Appalachia Appalachian Food Wild Fruits

Poor Year for Blackberries


how to make blackberry jelly

The one thing I must put up every summer is blackberry jelly. There’s no other jelly for me. There are other jellies that I like, but my favorite must have jelly is blackberry.

It’s a taste that goes back to the breakfast spread on Granny’s table and after school snacks of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches along with milk and reruns of Tom and Jerry.

Most summers I’m in blackberry heaven. This year not so much. This has been the poorest blackberry season that I can remember in my area. We’ve had plenty of rain-maybe we’ve had too much rain. I really don’t know why but the blackberries have been slim pickings this summer. I made one run of jelly over the weekend and I’m worrying it will be my only one. If it is, those jars will be like solid gold for the Blind Pig family.

Blackberry jelly is one of the easiest things to make-the hard part takes place before you ever make the jelly. First there’s fighting the heat, bugs, snakes, bees, and briars for the blackberries. Then there’s the juicing of the blackberries.

Some folks prefer jam and if you’re one of them your jelly making will be easier. I’m not a fan of seeds so I try my best to get every last one out of my juice.

It takes about 2 and half quarts of blackberries to get the amount of juice needed for a run of jelly. But I don’t worry about whether they’ll be enough juice for a run I just go ahead and cook them and see what I end up with. If I have a little too much I pop the excess in the freezer for future use.

Blackberry Jelly

  • 3 ¾ cup blackberry juice
  • 4 ½ cup sugar
  • Box of surejell or other pectin
  • jars, lids, rings


Place blackberries in a large stock pot and add water until you can just begin to see it come up around the berries. Cook for 20 minutes.

using a colander or ricer in canning and preserving


Granny always used a hand turned foodmill for the first step of juicing the berries and that was what I used before Miss Cindy gifted me with a cone shaped colander ricer. I LOVE MY RICER!

Place blackberries in ricer or foodmill and try to get all the juice out of them. This step also gets most of the seeds out of the juice.


To ensure all the seeds are removed I use my small sieve/strainer and a piece of cheese cloth to filter out any seeds which are left.

how to extract blackberry juice

If you end up with enough juice for 2 recipes of blackberry jelly-double it! I have with very good luck. If you end up with extra but not enough for another recipe pop it into the freezer until you get more juice. If you end up with almost enough you can add water to increase the juice to the right amount or you could add another type of fruit juice to make up the difference.

How to make blackberry jelly

Place blackberry juice into a large pot; add surejel; stir well.

Cook mixture until it comes to a boil. I’m not sure there’s anything that smells as good as blackberry juice when it’s cooking.

Add sugar all at once and stir to combine.

Bring mixture back to a full rolling boil and boil one minute.

sterilizing rings and lids for jelly


While I’m waiting for my blackberry jelly to come to a boil I fix a pot of boiling water to sterilize my jars and rings in. Some folks like to sterilize theirs in the dishwasher or the oven-that works too.

Once jelly has boiled one minute quickly ladle into hot jars and seal with lids and rings. Set jelly upside for 5 minutes.

Turn jelly right side up and cover with a towel until sealed.

homemade blackberry jelly


After jelly has cooled check to make sure all the jars have sealed. If a jar isn’t sealed don’t worry just put in the refrigerator and use it first.

There is a whole debate about whether you should water bath your jelly or not. I don’t and feel comfortable doing it that way since I always have. If you’d rather water bath yours do so for 5 minutes.

One recipe made the jars you see in the photo above plus one more that I used immediately to make a jelly sandwich.



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  • Reply
    Charlie Smith
    July 23, 2021 at 3:25 pm

    Really enjoy Tippers cooking tips here in the Ozarks

  • Reply
    July 13, 2017 at 1:57 pm

    Charline-maybe it was last year’s drought instead of this years rain : )

  • Reply
    July 11, 2017 at 8:24 pm

    I can’t remember where I got this from. Maybe from our Great-Grandma Fry because she made a variety of jams/jellies each year, including luscious Tomato Butter which no one’s ever been able to duplicate well. But I vaguely remember someone saying they supplemented certain berries with others when times were lean of the favored one, and I think when they didn’t have enough blueberries, elder/huckleberries or blackberries, they’d mix a bit of one with more of the other to get the desired flavor of the one they were aiming for. For instance, you might use a peck of blueberries or huckle/elderberries with two or three pecks of blackberries to end up with more jars of the blackberry flavor.
    So you might think about trying that maybe.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    July 11, 2017 at 11:03 am

    You’re right, my blackberries are small as a Pee-dab too. Maybe we’ve had too much rain, I don’t know. But I’m gonna take a container home this evening and gather what I can find. About half are already ripe.
    It’s colder at Topton than it is here in Andrews. I guess it’s the elevation, but it can be 20 degrees colder. When I left the shop yesterday, it was about 81 and when I got home it was 68 comfortable degrees. …Ken

  • Reply
    Barbara Gantt
    July 11, 2017 at 7:25 am

    Here in Vermont, the blackberries are looking good so far. Ours dont ripen until first of August . We had had a lot of rain too. Im hoping. We love blackberry jelly, cobblers. A favorite at my house.

  • Reply
    July 10, 2017 at 4:19 pm

    I think the birds here in Richmond, Va. get the berries before we can. I was out in the country last week and passed a big patch, but I didn’t want to stop and possibly have a run-in with a snake! Blackberry jam and red raspberry jam are my favorites. And nothing better than a fresh blackberry cobbler!

  • Reply
    Janis Sullivan (Jan)
    July 10, 2017 at 2:54 pm

    My cobbler turned out great, and I froze a few. But, you are right, I did not have enough this year to make jelly or jam, but I am thankful I still get to eat my favorite- blackberries. God is good every year.

  • Reply
    July 10, 2017 at 2:03 pm

    Do you think it had anything to do with last year’s drought?

  • Reply
    July 10, 2017 at 12:04 pm

    Blackberry is my Favorite too for jams or jelly. I had hot biscuits and blackberry jelly with white peaches every morning a few years ago. Either you or Louzine or Miss Cindy made several pints for me and I enjoyed it so much.
    I love blackberry cobbler and I got to make some right away. I’ve got about 4 frozen packs left from last year’s pickings.
    My cravings got the best of me and I bought some yellow crook-necks yesterday at Ingles. I like them little boogers rolled and fried and don’t even need any bread with ’em. …Ken

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    July 10, 2017 at 10:48 am

    Did you ever hear that silver, silver plated spoons weren’t good to stir jelly and jams…For some reason those big wooden spoons or small wooden paddles were best for stirring jellies, preserves, jams, apple/pear sauce’s and apple butter?
    Just a’pondering some of the reasons Mom always used a large wooden spoon…she had a paddle for apple sauce and for stirring down apple butter..
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    B Ruth
    July 10, 2017 at 10:19 am

    I am really concerned about the bee population and the need for pollinating our gardens as well as our wild berries and trees…I’m not sure if it wasn’t for bursts of wind, small butterflies, etc., bugs crawling over the blossoms and other small bees and wasps that our tomatoes, cucumbers and beans would get pollinized at all…really worrisome. Our cucumbers have been blooming but few cucumbers. I’m thinking we may have to hook up a fan or pollinate them ourselves with a big fluffy makeup brush!
    Mom, would take out part of the seeds when she made Blackberry Jam…leaving only a sparse amount. Jam took less time to make for a busy housewife in the forties in a hot kitchen with no air-conditioning. Dad didn’t like jam so she made him jelly…She did make the clearest jelly, even for blackberry…the light would just sparkle thru it…She dripped it thru cheese cloth first. She had muslin jelly bags that she sewed up herself. She would use the tighter weave muslin bag, tie it up high and pour through and let It slowly drip…This was her secret to beautiful berry and apple jelly!
    I still have her big wooden homemade spoon, stained dark purple from stirring blackberries during the making of her jelly….She only used that wooden spoon for berry jelly! After it was cooked, she took a saucer and put some on it…if it slid off the saucer just right only then would she pour it up in her hot jars…The paraffin was already melted and hot on the stove…after the last jar was poured, she poured the hot paraffin over the top of the jelly…She mortally flew pouring up and sealing her jelly….I dare say a bacteria couldn’t beat her to the punch…I don’t ever remember a jar spoiling…Mom would skim the foam while cooking and save it…chill and eat it like it was a delicacy! ha I couldn’t stand to watch her skim it off and taste…Ha
    After all the warning later In the sixties and seventies about water bathing jellys and pickles…Mom quit using paraffin…but many past ancestors sealed jellies this way or your way…I never heard of a body dying of jelly poisoning… There is so much sugar in it and sugar preserves as well as the hot boiling jelly, burn to the touch jars and lids…ha
    Thanks Tipper

  • Reply
    wanda Devers
    July 10, 2017 at 10:12 am

    It looks delicious! Brings back so many memories of blackberry picking. They were down in a holler between our house and Granny’s and were gorgeous ones. So worth the chiggers and the fear of snakes and all the scratches! We can never get berries and I don’t care for the tame ones so we have to do without. My husband likes it with the seeds in.

  • Reply
    Cheryl Soehl
    July 10, 2017 at 9:37 am

    Blackberries are so expensive at the grocery store, but I can’t help buying them — my favorite fruit. I miss the huge blackberry patch behind my house in Florida. I would have to get up early to get to the berries before the neighborhood children. We had blackberry bushes in our garden growing up as well. I always look for the blooms on the roadside and try to remember where I saw them when berries should be ripe, but can’t find them when I go back to search. Thinking about planting some bushes in the utility right of way …. does anyone have recommendations on what varieties are best?

  • Reply
    July 10, 2017 at 9:03 am

    The blackberries around here are so small this year that I’m afraid it would take a full day to pick enough for a run of jelly, but I’m going to try. I agree that blackberry jelly is the best. Mom used to make delicious blackberry dumplings when we had a good year for berries.

  • Reply
    harry adams
    July 10, 2017 at 8:37 am

    This is the best year we have had for blackberries in three years. The cold winters in 14 and 15 wiped out our crop. This year has made up for it and will provide juice and berries for several years. After making jelly and syrup for ice cream, my wife freezes juice to use later. This has carried us through the two bad years.
    I have a 90′ by 10′ row of thornless blackberries which make berries 1 to 1/2 inch long. I stopped picking wild berries about 7 years ago when I realized that in the same time to pick wild, I could pick 3 times as many thornless without being scratched up.
    The row started out as 5′ wide, but has spread so that it has doubled in size. My row started with 5 plants given to me. I have given plants to several people to start their patch and donated to the local garden club plant sale. I tried starting them in the wild, but found that the deer love the thornless plants all the way to the ground.
    Does anyone have a recipe for blackberry wine? My wife wants blackberry wine like her grandmother made. I think it was sweet blackberry juice with a little alcohol myself as I understood she put sugar and blackberries in a quart jar and let it sit in the cabinet.

  • Reply
    July 10, 2017 at 8:16 am

    My favorite too! And my granny’s blackberry cobbler was the absolute best!

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    July 10, 2017 at 8:15 am

    Oh, my! This is shocking news, Tipper, but I’m glad you were able to get a few jars of jelly. I just returned from visiting my daughter in Oregon, where wild blackberry bushes — 7 or 8-feet high — would literally COVER the land and buildings in the Willamette Valley if the government didn’t poison them along the roadsides every year and the farmers keep them hacked back on their land. This year’s crop of berries aren’t ripe yet in Oregon, but every bush and all the rural blackberry hedges are loaded as usual with berries. I love both jam and jelly, but for me the ultimate blackberry delight is cobbler. Mmmmm. Here in New Mexico I have to pay from $5 to $7 for a teensy-weensy little plastic box of blackberries from the grocery store. Aieeee! Needless to say, I don’t make jelly or cobbler. I always buy at least one box and eat them one by one with my eyes closed and a vision of Oregon berries in my mind. Sigh. I occasionally buy frozen blackberries and make a cobbler, but it isn’t the same as fresh.

  • Reply
    Brian P. Blake
    July 10, 2017 at 8:04 am

    Looks delicious!

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    July 10, 2017 at 8:03 am

    I agree. Bad blackberry year here to. I only have a few canes. They are thornless ones I planted. This year they never had enough ripe at one time to get more than field snacks. And the centers were rotten in many of them.
    I hope you are able to do a second ‘run’.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    July 10, 2017 at 6:48 am

    Yes Tip, I have to agree with you, blackberry jelly is a very fine thing to have! In the past I have used apple juice, fresh home made apple juice, to make a run if I’m a little short on black berry juice.
    I don’t think there is anything that reminds me more of my grandmother visits than blackberry jelly!

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