This month we are celebrating blueberries. I don’t need to expound on the virtues of this most wonderful berry. It is full of antioxidants and vitamins to help your immune system stay strong. Oh, and they are tasty. One of my favorite ways to use blueberries is to make jam.
I can hear it now, “Oh no! The sugar!” Yes, jam-making requires an immense amount of sugar. In order for the jam to set it is almost an equal portion of berries to sugar. There are hacks.
You can use pectin, available at most grocery stores. Using pectin means using less sugar in the jam, and less cooking time. I personally don’t like pectin. I am really not sure what it is made of. Most packages say “fruit,” but pectin is clear, if in sheets, and white if powdered. Most pectin has “dextrose” which is usually a corn product. I am allergic to corn. The pectin method is out for me. Also, I prefer the old-fashioned way, the way my grandmother taught me: sugar, some sort of citrus, and time on the stove.
When we went into the grocery store and I saw the display of fresh blueberries I turned into a little kid and squealed. Since I’ve stopped working in professional kitchens I don’t have access on an almost daily basis to a few of my favorite foods like avocados, figs, and blueberries. The berries weren’t on my shopping list, but the sale price was unbeatable and I walked out of the store carrying several pints of luscious, ripe blueberries that I could then turn into jam for myself and a few of my friends. The last time I purchased commercial blueberry jam I was so disappointed. I promised myself I would only eat the jam I made when fruit was in season.
I’ve been looking for an excuse to use the borrowed Presto Pressure Canner that’s been living on a shelf in the laundry room. Making jam requires utilizing the canner to water bath the jam so it is shelf stable. With my ingredients assembled, and the canner prepared, I was off and running creating a jam that is sweet, lemony and full of blueberry goodness.
As I was preparing this batch of blueberry jam, the memories came flooding back. I used to help my grandmother when we put up vegetables and fruit from her garden. I remember spending hours washing and preparing all the foodstuffs we were working with. Setting out the jars and lids for her and, as she lovingly filled each jar, wiping the mouths so no stray food bits would interfere with the seal. My grandma knew about the necessity of a tight seal. My first recipe book is dedicated to her. She’s the one who taught me the love and joy of cooking. And as I ladled jam into each jar and pulled them out of the pressure canner, I just had to smile, remembering her and what she taught me.
Now I just want to can everything! I want to cook and can beans, salsa, pickled vegetables, anything that I can get my hands on. For the sake of the spouse, I’m taking it easy at first, but watch out, I’m ready to go!
And Grandma, this recipe is for you!
- 4 pints blueberries
- 3 cups sugar
- Zest of two lemons
- 2 tbsp lemon juice, fresh
- 1 tsp salt
- Pour the blueberries into a strainer, rinse thoroughly and inspect for any blemishes in the fruit.
- Combine the berries and sugar in a large, heavy bottomed pot.
- Cook over a medium high heat until the sugar starts melting and the whole thing begins to bubble.
- Lower the heat and continue cooking until the jam becomes sticky. If you have a candy thermometer, this will be the beginning of “soft ball” stage.
- Prepare the Canner
- Follow the steps in your manual to process the jam.
- If you want to use the jam immediately, you can skip the water bath process and just store the jam in the refrigerator where it will keep for a couple of months.
- Share with friends and family.