Lunchtime Blackberry Jam

Seriously, you can make this gorgeous jam in a lunchtime. It does involve some heavy guesswork and a lot of "eh, I think it's done", but have a go! Once you learn a few basics its much easier to take an educated guess than mess around with a jam thermometer - in fact jam thermometers are much less accurate than just testing the jam to see if it's at the set point.

Ingredients and apparatus:

As many blackberries as you managed to collect before you had had enough of being spiked by the brambles (or just buy some blackberries).

An equal weight of sugar to blackberries.

Lemon juice - if you have a small amount of blackberries, half a lemon (1 tablespoon) will do, or if you have a large amount, a full lemon's worth (2 tablespoons), or thereabouts.

A stainless steel pan.

A spoon.

Some small plates in the freezer.

Some glass jars with lids.

A bowl or dish (large enough to hold the amount of sugar you are using and oven-safe).

Method:

1. Pre-heat oven to approx 120 degrees C.

2. Wash and dry the jars and lids thoroughly and put in oven to be sterilised while you make the jam.

3. Put the sugar in the bowl and into the oven to heat. This will help the jam cook faster and therefore taste better!

4. Put the blackberries and lemon juice into the pan and bring it to the boil on the hob. Allow the pan to simmer gently for approximately 5 minutes. Squash the fruit a bit.

5. After 5 minutes, add the hot sugar to the pan and stir to dissolve.

6. Simmer for about 10 minutes more. It will go scummy, this is fine. Make sure you give it a gentle stir and be VERY careful, as it can be bubbling away quite ferociously under the calm scummy surface.

7. When it looks like its starting to thicken, take one of the plates out of the freezer, put a teaspoon of jam on the plate and put it back in the freezer as quickly as you can, for 60 seconds.

8. Take the plate back out and use your finger to push the edge of the jam. If it wrinkles, the jam is done, if not, keep cooking.

9. Repeat the cold plate test until the jam is done.

10. Take the jars out of the oven and carefully ladle the jam in, up to the neck of the jar. The jars need to be hot, or the heat of the jam will cause them to break.

11. Wipe the mouths of the jars, put the lids on and viola, jam in an hour!

NB // A lot of recipes mention only using brand new lids or using special plastic film under the lids, but personally I've used old jam jars and lids and they've worked fine. I've not needed to do any further processing of the jars to vacuum seal them, as they cool the pressure inside the jar will decrease forming a vacuum seal on its own. You can use a larger piece of plastic film and secure with an elastic band if you have to.

Conventional wisdom is to store in a cool dark place until ready to eat and then keep refrigerated once opened for about 4 weeks. I have definitely broken these rules and not died. It's only jam after all.

Heather Stock