Who's Cooking: Robert Trotta, Fort Salonga

Suffolk Legis. Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) stands in

Suffolk Legis. Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) stands in his garden of blackberry bushes with a bounty of freshly picked berries and a jar of his blackberry jam on Aug. 15, 2014. (Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan)

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ROBERT TROTTA

Robert Trotta, a Suffolk County legislator, lives in Fort Salonga with his wife and children.

Where did you get your love of jam?

Making jam is something I got from my grandmother. I used to visit her in Michigan, where she had berries growing in the backyard. I used to watch her make jam. I loved to lick the spoon. Now I actually make my jam in the same cast-iron pot she used.

Where do you get your blackberries?

My garden is almost a full-time job. I planted fruit in the yard 15 or 20 years ago. I have peaches, plums, pears, nectarines, apricots, apples, blackberries, raspberries. The problem with the berries is they all ripen at once. Last weekend, I probably picked 10 1-gallon buckets of berries. I beg the neighbors to come and pick. And I give away a lot of jam.

Any tips for making jam?

Unless they're very ripe, blackberries can be a little tart. So I pick them and let them sit on the counter for a day or two to ripen before making jam. When the raspberries start to ripen, I'll make jam with both kinds. And sometimes I'll stir fresh berries into the jam after it's cooked, for a chunkier texture and fresh flavor.

How do you use this jam?

My grandmother was German. She gave me an unbelievable yeasted jelly doughnut recipe. After you fry the doughnuts, you spoon in the homemade jam. I do it twice a year: On my son's birthday and on Easter.

Other specialties?

I'm a big fisherman. I made spaghetti with clam sauce last night. I went clamming on Sunday; you open them, they don't look very pretty, but when you eat them you think, "My God, that was good."

 

BLACKBERRY JAM

4 cups fresh blackberries

6 cups sugar

1 teaspoon unsalted butter

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1 (1.75-ounce) package fruit pectin


1. Rinse the blackberries and remove stems.

2. Place the blackberries in a pot and crush with the back of a spoon. Add the sugar, butter and lemon juice and stir to combine.

3. Bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat and cook for 1 minute.

4. Add the pectin and cook for another minute.

5. Remove from the heat and ladle jam into sterilized jars. Seal with lids and refrigerate until ready to use. Makes 8 cups.

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