1 urban woodland path in Edinburgh
1 fully-laden blackberry bush untouched by people walking their dogs
2 plastic tubs
2 pairs rubber gloves
1 large plastic bag
1.9 kg blackberries, stems, leaves, spiders, caterpillars
1 kg white sugar
1 packet Jamsetta (pectin) your friends brought back from Australia
8 jars


Spot fully-laden blackberry bush at the end of a walk up a nearby hill on a sunny morning. Eat several dozen blackberries, remembering the last time you went blackberrying in Canberra in 1999. Go home, collect tubs, gloves and bag, then return. Put on gloves and pick every ripe blackberry in sight, emptying tubs into bag as they fill up. Get stabbed under fingernail by a particularly nasty thorn. Take gloves off when bush is denuded of blackberries. Spot last dozen you missed, reach in to pick them and get stung by nettles.

Back at home, empty bag into colander and immerse in sink full of water. Pick out leaves, stems, caterpillars, and small shiny spiders, flicking arthropods out the kitchen window off the end of a pastry brush. Drain sink and repeat.

Empty into pressure cooker with lid off because your preserving pan is back in Oz. Crush with a duck-shaped potato masher to make the juice run, bring slowly to a boil, and cook for twenty minutes.

Meanwhile, drag box full of old Bonne Mamán jars and lids out of bottom cupboard. Wash eight of them, rinse, allow to drain, then dry the jars in a low oven. Put a small plate in the fridge.

Pour a kilo-ish of sugar into a slice tray and warm in oven, then pour into blackberries without stirring. Let it dissolve as it comes slowly to the boil (about 20 minutes over half heat), then boil rapidly for twenty minutes, skimming scungy frothy sugary stuff off the top as you go. Add Jamsetta and boil another ten minutes until a small dab on the cold plate looks set.

Line up warm dry jars and ladle jam into them up to a centimetre from the top. Wipe the rims with a paper towel and seal each jar with its metal lid. Put leftover jar and lid aside. Allow to cool until the lids all vacuum seal themselves an hour later.

Leave about a week to set fully, but any jars that don’t seal properly can be eaten as soon as they’re cool. Stick on some labels with “BLACKBERRY 9/2006” handwritten on them, in the remote chance that they won’t all be eaten within three months. You never know, one of them might get lost up the back of the cupboard. We found one of Mum’s from the 1980s when we were cleaning out cupboards ten years later; tasted just fine. (Especially because it was blackberry. Blackberry > Apricot > Raspberry > Plum.)


30 September 2006 · Journal

Gee, you had a very busy day making all that jam yourself.

Added by Inner voice on 30 September 2006.

I cannot tell a lie. I did most of the picking, fingernail stabbing, nettle stinging and arthropod flicking, and Jane did most of the rest. Just to set the record straight for the ages. (But I’ll do most of the eating to make up for it.)

Added by Rory on 30 September 2006.

Yum. Am heading out into the Czech countryside in the weekend. I shall take supplies in case I find a bush untouched by dogs. Highly unlikely, but one can hope.

Of course, finding the Czech word for pectin may be a more difficult task: so, I may just have to eat 1.9k of berries.

Added by Nomes on 2 October 2006.

And stems, leaves, spiders and caterpillars.

Added by Rory on 3 October 2006.

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