blackberries + sugar

old fashioned blackberry preserve recipe

Making long-boil old-fashioned blackberry preserves. Three ingredients:

Blackberries, Sugar and Time.

It’s long boil, so I have time to think. Stirring and thinking. Thinking and stirring. Sipping tea.

Thinking about those two ingredients and how each one is intimately linked to a very different food system than the other.

I thought about using honey instead of the white death. Had it in my hand at Famous Foods this morning. But I couldn’t do it. 28 dollars.

My house still hasn’t sold and this in-between-uncomfortableness has made my budget like all my pre-pregancy clothes : So tight it borders on vulgar. Let’s not even talk about my jeans. Let’s just say I wear a lot of yoga pants. Thank god I live in Vancouver where wearing yoga pants outside of yoga classes is socially acceptable.

Maybe if I ate less jam . . .

I got a screaming deal on a huge bag of sugar way back at the beginning of canning season. Pretty much the only thing I use it for anymore, thank goodness.

It is part of the problem of local eating, eating better in general. Yes, I can stretch my food budget, but sometimes, there’s something in me that just doesn’t allow me to justify spending nearly $30 on what will end up being four or five jars of jam. That’s absurd.

(I’m pretty sure the answer is going to be keeping bees, but that is a whole other problem altogether.)

Did I mention this is my first go at a long-boil jam? When they say long, they mean looong. 15 minutes my ass.

We know we shouldn’t eat white sugar. And it seems kind of sacrilege to put white sugar with these gorgeous wild blackberries.

These blackberries grew by the roadside in my son’s favourite park of their own accord. They demanded no attention, no tending, no encouragement of self-esteem. They provide hearth and home for countless song birds and furry animals and hold the soil steadfast on the slopes of our neighbourhood ravine.

They ask for nothing in return, and will take over completely if you let them. There are worse things that could happen.

They have more patience than I have . . . gel stage, where are you?

The sugar on the other hand. . . I have no idea where it is from, or how it was grown or even what crop it was derived from. I think most North American sugar is from sugar beets?? Anyone?

Starting to wonder if this mysterious gel stage even exists. I am doing a good job of making a mess of my stove, that’s for sure. This is one of those recipes where if I called home to Gramma she’d just tell me,

Oh, you know, dear. Just cook it till it’s done.


This push and pull between blackberries and sugar pretty much sums up my entire food-life.

I want to do better, believe most of us can do better, know for certain many of us (corporations and governments included) can and SHOULD do much, much better.

But there are always limits to our love.

Although I live in a world of momentarily limitless blackberries, I do not live in a world of limitless funds.

How do we balance our ideals, our goals, our dreams with our realities? With the red and black of our bottom line? Our access, or in-access, for a plethora of reasons, to food that is good, clean and fair?

Do we do our best? Say, as much as we can as often as we can? Do we say – here I will compromise, there I won’t?

Does it matter?

This stupid book I’m reading right now says that us zany locovore / slow food / organic / natural / bio-dynamic etc. etc. folks are using arbitrary food rules as a means of filling the vacuum left by religion. That all these self-imposed rules and difficulty and challenges and exclusivity are just the manifestation of some innate yearning for structure and order and really mean nothing in and of themselves.

It would help if I read the instructions properly. I totally skipped a step in my test. My sheet-testing skills need some brushing up. I gave up and jarred my jam. Bugger it. It tastes lovely.

Maybe we are a bunch of religious-zealots in denial. I don’t know if I care anymore.

I’m going to do my best to eat by my heart and my conscience and leave it at that. As my mother says,

It’s good enough for the guys I go out with.

(Please don’t ask me why she says that. I have no idea. She’s always said that for good enough is good enough. And now I say it too. So it goes.)

Here’s the recipe for the blackberry preservesI made, Gramma-style.

Homemade Old-Fashioned Blackberry Preserves

  • 12 cups blackberries
  • 6 cups sugar
  1. Mix sugar and blackberries together in the pot you are going to cook them in.
  2. Let them sit for about 10 minutes while the berries release their juice.
  3. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring often.
  4. Cook it till it’s done.
  5. Jar.

I’m going to eat mine with yogurt right now . . .

2 thoughts on “blackberries + sugar

  1. grammomsblog

    Sometimes it helps the berries to ‘release their goodness’ by mashing them with a potato masher, before you cook them up……
    Did you know that apples are a good source of pectin, which thickens jams?
    You are SO lucky to have blackberries right in your neighbourhood to harvest!
    I bet those preserves taste mighty good!!

    1. The Slow Foods Mama Post author

      We are lucky! In our neck of the woods they’re everywhere – abandoned railway tracks, back lanes, parks . . . A blessing and a curse!

      I make lots of traditional jam with the mashing and pectin – I looked at a recipe for spreadable berries that included granny smiths for natural pectin but my berries were going to spoil before I made it to my mum’s to pick apples.

      I think I over-cooked the preserves, but no one will noticed when they’re stirred into yogurt (I hope!)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s