Last Sunday, I made blackberry jam for the first time in many years (most years my wife makes a small batch, but she has been very busy this summer moving the school library out of the trailer and back into the main building, now that all the construction work from last year’s fire has been completed). I spent a fair amount of time gathering 3 pounds of berries from the cames covering the driveway and choking my backyard, getting a few scratches in the process. My son helped a little (maybe half a pound of the berries are ones he picked), but he found it to be hot, tedious work. It didn’t help that we’re a little late in the season, and so had to avoid picking the over-ripe berries.
Actually cooking the jam was fairly easy. After washing the berries and letting them dry for half an hour on paper towels I mixed them with 3 cups of sugar and let them sit while I sterilized the canning jars and lids in boiling water. I then boiled down the berries and sugar for about half an hour, stirring in the juie of one lemon at the end.
I tried to determine when the jam was done by using a plate kept in the freezer to cool a small sample rapidly, but the jam goes from being juice to being nearly solid very quickly. I think I overcooked the jam by 2–3 minutes, ending up with a stiff, though still spreadable jam. The 3 pounds of fruit and 3 cups of sugar resulted in 4 cups of jam, a reduction to about 2/3 of the original.
It is very tasty, so I think it was worth the effort, though I doubt that I’ll go to the trouble of picking another 3 pounds of fruit this year.
I’ve always thought of the berries in our yard as olallieberries (probably because I was told that when we moved in), so I labeled the jars that way. But I now realize that it is unlikely that they are, as the cames have mostly grown from seed, and so are unlikely to be any specific, named hybrid. The Wikipedia article on olallieberries (which I looked up to figure out the spelling) gives a nice family tree of various berries. The olallieberry is a cross between loganberries and youngberries; loganberries are a cross between blackberries and raspberries; and youngberries are a cross between blackberries and dewberries. I wonder if there are any genetic tests available that can distinguish all the different hybrid species—not that I would bother doing them on plants that are essentially a weed species locally. (I think that the City gets prisoners to use chainsaws to clear out the cames on Bay Drive once a year.)
While poking around on Wikipedia, I found out something I hadn’t known—the loganberry was developed here in Santa Cruz by Judge J. H. Logan in 1883. (My wife already knew this, and even knew where Judge Logan’s house was, but I’m rather clueless about history, local or otherwise.) I found it surprising that loganberries were developed here, as I’ve never seen a loganberry in Santa Cruz.