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Making Blackberry Jelly - The Old Time Way

Blackberry Jelly 

Blackberry-is by far my favorite kind of jelly. I remember eating peanut butter and blackberry jelly sandwiches as an after school snack when I was a kid. Sometimes I'd swear someone else ate the other half of my sandwich since it was so good it disappeared way too fast.

I make Blackberry Jelly every year-I've always used Sure Jel/Pectin in my jelly making but after hearing this I wanted to give the old way a try and see if it was indeed better.

Making Blackberry Jelly without pectin 

First I looked my berries-rinsed them off in the sink and picked out all the leaves. I put them in a pot on the stove-added water until it barely begin to come up to the berries and cooked them about 20 minutes.

How to make Blackberry Juice 

Next I poured the berries into an old flour sack (cheese cloth or an old pillow case would work too) and tied it on a broom over a pot to drain the juice out. After I had gotten all the juice from the bag-I put it back on the stove and brought it too a boil-boiling 10 minutes.

Making Blackberry Jelly the old fashioned way 

Next I added sugar. I followed the directions from the Mountain Folk Interview-and one of the Foxfire book-both said to add one cup of sugar for each cup of blackberry juice. This made the jelly very very sweet. If I make it this way again-I'll cut back on the sugar by half.

How to Make Blackberry Jelly 

I brought the sugar juice mixture back to a boil. This is where I ran into trouble. Granny told me you have to boil it a long time to get it to set-and I remember her having to pour her jelly back in the pot and boil it some more when I was a child. What happened? I boiled mine way too long-I ended up with a rock hard mess-I mean you could lay blocks with it.

On my second try-I used my instincts instead of worrying about how long to boil-I watched the consistency of the jelly and when it begin to jell on my saucer (like in the picture above) I called it done. And it was.

Open Kettle Method Of Canning 

Next comes putting the jelly in the jars. I use the open kettle method-which means-you have your jars, rings, taps, and jelly all at boiling temperature-and then you fill the hot jars with the hot jelly attach the hot taps and rings-and let the heat seal your jars. I know this method isn't recommended by some canning/preservation authorities-but it's the method my family and The Deer Hunter's family have used for the last 20 years and it works for us.

After filling the jars-I turn them upside down for about 5 minutes then turn them back right side up-and cover with a towel to hold in heat. Then I listen for the wonderful sound of popping lids to let me know they all sealed.

Making Blackberry Jelly 

My thoughts after trying the old fashioned way of making jelly:

*The first batch-tasted better because I started with fresh berries-but I ruined it by cooking it too long. I should follow my instincts instead of worrying about a set recipe.

*The second batch I made from juice I had in the freezer from last summer. It turned out beautiful-but a little too sweet. Next time I'll cut back on the sugar.

*Using pectin/Sure Jel is an easier method for someone like me-who likes specific directions. But I am glad I tried and conquered the old time way-even if it did take me 2 tries.

So have you ever made Blackberry Jelly the old time way?





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Cassandra-thank you for the comment! If you're new to canning I would suggest you use the recipe at the link below instead. It is much easier to make : )

I am sorry, new to canning can you tell me how much lemon juice and berries thank you

put a glass saucer in freezer for 20 min and take it out put a dab of jelly and run finger through jelly if jelly seperates and dont run back together ready to can

Cutting back on sugar will affect the gelling, and it affects the texture of jams. I can do it with just a little less sugar than jam, but not much more of a reduction.

I love making jelly. I do not use pectin to gel. For blackberry jelly I put the berries through a food processor and if I am making jelly I use a berry bag(or cheesecloth) to remove the seeds. If I'm making jam I just run it through the processor twice to remove cores and about half the seeds. I measure what I have left after processing and use half a cup of sugar to one cup of mashed berries/juice. I use a half of a lemon for about 4 cups. You can put zested rind in with juice if you want a little tang. It helps keep color and preserve. I boil mixture until it it reaches 215/220 on candy thermometer and it looks to be boiling lava. I check if it's done with a cold plate out of the freezer. I put a spoonful on plate and put it back in for a min or two. If it doesn't run when you swipe your finger through it, it's done. Without canning it lasts two months in fridge. When I do can I boil canning parts and fill when mixture is done, set them back in the boiling water for 5 minutes, set them on the counter, and they all Pop. I have yet to have a batch not gel. Hope this helps! -Ashley-

I have a patch of blackberries outback and this year I wanted to try and make jelly the old-fashioned way. I haven't done this in many years and have used added pectin for the past while. I have a note next to my mother-in-law's handwritten recipe using only BlackBerries and sugar so I wanted to try her recipe. 6 cups blackberries 4 to 4 1/2 cups sugar. I have a note I wrote back in 1984 that says this recipe did not gel. This time I decided to use a digital thermometer hung into the pot of the rolling boil of the blackberries which got up to 220 degrees F. which is the gel stage as well using a silver spoon to see if I had some gel. The liquid certainly jelled according to the thermometer and my spoon. I then put the liquid into 250 ml jars put the lids and screw-tops on and processed in a water bath for ten minutes. When the jelly cooled and I inspected it the next day, the jelly looked runny. This has happened to me several times over the years. Very frustrating. I'm not sure why this happens because it was certainly jelled before I canned it. I'm beginning to suspect that putting it into a boiling water bath lowers the temperature from 220 to 212 Fahrenheit, the temperature of boiling water which in fact somehow "de-gels" it if I can say it that way. I think I'm going to start using the old fashioned way where you do not use a water bath for jams and jellies because I don't have the time to reprocess. Any thoughts, anyone.

from Marie Thomas again.
I let the bag of juice hang on the broom handle over night. Don't waste a drop!

Mother made all kinds of jelly/jam. Lived on a farm and if we didn't grow it we didn't eat it.

the way mother tested to see if jelly w/o pectin is done is dipping a big metal spoon and letting the juice drip off of it. If the jelly came off in "sheets" , meaning it all ran together before dropping off , it was ready. It is a delicate call, even then. but we don't like the taste of sure jel. She also made apple-blackberry jelly/jam. Daddy grew black raspberries. Talk about a TREAT!!

My nephew came to watch and help me make blackberry jelly one day. Things were going good until it came time to add the sugar. I had used the 1 cup measurer earlier in the day. I didn't look but took the one off the bottom which was really the 3/4 cup. So I wound up being 1 1/2 cups short of sugar. I cooked and cooked it and it wouldn't thicken up. We finally put it in jars and called it blackberry syrup! It was good on pancakes, ice cream or oatmeal.

Thank you. Mine turned out pefect I just wished it would of made more I used 6 cups of juice and 6 cups of sugar and only had 2 pints of jelly with I little left for us to eat now. But it taste great . This was my first time making anything like this will be making more even though its not good on my hips. It will b hard not to eat the whole thing.

It was nice to find your site. I've always canned, learned that from my Mom. She and I always did it together, until she passed away. I do so miss her. My job when I was young, was to wash all of her jar's in a big tub outside. I didn't enjoy any of that but did so enjoy all of the canning she put up for our family. Have any of you heard of cocoa fried pies? We weren't rich at all and Mom would make just plain old dry cocoa with sugar added to make it sweet, roll out some biscuit dough, take a saucer, lay it on the dough, cut around it, putting 2 ,or 3 T. of cocoa mixture(dry)on it, fold it over, using a fork to mash around the half moon edge of the pie, so none of the cocoa would come out while frying in lard. She would fry it to a golden brown on both sides. It was a pretty tasty treat when you wanted something sweet. I could tell you all some really neat stuff.

When you made your first blackberry jam the old fashion way, should have put some juice back in the pot and set it aside. It would have melted it all back to liquid, possibly. I think a person would want to warm what- ever kind of juice you would use, in order to bring the hardened jam back to more of a liquid form. I would use apple or pear juice, since they have a rather mild taste to them. You could also have made a hard candy with your jam you cooked to long. It's a shame you did away with it. Your family might have liked it as a hard blackberry candy. Think about that next time.

Your site is great!!!

For laughs: I shared the discussion about jelly getting too hard with my Mom. Her response: "yep, Nanny told me to cook until it turns clear, so I cooked and cooked and cooked and it still wasn't clear. Then I stuck my spoon in to stir, and couldn't get it out. Pan, spoon, and would-be jelly all went out in the trash."
Thanks for the heads-up! I watched very carefully and managed to avoid the brick (hoping all the while that if I did wind up with bricks, I'd know it in time to make hard candies instead of jelly)


Thank you for the comment! I'm sure you could freeze the jam/jelly-but I never have. After opening a jar of jelly-it should last several weeks stored inside your refrigerator.

Blind Pig The Acorn

Celebrating and Preserving the

Culture of Appalachia

How long after opening jar will the blackberry jam last & can you freeze it?

I remember my mama would pour a little dab of jelly on a saucer and let it set to check the consistency

Awesome Tipper! I will have to try the old fashioned way when my brand new berry plants produce enough.

Thank you!! I hope the jelly turns out perfect : )

Blind Pig The Acorn

Music, Giveaways, Mountain Folk

All at


I feel "at home" again after reading your site and comments from other readers. Thanks also for making me feel not so condemned for using the open kettle method for jelly. I am glad to find out I can use an old , clean pillow case for a jelly bag.

oh, and nope, never berry jelly the old fashioned way, but apples and crabapples, yes, because they have plenty of natural pectin.

so i wasn't scared to try!

you are SO right--there is nothing quite like that little poink sound!! (i just jammed up a buncha peaches and black raspberries.)

blackberries are next--how does crabapple/blackberry jelly sound? or are you a purist?

Things like this are why I lived in the country, or at least not in so much of a city. To get enough blackberries (or any berry) to do such a thing would cost a FORTUNE.

I've never canned anything. My mother hated cooking and what little canning she did, she did not include me. I think she wanted to get it over with as fast as she could and not teach me. I've never had a real opportunity. Maybe in another life.

hey there, just a suggestion for getting your berry jams and jellies to gel without the pection...for strawberry, blackberry and raspberry you can squeeze a lemon and put the juice in, then wrap up all the seeds and throw them in while you're boiling the fruit. i found some teabags here for packing your own loose leaf tea, and that works perfect for the seeds, faster than cutting and tying up muslin or cheesecloth. the seeds are full of pectin. apple seeds work too but lemon seeds are easier to get out. try one big lemon for two pints of fruit, and about 3/4:1 sugar to fruit (so 3c sugar to 4c fruit).
i never use pectin (except for making oregon grape holly jelly), and 20-30 minutes of boiling that recipe above (2pts fruit, 3c sugar, one lemon plus seeds) gives me wonderful jam every time. i always flip the jars, have never processed fruit preserves, and works a charm every time!

(for a special treat add a few tablespoons of brandy into the jam mixture right before you ladle into the's heavenly with fresh biscuits and creamy goat cheese!)

I use the pectin as well and also I use the seal method you do. I have never had a problem with my jam or the seals yet. I suppose I should water bath it just in case but it still works for us as well.

The blackberries won't be ready in the NW for another month but I can't wait to try the old way. Thanks for sharing and I will be referring back to make it "right"

I grew-up watching, and helping, my mom and grandma can jelly, but I don't like to can so I'm strictly a freezer jam kind of girl. You almost make me want to do it again, but not quite...

I tried to make peach jam the first year I moved here and it was a flop. It was great on ice cream, though. My grandma and granny always melted parafin and put on the top of the jelly they made. Do people do that any more????

Hi Tipper, I just got back from vacation. My mom and grandma used to do it without sure jel, they'd cook it in those big aluminum pans. I use sure jel and I like blackberry jam better than jelly. It just tastes better to me. I also make grape jelly and I love it. I always turn my jars upside down and have never had any problem with it. I just picked my first quart of berries on Monday just as we were leaving on vacation.

Mom used to make rasberry jam the old fashioned way. She said all of that sugar is what made it set up. It was yummy!!!

I'm new to jelly making, made a batch of new style red plum jelly a few years ago that was so good I tried it again this year. Now the first batch I made with pectin and the batch today I tried the old fashioned way. The jelly is prettier colored from the open kettle one, I will have to see if it jells. I'm at 5000 feet and it took forever, was afraid to cook too hot or I'd destroy the pectin.
I've looked up recipes and wasn't sure I didn't have to process the open kettle jelly in the hot water bath also. Didn't! Lids are popping, tomorrow I will know if it jelled and tastes any better.

I think all the recipes have way too much sugar. I made Crabapple jelly the old way, years ago, it turns out a lovely pink color. Last year I tried it again, and followed some recipe I found in a cookbook. It was way too sweet, and I will cut back half or more if I use it again. Crabapple jelly gets tough, too. You have to be real careful not to boil it too long.

Tipper!! I love the pictures you took of making the jelly. I love the old tried and true ways of many things, but I don't think I'll be getting out my broom to make jelly anytime soon!! I will leave it to you and live vicariously through you!!! :) I would probably go the sure jell way for sure!! Great article! Makes me think about my momma making all kinds of wonderful jellies! Daddy loved gooseberry!

I haven't made blackberry jelly but I did make fig/strawberry preserves last week. I did the water bath canning but decided I wouldn't do that any more. If you have the jars and lids really hot when you but the boiling liquid in there's no reason that wouldn't be ok for a long time! I remember that my mother didn't water bath them - she did exactly like what you call the "old time" method! blessings, marlene

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