We get a CSA share/farm box from the Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative, our friendly regional organic mega-distributor. When they offered bulk purchases of blueberries and Kirby pickling cucumbers, I jumped at the chance. Let me tell you about the blueberries.
10lb of blueberries is, it turns out, a lot of blueberries and less blueberries than you would think. About 2lb of them, like most things in our house, got [eaten] out of hand. We made two large batches of jam, froze one or two pounds, and then jarred the rest whole in a light simple syrup (what the NHCFP calls medium, augmented with the bits of jam left in the pan).
The first step is sorting and cleaning. Mushy berries are just fine for jam; moldy berries less so. I wasn’t entirely impressed with the quality—the berries were above average for what you might find in a supermarket, but definitely inferior to farmer’s market berries at their peak. Still, at about $3/lb, it was tough to complain.
If there is a single most important piece of advice when it comes to canning and preservation, it is: take notes. We used two different recipes, and I copied them down with the salient changes.
We made two batches of blueberry jam, which we referred to by number as BJ #1 and BJ #2. We wanted two different jams because variety is the spice of life—and also to compare powdered and liquid pectin.
BJ #1 followed a recipe from the National Center for Home Food Preservation, which has an extremely useful if un-glitzy website. We ended up getting 4 pints out of their recipe, using 1.1kg of sugar instead of the full 5.5C they asked for. I probably went heavy on the nutmeg.
Here’s what my notes say:
2-1/2 pints ripe blueberries
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg or cinnamon
5-1/2 cups sugar (used 1.1kg)
3/4 cup water
1 box (1-3/4 oz) powdered pectin
Canned 5 minutes. Made about 4 pints.
BJ #2 followed a random, spicier recipe. It produced 5 pints’ worth.
8 cups fresh blueberries
6 cups sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 pouches (3 ounces each) liquid fruit pectin
Made about 5 pints. (?!)
My confusion surely comes from the different amounts: 4 pints of blueberries made 5 pints of BJ #2, but 2.5 pints of blueberries made 4 pints of BJ #1? I truly don’t understand. We should have marked down the weights we used—I’d wager that each batch just used 3lb of the blues. Looking at the final product, the liquid pectin didn’t seem to set as well as the powdered. Since liquid is so much more expensive, powdered definitely seems the way to go.
Both jams are tasty, with BJ #2’s spicing coming through quite nicely. Having these put away feels powerful—these jams will adorn breakfasts, fill layers in cakes and pies, and enhance the larders of friends and neighbors for some time to come.