Name a better breakfast than crunchy sourdough toast slick with salted butter and sweet-tart blackberry jam—I sure can’t. And while sourdough is a multi-day project, homemade jam comes together in about an hour.
This can be as simple as blackberries, sugar, lemon juice, and a fat pinch of salt. Or have some fun in the realm of mix-ins, like Los Angeles’ Sqirl. One of Sqirl’s blackberry jams is paired with lemon verbena—which may be hard to track down, but fresh herbs like sage and thyme add equal earthy complexity. Numerous other ingredients pair well with blackberries, from orange flower water and Grand Marnier to ground cardamom and freshly grated ginger. Even the simple addition of citrus zest will turn ordinary blackberry jam into extraordinary blackberry jam. One note: While there are many flavors that go well with blackberry, don’t use all the suggested add-ins in one batch. Stick with one or two, like cardamom and Grand Marnier; ginger and sage; lemon zest and thyme; vanilla extract and grapefruit zest.
Many jam recipes call for pectin, a stabilizer that, when mixed into jam and jelly, encourages gelling and sets the mixture. This jam doesn’t need it, as blackberries are fairly high in natural pectin. Adding lemon juice at the end not only balances all the sweetness—its acid also encourages the fruit’s pectin to set.
A note on storage: Since this is a quick jam, also known as refrigerator jam (think: quick pickles you make an hour before dinner versus canned pickles you make once a year), it’s not processed with a classic canning method, and therefore lasts for less time. Eat within three weeks. Store the jam in a tightly sealed mason jar in the fridge with a bit of space between the jam and the lid to ensure proper sealage. Of course, this recipe can easily be scaled up and canned the traditional way. In that case, the jam is safe to store in the pantry until you’ve broken the jar seal—refer to this guide if you’re interested in exploring that. —Rebecca Firkser
- Prep time 1 hour 5 minutes
- Cook time 30 minutes
- Makes about 3/4 cup
- Blackberry jam
(2 pints) fresh (or frozen and defrosted) blackberries
freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more to taste
- Optional add-ins (pick one to two, see Author Notes)
ground cardamom, plus more to taste
orange flower water
pure vanilla extract
freshly grated ginger
lemon, orange, or grapefruit zest
fresh sage leaves
fresh thyme sprigs
- Combine fruit and sugar in a medium saucepan. Let macerate for at least 30 minutes and up to several hours at room temperature.
- Once the fruit has macerated, set the saucepan on the stove over medium-high heat and bring the mixture to a boil—just keep a watch so it doesn’t boil over. Encourage the berries to break down by gently smashing them with a wooden spoon.
- Continue to cook, scraping the bottom frequently and using your spoon to smash and further break down the berries, until the mixture reduces and thickens into a texture that can only be described as jammy, 15 to 20 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low to low, stir in the lemon juice and salt, and continue to cook for 10 minutes, stirring often. Taste, and add more lemon juice if you want things a bit more tart.
- If you’d like, now is also the time for your add-in(s). Stir until combined. Remove from the heat and let the jam cool. If using fresh herbs in the jam, remove them after 30 minutes and discard. Transfer jam to a clean mason jar with a lid that seals—make sure there’s a bit of space between the top of the jam and the jar lid. Store in the fridge and use within 3 weeks.