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Chicago Urban Gardening

The day to day experiences of a University of Illinois Extension Urban Horticulture Educator in Chicago, Illinois

Get Your Blackberries

Posted by Ron Wolford -

Blackberries are a tasty summer treat, and they are available at your local farmer's market or u-pick farm. As with almost all fruits and vegetables, blackberries are naturally fat-free, low in calories, and contain a good amount of fiber. Not only are blackberries nutritious, but they also taste good and you can buy them locally!

Ripe blackberries have a dull-black tone and will be just starting to soften, says Jennifer Nance, University of Illinois Extension educator. Once you've carefully picked your berries (avoiding the thorns and chiggers) or purchased them from the grower, gently handle them to avoid bruising. Remember, as with all berries, blackberries are perishable and should be refrigerated as soon as possible.

Do not wash berries before refrigerating. Nance says that washing before storage will cause the berry to spoil faster. When you are ready to eat the berries, simply rinse in cool running water and drain. Do not soak the berries in water. Blackberries will only last a day or two in the refrigerator, so eat up and buy more.

You can also freeze blackberries to enjoy them throughout the year. Simply rinse with cool water and allow to dry on a paper towel; or pat dry, being careful not to damage the berries. You can freeze the berries on a cookie sheet and then transfer them to a freezer storage bag and seal. You can also sugar-pack the berries by gently mixing 3/4 cup of sugar with 1 quart berries. This mixture can then be put in a freezer storage bag, sealed and placed in the freezer.

For a tasty treat, try this blackberry jam recipe.

Blackberry Jam

2 cups fresh blackberries (about 1 quart berries)

4 cups sugar

1 package powdered pectin

1 cup water

Sort and wash fully ripe berries. Drain. Place berries in a large mixing bowl and mash with a fork. Add sugar to mashed berries and allow to stand for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Dissolve pectin in water and boil for 1 minute. Add pectin solution to berry-and-sugar mixture; stir for 2 minutes. Pour about 1 cup of berry mixture into pint-size freezer containers (makes about 5 cups) leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Cover with a lid and let stand at room temperature for 24 hours.

Store the jam in the refrigerator or freezer. Jam will last about 3 weeks in the refrigerator and up to a year in the freezer. Once the container is opened, the jam should be stored in the refrigerator and used within a few days. Do not store at room temperature after the initial 24 hour "setting-up" stage.

Source: Jennifer Nance, R.D., Unit Educator, Family Nutrition Program, jnance@uiuc.edu



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