Wednesday, March 04, 2009

My Name is Earl: A Summery Jam for Those Late Winter Blues

I was recently reading a cute little blog from a cafe in Portland called the Little Red Bike Cafe. The cafe is owned and run by a dynamic young couple who are basically living my dream, but I don't hold it against them. ;-) Anyway, they mentioned that they were serving several new flavors of jam in their cafe, including such temptations as blueberry poppy seed, strawberry pinot noir, and blackberry Earl Grey. They all sound incredibly delicious, but it was the last one that really got me. I was immediately intrigued, and the wheels in my mind started turning. How might one make blackberry Earl Grey jam? And I had just enough blackberries that I had picked and frozen last summer to experiment. (Plus, making a summery jam mid-winter during a snowstorm makes me feel naughty--like I'm getting away with something! Tee hee.)

I turned to the jamming goddess, Christine Ferber, for inspiration, following her wild blackberry jam recipe, but increasing the fruit to about three pounds, because I used my handy-dandy new Roma strainer to make it seedless. In addition to the juice of one lemon, I also used the microplaned zest. And finally, I made an infusion of about ten ounces of boiling water and four Twinings Earl Grey tea bags, steeped for five minutes, and added it to the jam. I macerated everything overnight in the fridge, in the Ferber tradition, and I boiled it down for about twenty minutes the next day that yielded a softer set, which I prefer (25 minutes would probably do it for those of you who like a firmer jam).

I must tell you, the jam turned out AMAZING! I wasn't sure if the tea would come through, but it did, without being overpowering. It just added some delightfully earthy and citrusy notes to the jam. The only thing I would change next time is to cut the sugar back a bit, as it was a little on the sweet side for my tastes. And in reviewing my copy of the Ferber bible, I figured out why. Her recipe for wild blackberry jam calls for 3 3/4 CUPS not POUNDS of sugar! The 3 3/4 pounds that I accidentally used would have been about 8 1/2 cups or about double what she calls for! OOPS! However, I usually prefer a more traditional 50-50 ratio of fruit to sugar. So whereas I used 3 lbs. of fruit and about 8 1/2 cups of sugar in my first batch, I think I'll scale that back to about 6 3/4 cups sugar (=3 lbs.) next time, because my jam was just a little too sweet to my tastes, not WAY too sweet. But Ferber fans might like to take that down to as few as five cups. Either way, your efforts will surely yield one of the best jams that you have ever tasted!

Photo Credit: .ash. on Flickr

Wild Blackberry and Earl Grey Jam
(Source: adapted from Christine Ferber's Mes Confitures and inspired by the
Little Red Bike Cafe)

10 oz. boiling water
4 Earl Grey tea bags (I used Twinings)
3 pounds wild blackberries (cultivated ones would be good, too)
6 3/4 cups granulated sugar (you could go as low as 5 cups)
zest and juice of one large lemon
1/2 teaspoon butter

Bring water to a boil, then steep the tea bags for five minutes. Squeeze the excess liquid out of the tea bags and discard. Set brewed tea aside while you prepare the fruit.

Pick over the blackberries. Rinse them quickly in cold water without soaking them. In a preserving pan, combine the blackberries, sugar, lemon zest and juice. Bring to a simmer. Pour into a ceramic bowl and stir in the tea. Cover the fruit with a sheet of parchment paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, if you like, run the fruit preparation through a Roma-type strainer before cooking it down. (I used the berry screen, and I ran the pulp through a couple of extra times to get out every drop of berry goodness before discarding the remaining leathery fibers and seeds. Of course, if you like the seeds in your jam...never mind.) Bring this preparation to a boil along with 1/2 teaspoon of butter, stirring gently. Continue cooking on high heat at a full, rolling boil for 15 minutes, stirring constantly. Check the set on a cold plate (it's done when you push the jam and it wrinkles--mine took about 20 minutes). Put the jam into jars immediately, seal, and process for ten minutes in a boiling water bath.

Yield: I got seven half-pints, but remember, I accidentally used too much sugar in my first batch. So I'm guessing six jars?


Anonymous said...

I will have to check out this place in Portland!!! How did I miss this one?

J S Grant said...

Wow, next time I go to Portland I'm going to visit that cafe AND bug my friend to make the jam - he has tons of blackberries in his summer garden, and I always visit the first week in September.

Amy J said...

Hi Gina, thanks for stopping by my blog and sharing this recipe with me. It looks divine and I can't wait to try it. Am checking out all of the yummy posts that you have...