Shae took off for the Alaskan Interior and left me, Spike, the porcupine, in charge of her blog. When she asked me to do it, I thought she was joking, but then she handed over the laptop and flew off in a helicopter. Crazy.
She worked so hard trying to get this recipe right before she left. It was sad, if you ask me. She tried it with pectin in a box and without pectin in a box, then she decided that both ways work fine. She tried it with spearmint extract (yuck) and fresh spearmint (good). She tried it with 1/4 cup of rum (what rum?) and 1/2 cup of rum. If you ask me, she wasted plenty of good blackberries. If she’d let me anywhere near them, I would have saved her all that trouble and scarfed them while she wasn’t looking.
In the end, she seemed pleased with her jam but I was like, Girl, wouldn’t you rather be out climbing a spruce tree? Come to think of it, she might be doing that right now.
Blackberry Mojito Jam
3 1/2 pounds blackberries, 1/3 seeds removed
4 1/2 cups sugar
zest of 3 limes, minced
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 cup light rum
8 5-inch sprigs fresh mint
1. Sterilize your jars and put 5 teaspoons on a plate in the freezer, to test your jam for doneness later.
2. Rinse the blackberries only if necessary. Rinsing waters them down, so skip this step unless your berries have been subject to stuff like pesticides or car exhaust.
3. Use a food mill to remove the seeds from about one-third of the berries. (If your berries are exceptionally plump and juicy, you can skip this step, too. If you live in California, however, you probably want to take some seeds out of there. California blackberries are known for their special crunchiness.) To get the maximum pulp from your de-seeded berries, let the food mill sit over a bowl while you prepare your other ingredients. Every few minutes, scrape the bottom of the food mill with a small silicone spatula and crank it back and forth again.
4. Pick over the remaining berries, looking for stray thorns or anything you don’t want in your jam. Then set aside a couple of cups of those berries to add to the jam after it’s been cooking awhile.
5. Zest the limes and finely mince the zest.
6. Squeeze the zested limes and set aside 1/4 cup of juice.
7. Combine in your jam pot: the berries and berry juice (except for the two cups you set aside), sugar, lime zest, and lime juice. Gently stir all of this together and let it sit for perhaps 20 minutes. The berries will begin to release their juice and the sugar will start to dissolve.
8. Heat the mixture on medium, stirring frequently until the sugar is well dissolved. Then turn up the heat and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring only as needed to prevent sticking or burning. Use a shallow, stainless-steel spoon to skim the stiff foam off the top of the mixture as it cooks.
9. After about 10 minutes, when the mixture begins to thicken, add the remaining berries. This late addition of berries helps your jam to have more texture in the end.
10. After about 20 minutes, add the spearmint sprigs (it helps if you use a bit of string to tie them in a bundle) and let them boil with the mixture for five minutes. Remove the spearmint and toss it.
11. Boil the jam to the setting point, continuing to skim the foam. Total cooking time has been running about 25 minutes, but keep in mind that lots of factors can affect when your jam is done. 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. (Actually, if it truly doesn’t run at all — if it sits tight and stares back at you — it’s probably overdone and you’ll have an overly firm or rubbery set. You want it to move at least a little bit on the spoon.) Alternately, give the mixture a little push with your finger. If it creases or wrinkles, it’s done.
12. Remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the rum.
13. Ladle the hot jam into your sterilized jars, leaving 1/4-inch head space. Process 10 minutes in a hot-water bath. Yields about 5 half pints.
That’s what Shae wanted me to tell you, except I’m going to add one more thing. I watched once when she put some tips of fresh mint into her jars before she sealed them, because she thought that would be sweet. But when she opened a jar a week later to check it out, those mint leaves looked gross. I mean, I’d eat them, but I’m a rodent, right?
She wants you to leave them out.
See you next week.