Traditionally at Lughnasa people in Ireland would gather to celebrate the harvest, enjoy games, dancing and feasting on seasonal foods, like blackberries. Here Donal Skehan comes to the rescue with some delicious autumnal blackberry jam.
Blackberries are associated with the Celtic festival of Lughnasadh (also spelled Lughnasa), which is traditionally celebrated on the first of August in Ireland and other Celtic regions. The festival marks the beginning of the harvest season and is named after the Celtic God, Lugh, who was associated with skill, craftsmanship, and agriculture.
The association between blackberries and Lughnasadh comes from a Celtic legend related to the god Lugh. According to the myth, Lugh had a foster mother named Tailtiu, who was a goddess of the land and agriculture. She cleared the plains of Ireland for cultivation, but the task was so strenuous that it caused her death. In her honor, Lugh established the festival of Lughnasadh as a time of celebration and remembrance.
The blackberry, being a wild fruit that grows abundantly in Ireland and other Celtic lands during the early days of August, became closely linked to this festival due to its seasonal availability. It is said that the first blackberries of the year are ready for picking around the time of Lughnasadh, making them an essential part of the traditional celebrations.
During Lughnasadh, people would gather to enjoy festivities, including games, music, dancing, and feasting. Blackberries were often featured in these gatherings, used in various dishes and desserts, or simply enjoyed fresh.
However, here Irish chef Donal Skehan provides us with a simple recipe for blackberry jam that can be enjoyed on freshly baked Irish bread, scones or even basic auld toast.
Donal Skehan's classic Irish blackberry jam recipe
Makes 4 x 9oz jars
- 2.2 lb of sugar
- 2.2 lb of blackberries
- Juice and zest of one lemon
- Place sugar and blackberries and juice and zest of one lemon in a large pot.
- Bring the mixture to the boil, stirring until all the sugar dissolves.
- Cook the jam for approximately 15 minutes or until it reaches 105˚C on a sugar thermometer.
- Remove from the heat and carefully transfer to sterilized jars, cover each with a disc of wax paper and seal tightly with a lid.
- Keep in a cool dark place the jam should keep like this for up to 12 months.
** Originally published on IrishCentral in 2014, updated in July 2023.