When I started Macrina Bakery, I had every intention of making homemade fruit spread for our pastries but simply got too busy. Instead, I found an excellent freezer jam made from local berries. I’d been making jam and fruit spread ever since I was in my early twenties. My mother taught me how. Every year, in berry season, she’d get as many of those mouth-watering native strawberries, raspberries and blueberries and set about making jam, fruit spread, and conserves. Most of her jam was freezer jam, but I took to sealing it in jars since it keeps longer and you can store it in the larder.
Now all these years later, I’m finally starting to make fruit spread in quantities large enough I can sell some commercially. The fruit spread business is called Project Barnstorm. Most of the spreads are made from fruit grown on my Vashon Island farm such as Concorde grapes, blackberries and Montgomery cherries. I’m also making apricot, raspberry and blueberry spreads with fruit from a local organic farm.
Project Barnstorm is a celebration of the seasons. By picking the fruit at its peak, or buying it straight from some of the best local farmers, the fruit spreads capture the natural essence of the fruit. Because fruit spreads have less sugar than jam, the natural sweetness of the ripe fruit shines through.
To get the right consistency, I make all the spreads in small batches and cook the fruit until I’ve reduced its water content enough that it will set with just a little pectin. The ratio of fruit to sugar in my spreads is much higher than commercial jams. A full, fresh fruit flavor is the result. A single spoonful in winter will bring you back to summer, if only for a moment. Fortunately, there is the rest of the jar to enjoy!
The fruits spreads are delicious with our toasted artisan breads but are also a great accompaniment with cheese on our flatbread or crostini. My latest indulgence is a spoonful or two over ice cream in the evenings or yogurt in the morning.
If you haven’t made fruit spreads before, take advantage of Washington’s bountiful blackberry crop starting in late July. Often you can find them, purple and bursting with juice, along roadsides throughout the area. Enjoy!
Leslie’s Blackberry Jam
8 canning jars and lids (6-8 oz in size)
8 cups ripe blackberries
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1½ cups sugar
3 tsp Pectin (Pomona’s Universal Pectin)
Fill a canning pot with water and bring it to a boil. Submerge jars and lids in boiling water to sterilize for 5 minutes. Remove and let dry at room temperature.
Gently rinse off the blackberries and pat dry. In a medium saucepan place the berries and mash with a potato masher. Add the lemon juice and half the sugar (¾ cup). Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer for about 5 minutes. Skim any foam that might form on the surface of the mixture and discard. Combine the remaining sugar with the pectin and whisk into the simmering jam mixture. Simmer for another 2 to 3 minutes. Turn off heat.
Taste the jam for sweetness. You can add a bit more sugar or lemon juice at this point to accommodate for the natural sweetness of your berries (they do vary).
Bring the canning pot water up to a boil again. Ladle the hot jam into the sterilized jars, filling to ¼ inch of the top.
Place the metal top and rim over the jar and tighten rim to seal. Gently place the covered jars into the boiling water. Be sure the water is covering the jar. Boil for 10 to 15 minutes to seal.
Remove the jars from the boiling water and let cool at room temperature. Ensure that all the jars are tightly sealed. A good test is to remove the rings and lift the jar by its lid. If it releases, the seal is no good; refrigerate and use within a month (or freeze for up to 6 months). Well-sealed jars will hold at room temperature for 1 year.