We rounded up six nationally available blackberry jams, both seeded and seedless, and headed into the tasting lab to see which performed best in our cake and on its own. Not surprisingly, we preferred jams that actually tasted like blackberries and listed this fruit first on the label, indicating that it is the major ingredient. Several jams lost points for tasting of other fruits. Why would this be? Manufacturers may add concentrates and pectin from cheaper fruit sources (such as pears and grapes) to stretch pricier blackberries. We also liked sweeter jams. Finally, our tasters rejected jams that were pasty or gelatinous or had too many seeds. Our favorite won for its pleasing, complex flavor that made our tasters berry happy.
With blackberries as its first ingredient, this jam got high marks for berry flavor. We found its complex “winelike” flavors pleasant and balanced between “sweet and tart,” enhancing the overall “fruity, fresh homemade” taste. We preferred Smucker’s “dense and thick” texture to looser jams.
12g per tablespoon
Blackberries, high-fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, fruit pectin, citric acid
While this jam had “real, concentrated blackberry flavor,” probably due to the doubling up of blackberries and blackberry puree, its seeds bothered our tasters. They made the texture “grainy and pasty, with hard nubs.”
This jam split our votes: Some tasters found it nicely balanced between sweet and tart, while others described it as too “grapelike, like a lollipop,” even “medicinal and sharp.” Similarly, the texture was either “delicate and light” or “cloying” and “gelatinous,” depending on whom you asked.
Once again, while we liked the blackberry flavor, our tasters couldn’t get past the superabundance of seeds. “I like seeds, but the texture of this jam makes me feel like I’m eating a pomegranate,” said one, while another described the seeds as “complete overkill.”
The pear and grape concentrates outranked blackberries on the ingredient list, probably the reason the jam had scant blackberry flavor. Tasters noticed “artificial fruit flavor, like hard candy or Jell-O.” It also had the least sugar of any jam in our lineup and contained added fiber, giving it a “gummy,” “springy” texture.
6g per tablespoon
Juice concentrate (pear, grape), maltodextrin (dietary fiber), blackberries, fruit pectin, natural flavor, citric acid