Monday, August 24, 2009

Blackberry Jam and Pie

I've decided I'd rather not worry about making sure I have all my posts caught up about my summer vacation in France. It's too daunting and it's making me not post. It's easier to write about what I'm doing now and then intersperse my posts with French food highlights. Also, as an aside, last week was my first full week of Danish classes (three days) and volunteering at a kindergarten (two days). It wiped me out to say the least - my brain was throbbing from all the linguistic stimulation! It also made sitting at the computer that much harder. But what am I complaining about? I'm just happy to have something to do that gets me out of the house and interacting with real, live people!

Here's really what I'd like to share: there are masses of blackberry bushes all over where we live. In addition to a big bush off our back deck there are bushes to be found on the walking path one house over from ours as well as all along the road next to the fjord (a 5 minute walk from our house).

First I made jam. For me it was a challenge because although I've enjoyed many a jar of homemade jam from family and friends over the years, I'd never tried making my own. I was really sweating the vertiable "setting point" but got lucky and ended up with the perfect consistency. It's makes an excellent pbj and is fantastic on top of Greek yogurt.

And then this weekend I made a blackberry-apple pie. Yesterday afternoon when Anatole and I came in from playing outside I noticed the empty pie plate sitting next to Alan. He finished half a pie in one sitting and had a very guilty look on his face. So much for pie for Anatole and me.

Having juicy, sweet and FREE blackberries is probably one of the greatest treats ever. I never buy blackberries in the supermarket because typically they taste like crap and are prohibitively expensive. So having "my own" blackberries is sublime. Now...what to make next.

On another note, I joined the Daring Bakers group where once a month I, along with thousands of other Daring Bakers, will complete a baking challenge. This month it's an Hungarian Dobos Torte -- a multi-layered affair with lots of chocolate buttercream and caramel. The instructions are long and involved, but I'm excited to try it. I have four days left to complete the challenge and submit my photos and notes. Wish me luck.

Blackberry and Apple Pie
from How to Be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson

4T cold unsalted butter, diced
4T vegetable shortening, teaspooned out
1 1/3c self-rising cake flour
scant 1/4c fine cornmeal
2-4T salted ice water or enough to bind
squeeze of lemon juice as needed
8" shallow pie plate

1 1/2lbs Golden Delicious or other cooking apples (2 medium)
1/4c unsalted butter
7T sugar
1T rosewater
1/2t ground cinnamon
3 scant T cornstarch
12oz. blackberries

for the glaze/topping:
1-2T milk
1-2T sugar

Make the pastry according to the usual method then form into two discs, one slightly smaller than the other. Cover with plastic wrap and rest the pastry in the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 375F. Peel, core, and slice the apples. In a saucepan, melt the butter and add the sugar, rosewater, and cinnamon, then cook the apples in the pan for about 3 minutes; remove them to a dish with a spatula. Pour the caramelly juices into a measuring cup and whisk in the cornstarch to form a paste.

Line the bottom and sides of the pie dish with the bigger disc of pastry, and put the apples and blackberries into the pie. Pour over the cornstarch-butter mixture, stirring gingerly to cover all of the fruit without tearing the pastry. Roll out the smaller disc of pastry, dampen the edges of the pie with water, and put the pie lid on top. Crimp the edges, either by hand or using a fork, to seal. Decorate the top with any pastry scraps, made artistically into leaves, or stamped out into miniature apple shapes with cutters, or whatever takes your fancy.

Glaze with milk and cook for 30 minutes, by which time the still slightly knobbly top should be golden. Sprinkle with sugar when it comes out of the oven, and leave for about 15 minutes before cutting into it.

Serves 6.

My notes: I used salted butter and substituted canola oil for the vegetable shortening, which I haven't yet found in Danish supermarkets). I also substituted about a teaspoon of white vinegar for the lemon juice because I was out of lemons and my grandmother swore by adding a little vinegar to her pie crust recipe. I only had one large apple--not even sure it was a cooking apple--and compensated by adding a bit more blackberries. I omitted the rosewater because I don't have it, used brown sugar for the sugar because I wanted that caramelly effect, and, for no particular reason, skipped the sugar sprinkles on the fresh baked pie. In terms of sweetness, I might add a bit more sugar next time to round out the sourness of the berries. It was sweet enough but any less so and it wouldn't have been all that tasty. It's probably wonderful with a scoop of vanilla ice cream but not having a freezer limits us a little now doesn't it. While it's not even in the same ball park in terms of sweetness, the Greek yogurt I used on top was satisfying enough.

Blackberry Jam
From How to Be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson

4c blackberries
3 1/3c sugar
juice of 1 lemon
4 8-oz jars

Place your testing saucer in the freezer.

Put the fruit, sugar, and lemon juice into a preserving pan, or other large, wide pan, and let the sugar dissolve over a low heat. Turn the heat up and bring the jam to the boil. Keep the jam at a roiling boil until setting point is reached.

Makes 1 quart.

My notes: I eyeballed my bowl of berries. There could have been slightly more or less than four cups. I also used 3 cups of sugar because I never really understand why I need that extra 1/3c (or 1/4c, etc.) and using a little less sugar never hurt anybody. This was my first jam making experience and boy did I have a hard time with the setting point. I looked at all kinds of info online and finally decided that I would use the saucer test. I put a dab of hot jam on a cold saucer (because I don't have a freezer I used one cold from the fridge) let it cool a bit and looked to see if it wrinkled when I pressed it with my finger. I couldn't quite get it to wrinkle but after close to 30 minutes of cooking I guessed right that the jam was ready to go into the jars. All I did was run my jars through the dishwasher and remove them while still hot. My batch yielded 1 large jar and two smaller ones.


  1. The pie really sounds mouthwatering. I wish I had been there to test it!
    I´ve also been making jam this weekend: plum and strawberry-rhubarb. The first time I tried it I could hardly believe how easy it is. Now I´ve got enough jam in the fridge for a long time. I´ve got a nice recipe for carrot and orange jam, if you´re interested...

  2. Wow, plum and strawberry rhubarb sounds amazing! Yes, very curious about the carrot and orange recipe. :-)

  3. Carrot jam with orange

    600 g carrot - finely grated
    2 organic oranges - very finely diced
    juice from another two organic oranges
    600 g sugar
    1oo ml water

    Layer carrot, sugar and orange in a pot, add juice and water and mix all the ingredients well. Cook at low heat for 20-30 minutes.

    When the jam has the right consistency, you pour it into glasses (which have been scolded and rinsed with atamon - I don´t know what this is called in English, but it´s used for preservation). Seal the glasses right away.