Blackberry Lime Jam

I have ventured into a creative space with my jams this year. I think I've overcome the fears around preserving and I'm feeling a bit brave.  Preserving is such a wonderful way to share gifts that keep on giving. It is a feeling like no other when you open a jar of something you made months, the previous year, or even years before and taste all the love you put into it.  The preserves get stored on a shelf waiting for the next PB&J or fluffy buttermilk biscuit slathered with butter.  The memory of what, how, where and when get stored away with them.  Then one day you walk into the pantry and pull out a jar. POP goes the lid and all those luscious fruits and memories are there for the spreading.

So the first "creative flavor combo" for me this year, Blackberry and Lime.  I can't take credit for the idea.  I knew I had a bunch of blackberries and I wanted something a bit different so I 'Googled' . Last year I tried a Blackberry Peach recipe.  That didn't get it.  The blackberries just over powered the peaches.  I've also tried a triple berry and it was good but I wanted something unusual.  The addition of the lime adds a brightness.  You can barely detect it until you read the label and then you exclaim, "I knew I tasted something a bit different.  I think this is a keeper.  See what you think

The jam recipe is ever so basic folks.  All I do is measure 2 pounds of fruit and place it in a non metal bowl with 4-8 ounces of  sugar.  The amount of sugar depends on the sweetness of the fruit and your taste buds. Then, finely grate the rind of 1-2 limes. Stir well.  Cover the fruit, sugar and lime peel and place it in the fridge for at least 24 hours. If your schedule gets hectic I've left it there for 3 days.  Yikes you say, but it was fine.  I adore this recipe for this reason.  So often my days plans get interrupted by something going on around the farm.  I have to be flexible and this recipe flex's with me.  Actually this year the blackberries didn't seem to break down at all in 24 hours.  That's what you want, the sugar and the fruit to macerate, or break down together.

OK.  Your 2 do list is letting up a bit and you can see your way clear to get into the kitchen and finish your preserves.  Place the fruit in a non reactive pot and bring it to a simmer.  Simmer, simmer until....

Here is the secret word friends...EVAPORATION.  It might not smack you in the head the way it did me but when I read about it in Christine Ferber's  beautiful book about preserves, Mes Confitures  I was like, Dah. Of course. That's all jam and jelly making is, removing the liquid from the fruit until it concentrates. So,the days of slaving over the stove worried about the precise timing of the process are over.  I know what to look for now.  When the liquids have dissipated I know it's time for me to really participate in the process.  Don't get me wrong I do stir the mixture as it goes I just don't stress over WHEN the mixture is about to jell.  So, after the fruit starts to thicken up I add my flavors.  I added 1 Tablespoon of fresh squeezed lime juice and 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of lime zest.  Give the flavors a change to meld and then taste it.  If it needs more, go ahead but remember the flavors develop.  When it's time to check the set you may want to use a thermometer. The jam should reach 221 degrees Fahrenheit.  Another method used is a chilled plate.  
 Place some of your jam on the plate.  If a line drawn with your finger doesn't bleed, your good to go!  Now it's time to can that JAM!  

I won't spend time of the basics of canning on this blog.  Ball is an excellent site and has resources galore.  Basically fill your processed jars and process the jam in a water bath for 10 minutes but the Ball site will answer all your questions.

I am here to tell you this is another practice makes perfect story.  Each time you preserve fruit, be it jam, jelly, marmalade, chutney or whole, you will have a new experience.  The fruit will differ year to year and so will your finished product.

 I use this basic recipe for everything now.  The only thing I might change in the process is adding 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice to the macerating fruit if I want the flavor or so the fruit doesn't discolor.  When the fruit begins to thicken I add my flavors.  While surfing about the web I found a fabulous chart on Northwest Edible Life
blog that I will use as my guide  but once you get the basics the SKY'S THE LIMIT.

Our Little Orchard

Ah, our little orchard.  I knew when I first set foot on this farm I wanted to have a "little" orchard.  On a small scale an orchard is also referred to as a fruit garden and sounds more appropriate for our farm.  I love to eat fruit in every form, fresh in the flesh , pies, preserves, cobblers, in my pancakes, muffins, on yogurt or ice cream, and fresh in the flesh some more. My mouth waters at the thought of it. I am often reminded of a moment in my childhood some suggest should be embarrassing.  My grandmother placed a bowl of blueberries on the breakfast table.  Yes, a bowl.  I pulled the bowl in front of me, sure it was meant just for me and proceeded to pour a bit of milk.  With haste the SERVING bowl was snatched from my place mat.  Embarrassed, really?  I knew what was in that bowl.
Gosh, trees in my own back yard!  I can eat the fruit right from the branch it hangs from. What a treat.  Blackberries, blueberries, cherry, apple, pear, plum, persimmon, fig and even pecan are all here now.  We haven't gotten a harvest from each and every one yet.  The harvests of fruit will improve with age, the trees are still fairly young.  Our blackberries and raspberries provided gifts the first year and now there is enough fruit for me to really be challenged with options.  More then you can swallow in one sitting usually means your going to have to prepare them so that they don't go by way of the fruit flies. Plenty of jams and cobblers have been made from our berries already. In fact, as I write I have fruit macerating first step for jams and preserves. I have journeyed through the preserving process so that I'm just getting comfortable.  Now I'm even making my own flavor combos.  Today, blackberry lime!  I have already taken some pictures of the process so you can be assured I'll share the recipes in an upcoming post.  I love, love, love to preserve stuff.  It feels so thrifty and respectful of the food.  There is nothing quite like popping the lid from a jar of preserved fruit or vegi's  you toiled over the year (or more) before.

  As our trees are maturing  each year we have a few more fruits, that is if we get there before the deer, crows, or Japanese beetles.  You'd be surprised how much we loose.  Last year we lost about 50 pears to dining crows.  We wait for the fruit to ripen, they don't!

The fruit we planted that I haven't mentioned is the fruit needing the most attention....peaches.  Of course it is the very fruit we planted the most of.  I have been guided so often on this farm by an idea I've dreamed about in the past, never really understanding what's involved.  Me, really, jumping into something  Yep!  That's me.

For those who know our farm you know we're all about the no chemicals or pesticides way of doing things.  We follow organic practices with everything on our farm.   Ever tried to grow a peach tree?  Oh my is it a challenge....  Peaches are very susceptible to all sorts of pests and diseases and AFTER they were planted I heard folks say, "you can't grow a peach without spraying".  I don't know if you were paying attention but I am trying to tell you I was probably told  before I planted them but I didn't HEAR it until after.  Yep, I must admit...I wasn't listening.  Or, was it selective hearing.  Oh well, it wasn't intentional.  I just wanted peach trees and I didn't want to be discouraged.

Well here you have it.  Picked today from one of our peach trees.  They are some kind of yummy and I am some kind of proud.  For anyone who gardens you understand "the fruits of your labor" well this is truly "the fruits".   I wonder if the sweetness is at all influenced by the fact that we grew them right here in our own back yard.  Or, maybe the fruit is so sweet cause we did it against the odds?

I do know we can't take all the credit.  It's been a good year for our peaches.  The long season of cool temps kept the bugs at bay long enough that all the luscious fruit formed and ripened before the bugs got to it.  The reason we had no bugs this year I have figured out.  The real mystery, how did the deer and crows miss these beauties?  We're not complaining, just wiping the peach juice from our chins.