Friday, December 20, 2013

In which I create blackberry beer jam...

Back in September at a meeting of my book club, I sampled some blackberry beer jam that a friend acquired at a microbrew festival in Quebec. When I mentioned the jam in passing online, my beer connoisseur and brewmaster friend, Mike, got all excited and wanted to try some. So I thought I might buy a couple of jars for him as a Christmas gift. But it's not available online, and even a trip to the Unibroue Brewery in Chambly, QC proved, err, fruitless. So I thought, fine then, I'll make my own dang blackberry beer jam! How hard could it be? was a bit of a challenge, mostly because I searched the entire internet for a recipe that I could use or at least follow somewhat closely and modify, but I couldn't find much. Was this a bad sign? Is the sweet pairing of berries and beer that uncommon and far-fetched?

As it turns out, I ended up morphing together a recipe for rhubarb beer jam (yes, that's a thing) and a methodology for making seedless blackberry jam without commercial pectin, and I was shocked that my Franken-jam actually turned out GREAT! It was delicous, and it set up perfectly using natural pectin from green apples. I ended up with 14 half-pint jars of the stuff, and I mailed quite a few of those all over the country for friends at Christmas who were enticed by just the idea of blackberry beer jam, and by some of the pictures that  posted on Facebook, no doubt. I used frozen fruit at this time of year, of course, but I can't wait to try this again next summer when the local berries are ripe, and maybe make a raspberry beer jam, too!

I recommend making this jam over two days to split up the work and spare the cook, and also to enhance the flavors. I completed Phases I and II of Operation Blackberry Beer Jam in one evening session. Last night, I crushed four pounds of blackberries with a potato masher and cooked them with five cups of chopped Granny Smith apples (cores, seeds, peels and all) in three pints (four cans) of Long Trail Blackberry Wheat Beer for about 25 minutes until soft and pulpy. I pressed all of this through a fine mesh sieve, removing most of the seeds and skins. To the resulting ten cups of puree, I added an equal amount of sugar (I might cut this down to 75% next time), two split vanilla beans, and the zest and juice of three lemons.

At that point, I put the whole pot in the fridge and let it macerate overnight. Then today, I cooked it down until it reached 220 degrees (and passed the frozen plate test*), and then I jarred it up, processed it in a boiling water bath for ten minutes, and prayed that it would set without commercial pectin. And it did! YAY! I swear, I may have to go into business selling this stuff--it's a hot commodity!

*When you start cooking your jam, put a small glass plate in the freezer. Once the jam hits 220 degrees on a candy thermometer, place a teaspoonful on the frozen plate, let it cool for a minute, and then press it a bit gently with your fingertip. If it wrinkles, you're good to go. Alternately, run your fingertip through the middle of the jam, and if the furrow stays clear and the two halves of the jam don't run back together, you're good to go. If not, keep cooking the jam another five minutes and try the test(s) again.

LOOK at the gorgeous color of that purée!

I got 14 jars--PLENTY to share with friends as tasty little Christmas gifts!

Clinging to the spoon as it cooled--a PERFECT set!

1 comment:

scrambledhenfruit said...

I've never had beer-anything jam, but it sure sounds good! With plenty of berries still in my freezer, this may have to be a winter project. Thanks for the link! :)