Next to my community garden is a lane that goes nowhere, a busy street, an empty field and a few houses. The last time I went to weed, I noticed a massive blackberry bramble along the hedges of the lane-to-nowhere – with the fruits just turning black.
I have weird feelings about urban foraging. The city feels grimy, there are people everywhere, and somehow taking something naturally occurring feels less ‘appropriate’ (or even less safe) than buying pre-packaged goods flown in from wherever and rung in by a cashier. Intellectually I know this is far from the truth, and city grime is probably better for me than the pesticides and preservatives keeping those packaged foods longer on those fluorescent-lit shelves, but it was still with a moment’s hesitation that I tackled this oh-so-urban bramble. But tackle it I did.
Wild blackberries are everywhere right now. They probably always are this time of year, but I’m more aware of them right now. They also seem to be especially delicious – right at that full, warm-in-the-sun and falling off the branch state. Just be careful, wild blackberries are particularly thorny, so be sure to dress accordingly. I wore long sleeves and gloves. I also brought a small table to stand on (the berries I was aiming for were particularly high, they had more sun and were riper and were less picked over.)
Within 20 minutes I’d picked a colander full, so now it was time to figure out what to do with it. I was eating by the handful, but wanted to preserve the harvest a little longer too.
The answer? Blackberry jam. This recipe is adapted from Food in Jars‘. (The jam was so delicious that when I discovered even more blackberries at my parents’ cabin, I convinced my dad to forage with me and we made a Blackberry Crumble too.)
Wild BC Blackberry Jam Ingredients
- 3 cups blackberry pulp (6 cups of berries, mashed through a strainer with a wooden spoon)
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- Half a lemon lemon, juiced and zested
- 1 tablespoon crystal pectic
Blackberry Jam Directions
- Prepare your jars.
- Wash your jars, lids (new lids only!) and bands in hot, soapy water. Rinse and drain.
- Fill a large pot (or canner) with water, and place the jars in one layer along the bottom. (Lots of sites recommend a rack – I didn’t have one and survived without.)
- Cover and bring to a simmer, before lowering the heat. Keep them hot until you’re ready to use them.
- Put the lids in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer.
- Keep the bands dry and clean nearby.
- In a large, non-reactive pot (stainless steel or enameled cast iron), add the crystal pectin to the fruit pulp and bring to a boil. Let boil for 1 minute to activate the pectin.
- Add the sugar, stir to mix completely, and let return to a boil.
- Add cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon zest and juice. Stir to combine.
- Let the mixture reach a boil, stirring frequently to prevent it from boiling over. Let it boil until it thickens – this was about 5 minutes for me.
- Remove your jars one at a time to a clean working surface, fill with the jam, wipe rims, apply lids and rings.
- When all jars are filled, return them to the pot of boiling water and boil for 10 minutes.
- After processing, remove from the pot and allow them to cool on a dishtowel-lined counter top.
- Once the jars are cool, check the seals and enjoy.
Blackberry (and Bonus) Crumble
- 3 cups wild blackberries
- 2 peaches, chopped
- Handful of blueberries
- Handful of raspberries (really, any fruit at hand)
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 2/3 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup oats
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 pinch sea salt
Blackberry+ Crumble Directions
Preheat the oven to 375. Any dish larger than an 8 inch square or 9 inch round pan will work, I used a 9×13 casserole dish because I didn’t want to line it with foil – and I like a healthy ratio of crumble topping to fruit.
Mix up the blackberries, peaches and other berries. Place them evenly in the bottom of the pan.
Use a food processor to cut up the butter, sugar, oats, flour, cinnamon, and salt. Eventually the ingredients will form into small clumps. If it seems too dry, add more butter – but check the consistency by pinching the mixture. If it sticks together in a clump, it’s ready. (This is also the opportunity to eat the crumble-mixture in the guise of ‘testing’).
With suitably clumpy bits of crumble topping, spread the mixture over the prepared fruit. Even it out with a fork to ensure coverage.
Place the crumble in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Let cool until just warm.
- Best served with vanilla ice cream.