Jammin’ Summer: Wild Blackberries and Feral Plums

There are two summer themes this year—gathering free fruit to make jam, and seeing how little sugar we can get away with using and still call it jam. Ok, sometimes its sauce. But I’m ok with that.

I’ve been obsessed with making low sugar jam ever since I served as a judge in the Good Food Awards last year. Turns out that spending the day tasting dozens of jams can leave a person with a terrible stomachache that lasts a couple days. After the first five jams, they all tasted the same…sweeeeet. So this year my goal is to preserve the flavor of the fruit, not the sugar.

The first bout of jamming took place on 4 of July weekend. We’d been visiting friends who live in a development alongside a trail that leads to the nearby delta and Port of Sacramento. Before the trail was built, backyards had extended out farther, so the area the trail runs through is lined with feral fruit trees of all sorts. Plum season!

Yellow plums, green plums, red plums. All kinds of plums were ripe and plopping off the trees all around us. Five of us filled bags and bags of them and, since nobody else wanted them, we took them home to make jam. Mixed plum jam. We used about 1 1/2 cups sugar for every four cups of cut fruit. Considering most recipes call for equal parts sugar and fruit, that’s low. The jam was tart. Almost too tart. Since low sugar jam is more perishable, we processed it for 15 minutes in the jars.

Bout two of jamming crossed state lines. We timed our camping trip up north to coincide with Oregon blackberry season. After camping in the woods for two days, and picking blackberries for two hours, we were ready for a little indoor time. A rented apartment in Ashland, a few showers and nice dinners out, a Shakespeare play, and an afternoon reading and making blackberry jam…and before we knew it we were headed home with not quite enough jars of Oregon summer.

This time, we upped the sugar ratio to account for the blackberries being somewhat under ripe.  We used two cups sugar for every four cups of blackberries. And it’s almost too sweet.

What’s next? Figs? Show me the tree!

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