Some women compulsively buy shoes. Others prefer handbags. Me? I have a berry problem. Straw, rasp, black, blue, mul – you name it. I love berries in all their juicy, staining glory. I have written before about my untamable desire to buy produce, but it’s a good berry that really drives me wild. The jewel-toned colors, the sweet-tart pucker, their welcome place in oatmeal and pancakes! J’adore. The only downside is how fleeting their season really is. But I shall teach you to make summer last forever! [Insert villainous laugh.]
Enter: home canning kit. If berry season refuses to last year-round, then I will make it last as long as my pressure cooker will let me. The beauty of canning (or jarring, preserving, etc.), is that you can fully take advantage of each season’s harvest and eat year-round in a way that still allows you to adhere to the values of local and seasonal produce. Freezing strawberries from the farmer’s market in July means you can have fresh, local strawberries in your smoothie in December. And the amount of jam I made last weekend with 2 pints of blueberries should last me well into winter, with even more to give away. Not to mention that the satisfaction of having made my own jam should last at least as long.
Jam is very simple to make, so it’s a good place for an amateur (ahem, me) to begin. In fact, the most challenging aspect of the whole experience might be locating pectin, an all natural fruit-based ingredient that helps jams and jellies to gel. A fancy or well-stocked grocery store should have it, but you may have to hunt a bit. Or visit ye olde Amazon. So once you get yours hands on that pectin, the world is your gelatinous oyster! (Ew. Apologies.) Grab a couple pounds of your favorite berry and that’s your jam.
I’m planning on canning tomatoes, pickles, beets, corn relish, and anything else I can get my hands on this summer, so stay tuned for future installments of the Joy of Canning. Until then, see below for my high level walk-through of the blueberry jam-making process, plus the recipe I followed for blueberry jam.
Step 2: Wash the fruit. Wash berries well and sift through for wrinkled/unripe berries or stems.
Step 3: Mash berries. Just mash ‘em up real good. Avoid squirting berry juice.
Step 4: Boil that berry slosh! Should only take a few minutes. Once it’s bubbling, add sugar and pectin mixed together.
Step 5: Funnel. Or do whatever it takes to get the jams into jars.
Step 6: Rejoice! It looks and tastes like jam!
Step 7: Lay on the pressure. Place a lid on each jar and secure it with the screw-on ring. Boil the jam jars to seal them from nasty things like air and botulism. You will undoubtedly feel cool, like a mad scientist.
Step 8: Wait for the pop. After the lids have been sealed, you will wait for the most satisfying part of this whole process. The little bump in the center of the lid will pop and become concave. This means you are a successful, air-tight jammer. Rock on. Just don’t touch for 24 hours, lest you break the seal.
adapted from the Pomona’s Universal Pectin box
4 cups mashed blueberries (about 2 pints/2 lbs)
1/4 cup lemon juice
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp pectin powder
2 tsp calcium water (the powder to make this concoction comes with the pectin mix)
You will also need canning jars (like Ball jars) and a very large pot. We used our pressure cooker, but you don’t actually need it for this recipe. Any large stock pot with a rack placed in the bottom to keep the jars from touching the bottom will work fine.
1. Wash and rinse jars; let stand in hot water. Bring lids and rings to a boil; turn down heat; let stand in hot water.
2. Prepare your fruit. Measure fruit into pot with lemon juice.
3. Add pre-mixed calcium water into pot; stir well.
4. Measure sugar into separate bowl. Thoroughly mix pectin powder into sugar.
5. Bring fruit to boil. Add pectin-sugar mix; stir vigorously for 1-2 minutes while cooking to dissolve pectin. It should now start to thicken and gel. Return to boil and remove from heat.
6. Fill jars to 1/4 inch of top. Wipe rims clean. Screw on 2 piece lids. Put filled jars in boiling water to cover. Boil 10 minutes. Remove from water and let jars cool. Check seals — lids should be sucked down. Lasts about 3 weeks once opened.