Monday, 12 August 2013

Serviceberry Jam

"What the hell is a serviceberry?" you ask. Imagine a blueberry that's the colour of a cranberry, but has more seeds and roughly the flavour you'd get if you mixed every kind of berry together (I call it "generic berry flavour"). That's a serviceberry. (A Saskatoon is also a type of serviceberry, if you're interested.)

The best part of this jam? It was practically free for me to make. The berries cost $0 and were acquired through a day of awesome hangout time with a friend. It may have involved a bed sheet and a lot of branch-shaking. These berries are growing on a lot of trees around Ottawa and often go unharvested. It was our duty to save them from such a terrible fate, after all. I mean, any decent person would have done it. (While we were at it, we also found some mulberries and snatched them up greedily, but I digress...)

These little beauties are nutritious like any other berry (packed with antioxidants, for instance) and are a nice change from the usual suspects. They also ferment if they get too ripe on the tree which means (you guessed it!) you can actually get drunk off of over-ripe serviceberries. If that doesn't make them just a little extra adorable, I don't know what will. (Since I don't drink, maybe I can live vicariously through one of you guys. Yes? Yes? Oh, fine.)

The jam is vegan and gluten-free, and mine was made with Fair Trade golden cane sugar and organic lemon juice, so it's about as ethical a jam as you can get. So without further ado, here's the process I used to make it...

First, you want to make sure your jars and lids are sterilized and kept hot. I needed the equivalent of 2 litres' worth of jars. The taller ones at the back are pints, and the smaller ones in front are half-pints, leaving me with 4 pints all together.

Next, you take your serviceberries and stick them into a really big pot so that you can mash them.

Mash them until most of the berries are crushed, and leaving a few whole, if you like (I did). I would have loved a potato masher for this, but I used the back of a spoon because I don't have one. If you have a potato masher, definitely use it.

Once you've crushed your berries, add the rest of the ingredients to the pot and stir it all up. Put it on the burner and stir regularly as you heat the mixture to boiling.

You'll want to boil the mixture for about 20 minutes so that the berries start to really cook and start thickening. There is no pectin in this jam, and so cooking until it thickens a bit will be an important step. Unlike a jam with pectin, it won't thicken very much upon cooling.

Once your jam is ready, pour it into your prepared jars and seal as you would any other jam, processing in a hot water bath to make sure you kill any bacteria that's hanging on. The recipe made about 2 quarts of jam, or 4 pint mason jars full.

Serviceberry Jam
Makes 4 pint mason jars

8 cups serviceberries
6 cups golden cane sugar
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup water

Mash the berries in a dutch oven. Place over medium heat and add the remaining ingredients. Stir often until it comes to a boil, boiling about 20 minutes or until it gets thicker. Seal in sterilized jars immediately. Process 10 minutes in a hot water bath. Makes 4 500ml jars.


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