I grew up dreaming of rural life. I read Little House on the Prairie and dreamed about making hay and picking apples.
I studied agriculture, farmed for a couple years, and picked a lot of prickly pears one September in Arizona. But in the end, I decided I was not a farmer, and maybe I had better stick to the kitchen. Which is still mostly where I consider my domain. But, I have to say, the last month has rekindled my love of all things homestead-oriented.
You see, in the Dordogne, it rains all the time. And things just grow. Apples and grapes and peaches and blackberries and even hazelnuts and sunflower seeds and mushrooms that cost twenty bucks a pound at home if you’re lucky enough to find ’em. Cêpes and chanterelles and amanitas de cesar, if you’re wondering what all is the in the fruit crate up there. Magic, in other words. Edible magic.
All I have to do is go outside with a bucket or a basket or a brown paper bag. Bounty, my friends. It sets my head spinning. In the best way. And I get to feel agricultural without doing all the hard work of planting things and picking weeds and such. It’s a good deal.
This blackberry jam is my go-to grown-up preserve. You can eat it on toast with butter, but it is divine for more adventurous culinary uses. Excellent in salad dressing for a hearty green, sandwiched between two halves of a linzer cookie, or, my personal favorite, an almond butter, bacon, and jam sandwich on grilled ciabatta. Don’t even ask questions. Just do it.
Blackberry Port Jam
2 1/4 pounds (1 kilo) fresh blackberries
1 1/2 pounds (675 grams) of granulated sugar
1/2 cup (120 mL) filtered water
1/4 cup (60 mL) port
1 tablespoon (15 mL) balsamic vinegar
Combine all ingredients in a large heavy-bottomed stockpot. Pick one that’s big enough to accommodate some splattering as the jam cooks down. Bring to a boil on medium heat. Reduce heat to low and cook until reduced by half for a loose, liquid jam. Cook until reduced to a quarter for a thick, spreadable jam. This take a minimum of an hour in a large pot with lots of surface area to boil off moisture, just to give you a sense of what you’re committing to. It’s totally worth it.
If you like smooth jam, blend with an immersion blender or a in a smoothie blender. Store in the refrigerator or can according to the directions that come with your canning jars.