Bramble jam is easy to make, and makes the most of one of autumns most abundant fruits.

Anna Canning, a medical herbalist, ethnobotanical researcher and a key participant in Foraging Fortnight, shares her insights and a recipe for bramble jam.

Anna says: “Highly nutritious and versatile, blackberries – or brambles – are a hedgerow staple of autumn in Scotland.

“They are probably also the one wild food plant that many people still seek out and pick without even considering the activity to be foraging in the now- fashionable ‘foodie’ sense.

“I always make bramble jam in small batches as I find them – it’s quick, and it saves ‘faffing’ with big jelly pans, thermometers and all the other kit and caboodle you might associate with jam-making (and this, in my wee kitchen, is a definite blessing).

“Brambles also combine well with other autumn hedgerow harvest fruits: ripe black elderberries and crab apples with a little cinnamon for a rich, earthy jam, or a sweet-sour jelly combining brambles with a variable combination of rowan berries, rosehips or haws (all of which have inedible seeds).

“If you have any plums in your garden, those work exceptionally well with brambles as a jam too.

“It’s worth bearing in mind that ripe brambles don’t contain much pectin, the soluble fibre needed for jams and jellies to set, so including some apple or plum in your mix will help – and you don’t need much of these: even just including 10 per cent apples or plums to 90 per cent brambles will do the trick.

“A good bit of lemon or orange juice will also work, if you prefer your brambles solo.

“I like my bramble jam with the seeds in, and not just for the extra bite and texture they give: they are too good to throw away, as they’re full of fibre, protein and useful fatty acids.”

What you’ll need

Any heavy-bottomed pan will do, plus a long-handled wooden spoon or spatula to stir with.

A cold plate for testing whether the jam is set (some people put the plate in the freezer).

A jam funnel is handy for minimising mess, but not essential.

Glass jars, which you’ve washed thoroughly and put on a baking tray in the oven at 110C to sterilise (for at least 15 minutes) while you make your jam.

Ingredients

Lemon(s)

Sugar – you can use jam sugar, which has pectin added, but any granulated or caster sugar is fine for this recipe. I like to use light raw cane sugar (granulated or caster) for added depth of flavour and colour. Use equal weights of sugar and fruit.

Optional additions (this is where small-batch jam making is ideal – you can experiment) are a stick of cinnamon, or one of those wee bags of mulled wine spices, or – for a foray into more adventurous territory, some cracked pink or black peppercorns (about ½ a
teaspoonful per 250g fruit).

The recipe for the simplest and purest bramble jam. You can scale this up as needed:

  • 250 g brambles
  • 250 g sugar
  • Juice of ½ lemon (for tang and pectin)

Method

Place the brambles and sugar in the pan and add the lemon juice (and any additional ingredients).

Over a low heat, bring to a gentle boil, stirring to ensure the sugar dissolves evenly and the fruits release their juices.

Keep at a moderate rolling boil for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from the heat and skim off any scum. (At this point, remove the cinnamon, if used).

Now spoon a small blob of the jam onto the cold plate, tipping the plate up to let the jam run. If the setting consistency is right, the blob of jam will move very slowly down the plate.

You can also check by pushing a finger slowly through the jam on the plate: you’ll see the jam wrinkle slightly if it’s ready.

If it’s not ready, put the pan back on the heat and allow to boil gently for another 3-4 minutes before repeating the plate-test.

Repeat the process, checking every 2-3 minutes as needed. Allow the jam to settle for a few minutes before bottling in the hot jars.

Once cooled, seal and label. The jam should keep for at least 10-12 months, but refrigerate once opened.

Foraging in Scotland: the best seasonal produce to pick this autumn and winter

About The Author

Rosalind Erskine

Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind writes for The Scotsman on all things food and drink related.

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