? It’s a great resource.) Come October, I’m going to try planting a few canes here at home.
Tayberries have a short life after picking. If you find some, try to eat them or prepare them the very same day. If you can’t use them right away, you can sprinkle just a little sugar over them to help them keep.
This recipe couldn’t be more simple, though it includes a nifty twist to help your berries retain some good texture in the cooking phase. You can use it with any soft blackberry, raspberry, or related cross. Do note this: The recipe contains less sugar than many. If you like a little tart with your sweet, so the berries really shine through, I recommend it.
3 pounds tayberries
1 ¼ pounds sugar (2 ½ to 2 ¾ cups)
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1. Sterilize your jars and put 5 teaspoons on a plate in the freezer, to test your jam for doneness later.
2. Set aside approximately 1/3 of the berries.
3. Combine the rest of the ingredients (remaining berries, sugar, and lemon juice) in your jam pan.
4. Bring the mixture to boil.
5. After the mixture thickens a bit, add the remaining berries. I added mine at about 10 minutes, which was about halfway through the cooking process. This late addition of the berries helps your jam to have a nice texture in the end.
6. Boil the jam until it sets, using a large, shallow, stainless-steel spoon to skim the stiff foam off the top as it cooks. I started testing my jam for doneness at about 15 minutes and considered the jam finished at around 20 minutes. (Keep in mind that lots of factors can affect your cooking time; it may be very different for you, so be sure to watch the mixture and test it.)
To test your jam for doneness: Remove the pan from the heat. Use one of your frozen spoons to scoop up a little bit of jam — not a whole spoonful. Return the spoon to the freezer and wait 3 minutes. Retrieve the spoon and hold it vertically. If the mixture runs very slowly or not at all, it’s done. Alternately, give the mixture a little push with your finger. If you see creases or wrinkles, it’s done.
7. Take care of any final skimming and ladle the hot jam into your sterilized jars. I processed mine for 5 minutes in a hot-water bath, which is appropriate for fruit at my elevation. Yields about 5 half-pint jars.
About the giveaway. Because these berries are unusual and delightful, I’m especially excited to share them. If you leave a comment on this post (make sure I can tell who you are and how to find you), I will include your name in a random drawing in two weeks, on July 10. If you win, I’ll send you one one of my prized half pints — if I can wrest it away from Stewart. (Really, I’m not that mean. Next week, we’re planning to drive down to Watsonville to pick more. That’s 100 miles from here — and that’s how bad we want these berries.)
Sometimes I get tired of taking photos of my jam in the same old locations. Since this one’s a star — and because it’s summer — I thought it might like to relax by the pool . . .
Giveaway Results: Thank you so much to every one who entered the drawing. It warmed my tayberries’ sweet purple hearts. The Randomizer chose Lucky #7. That’s Jane, who lives in Missouri and writes all types of cooking, and a whole lot of canning here!