From picking fruit to eating jam

Yesterday we did some kitchen chemistry (well, most people would just call it cooking), and made some bramble jelly/seedless blackberry jam.  We also talked about various bits of biology along the way...

We started by picking blackberries. I was a bit nervous about the potential for a prickled and nettle-stung toddler, but armed with his gardening gloves he was remarkably good at it and really enjoyed himself.  On the walk there we talked about how he needed to be careful of the thorns and the nettle stings because some plants have ways of defending themselves against animals (including toddlers). We also did a bit of tree spotting, looking at different shapes of leaves, and ended up collecting an acorn on the way home, which he proudly announced that he is going to grow into an oak tree... 

When we got home, we washed the blackberries and he ate a few, and then a few more! Inspired I think by Maddie's Do You Know and his 'See Inside Your Body' book, he proceeded to spontaneously explain to his baby brother how the blackberries will be digested and turned into energy for his body and the bits his body doesn't need will become poo!  His brother did not look impressed.

We made jam with the remaining blackberries. I heated them in a pan before leaving them to cool so we could strain them through a sieve together to take out the seeds.  The boy enjoyed wielding a large wooden spoon! 

We then weighed the blackberry puree, and added an equal amount of sugar - there are many recipes, but this is simple and works for me. As with a lot of cooking and baking, it was a good chance to get the boy to use our digital scales to help me weigh ingredients. 

Boiling the jam to turn it from a runny mix into a jelly

We mixed the blackberries and sugar and dripped a bit of the mix on a plate to see what consistency it had (very runny). I explained that if we heat it up, it will get thicker and make jam because of something called pectin that you find in the blackberries. It's an unsatisfactory explanation, but as he has no idea about molecules I couldn't think of a way to better describe what was happening - if you have any thoughts, do leave a comment on this blog! We sampled it every minute or so, cooling a drop on a plate to see if it stayed runny or set like jam.

Once the jam was made, he was keen to sample it, and we all had some very tasty jam on toast!