Growing up, our house was surrounded by acres and acres of wild black raspberry bushes. We’d head out in the heat and humidity of Indiana summer and pick gallons of the sweet-tart (and free!) berries. We’d then turn the berries into cobblers, pies, and this rich, sweet, delicious black raspberry jam so we could enjoy the literal fruits of our labor all year long. This Ball® Black Raspberry Jam is a tested and approved canning recipe that you can feel good about making for your family!
If you aren’t fortunate enough to have a thicket of black raspberry canes nearby, no worries! Black raspberries grow in a large swath of the United States, so they are widely available at farmers’ markets and u-pick orchards. Grab yourself some berries and let’s make some jam!
First of all, what are black raspberries?
Black raspberries are exactly what their name suggests—black-colored (or technically very dark purple) raspberries. They grow wild through much of the United States, although you can also purchase black raspberry canes and grow your own bramble patch.
Black raspberries are also known as black caps—and it’s easy to see why! The hollow middle of the berry is perfect for putting it on top of your finger like a little cap.
Are blackberries and black raspberries the same thing?
Nope! While blackberries and black raspberries are both berries (and easy to get confused because of their color), they are in fact entirely different berries. How do you tell the difference? Here are some tips:
- Black raspberries tend to be smaller than blackberries. Just imagine regular red raspberries but…black!
- When you pick a black raspberry, the berries come off with a hollow center. When you pick a blackberry, the berry comes off the cane with a solid center.
- Typically, black raspberries ripen 4-6 weeks before blackberries do.
Black raspberries are ripe when they are black! This might sound obvious, but when you look at a cane, you’ll see plenty of berries that look like ripe, red raspberries—but on black raspberries canes, red berries mean they aren’t quite ripe yet.
Where can I get black raspberries?
Wild black raspberries are native to almost the entire eastern half of North America (and have been spread further than that). So here in the Midwest, it’s hard to drive a mile without seeing dense thickets of wild black raspberry canes along the roadside. If you can find a safe and legal spot to forage for black raspberries, that’s a great option. Just make sure you can legally harvest berries (no trespassing, please) and make sure the berries haven’t been sprayed, treated, or otherwise tainted with harsh chemicals (for example, we’d never harvest berries from the side of a busy highway because of the exhaust fumes, but we’d happily forage for berries alongside a sleepy country lane).
Not interesting in foraging for your own? No worries! Since black raspberries are so widespread, you can find them for sale at many farmers’ markets, roadside stands, and u-pick orchards in many areas of the country.
Wondering why black raspberries aren’t typically sold in your regular grocery store? Well, black raspberries have an incredibly short growing season and short shelf-life once picked—making them not-great for big-scale grocery operations.
Black raspberries freeze great (and you can make cobblers, smoothies, and this jam from frozen black raspberries), so when you do find some, make sure to buy extra to toss in the freezer!
What do you need to make black raspberry jam?
This wild black raspberry jam recipe is stupendously simple! It’s a great beginner’s recipe because it only requires five ingredients (and one of those is optional). Here’s what you need:
- Black raspberries: Of course! Fresh fruit or frozen will both work here.
- Lemon juice: Black raspberries are on the cusp between safe and not-safe for waterbath canning. To ensure this recipe is safe, we acidify adding lemon juice (and the lemon flavor is a great complement to the black raspberries).
- Ball® RealFruit™ Liquid Pectin: We’ll need pectin to thicken and gel the jam, and the Ball® RealFruit™ Liquid Pectin is my FAVORITE. It requires no measuring and you don’t have to worry about getting it to dissolve properly. This is the best pectin for beginning canners to use.
- Butter or margarine: This is optional, but adding a little bit of fat can help keep your jam from foaming while cooking.
- Sugar: Just regular ole granulated sugar is what you’re looking for here!
Can I make this raspberry jam recipe with less sugar or natural sugars like honey, maple syrup, or agave?
We always recommend you follow tested and approved canning recipes to the letter, so we can’t recommend swaps in this particular recipe. But we do have a wonderful Mixed Berry Jam that uses agave nectar as the sweetener and would be a good way to use up wild black raspberries.
Can you substitute blackberries for black raspberries in this jam recipe?
Blackberries have a slightly different pH level compared to black raspberries, which means you wouldn’t want to swap them here for concerns of making an unsafe jam. Instead, we recommend using your blackberries in a recipe tested for blackberries like the Ball® Mixed Berry Jam recipe or their Blackberry Freezer Jam recipe.
How do you make seedless black raspberry jam?
Ah, to have seeds or not to have seeds—that is the question. Some folks love the crunchy texture seeds add to berry jams, and some people can’t stand them! This recipe is for a seeded black raspberry jam—meaning you save time and you get the added benefit of the fun texture in your jam.
Not a fan of seeds? No problem. Check out this Black Raspberry Jelly recipe, which is seedless.
What are the best jars for jam?
We’re always a fan of using Ball® Half-Pint Jars for canning jam. We’re using the standard regular-mouth Ball® Half-Pint Jars in these photos, but any Ball® half-pint jar would do the trick.