A yummy topping for toast or whatever else you put jam on, and quite easy to make. All you need is about a cup of blackberries for every cup of jam you want to make (freshly picked berries are best, but store-bought will do), and 3/4ths of a cup of sugar for every cup of blackberries (although if you prefer your jam slightly less sweet, use a bit less sugar). You'll also need jam jars.

Simply cook the berries over low heat for a few minutes in a saucepan until they start to let off liquid and a get a bit soft (add a little bit of water if it looks like they might burn). Then add the sugar, turn the heat to medium-high, and wait for the sauce to boil (or, more accurately, froth). Once it is frothing, turn the heat down to medium, and let simmer for about 20 minutes, or until done. You'll know it is done when jam placed on a plate and cooled for a minute or so doesn't run off the plate when the plate is flipped vertically.

Then, all you need to do is put it into the jam jars (which should be heated in boiling water first), and seal them. It can keep for years.

This is a family recipe developed by my parents using New Hampshire blackberries. I've recently made it with Nantucket blackberries and it was quite delicious. When I made it, 4 cups of berries made 3.5 jars of jam, but YMMV.

In order for your jam to properly jell, or set up, you will need to include pectin when cooking it up. Otherwise you will cook up some fine-tasting thick blackberry syrup.

You can add commercially available pectin (follow the directions on the box), or take advantage of naturally occurring pectin - when you pick your blackberries, include some unripe berries, greenish-red and red rather than deep purple. The more sugar you add to your berries, the more pectin you'll need to cause it to set up.

If you prefer jelly to jam, as I do, crush and strain the cooked berry-sugar-pectin mixture while it is still hot. Line a sieve (one of those inverted cone-shaped ones that comes with its own wooden pestle is ideal) with cheesecloth and place it over a bowl. Pour in the mixture and crush away! Pour into jars. In my grandmother's day, jelly and jam jars were sealed with wax. This provided the young ones with a chewy little treat when the jam was unsealed later - a kind of homegrown chewing gum.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we use Himalayan and Evergreen blackberries for making jelly and jam.

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