Summertime is the time for canning, pickling, and freezing its abundant fresh fruits, berries, and veggies so when cold Winter days hit, there’s a little bit of Summer sunshine tucked away to enjoy. One of my most favorite berries to jam is blueberry. If you love blueberries, you are going to love this blueberry jam.
Blueberries had a pretty short season up here on Whidbey Island this year. Our local u-pick farm is just finishing up their closing pick. It seems like the season usually stretches a bit farther into August. In order to get another flat of blueberries before they ran out, I made a trip to Crescent Harbor Blueberry Farm. An extra trip outside of the farmers market and a bit of a drive, but well worth the time and effort. Anything for fresh blueberries, right?
To make canning easier, I use a few pieces of special equipment, specific for canning. A wide mouth funnel, a jar lifter, canning jars and something to mash the blueberries, like this, makes the job more efficient. I prefer Pomona’s pectin because the amount and/or type of sugar used can be easily adjusted to your taste. While it is a bit pricey, I’ve been able to get three batches of jam out of one package (almost 30 8-ounce jars).
To process the jars of jam, I use a large, 10 quart stockpot, like this one. It will process about 6-7 jars at a time (depending on the shape/size of jar). This is not a “special” pot, as I use it for soups, stews, and big batches of pasta. Blueberry jam is one of the simplest jams to make because the berries are already stemmed, and they have tiny seeds that are almost undetectable, so you don’t have to spend time destemming or using cheese cloth or a juicer to get all the seeds out. Simply wash, mash, boil, jar, and process. If you’ve never jammed before, this is a great berry to start with.
One of the most important parts of jamming is to be organized. Mise en Place before you start and make sure you have a plenty of counter space and kitchen towels! Although I love making jam out of blueberries, there are multiple ways to enjoy them, including eating them one hand-full at a time. For the ones not eaten fresh, I freeze as many as my freezer will hold for future use in compotes, smoothies, syrups and all things baked. Blueberries are incredible little juicy pieces of power-packed nutrition. They are rockstars in the food world and taste wonderful no matter how you eat them. Being a superfood, blueberries pack a phytonutrient punch and, eaten regularly, provide many health benefits. Just to name a few, blueberries increase HDL while lowering triglycerides, support cardiovascular health, promote colon health, and reduce the risk of cancer; they are anti-inflammatory, and studies suggest blueberries can postpone or slow the degradation of cognitive function usually associated with aging. To understand more about why blueberries are such rockstars, check out World’s Healthiest Foods.
When deciding how much sugar to add to the batch of blueberries I’m jamming, I always taste the blueberries first. If tart, I add a bit more sugar. If sweet, I add as little sugar as I can get away with. For this batch, the blueberries had a wonderful sweetness to them, so I added the least amount of sugar possible, according to Pomona’s package directions. The jam is still deliciously sweet without overpowering the flavor of the blueberries with sugar. Directions for sugar adjustment come in Pomona’s package, so if you have tart blueberries, let the package insert guide your sugar decisions!
With just a bit of planning and organization, you’ll have long-lasting jam love well into the Winter, if you can resist eating it all before then. And, homemade jam always makes a wonderful gift.
In Pomona's Pectin Package:
- 1/2 tsp Calcium Powder prepared with water as directed below
- 4 tsp Pectin Powder
For the Jam:
- 1/2 C Fresh Lemon Juice about 3 lemons juiced
- 1 1/2 C Granulated Sugar
- 8 C Mashed Blueberries about 5 pints
- Wash 14 8-oz canning jars, including rings and lids, in hot soapy water. Allow to dry. Place lids in a shallow dish and set aside.
- Have ready a large 10-qt pot, 2/3 full of water, 4-qt saucepan, tea kettle filled 1/2 way with water, berry masher, wide mouth funnel, jar lifter, ladle or stainless 1-cup measuring cup, large measuring cup (I like to use a 4-cup), or bowl to mash berries in, large separate bowl to hold the mashed berries, and several kitchen towels.
- Rinse blueberries in a large strainer.
- In Pomona's Pectin package, find the calcium pack. In a lidded 8-oz jar, mix 1/2C water with 1/2 tsp of calcium powder. Mix well. This will last several months (discard if powder discolors or molds). Shake well before using. Set aside. Measure out the sugar and add 4 tsp pectin to the sugar. Mix well. Set aside. Squeeze the lemons and measure out 1/2 C of juice. Set aside.
- Turn the water on to boil in the 10 qt pot and the water in the tea kettle.
- In the large measuring cup (or bowl), mash the blueberries. Do this in 2 C batches, otherwise, it's hard on your hands. Transfer mashed blueberries to a large bowl. Continue mashing in 2 C batches until you've depleted almost all the 5 pints of blueberries. Start measuring out the mashed blueberries and place 8 C total in the 4-qt saucepan. Mash more blueberries if needed.
- Turn the stove on to about medium high under the mashed blueberries. Add 4 tsp calcium water, 1/2 C lemon juice, and granulated sugar mixture. While the blueberries are coming to a boil, move the empty jars close to your canning area. Have your wide mouth funnel standing by.
- Bring blueberry mixture to a boil, stirring frequently, and scraping the corners of the pan, making sure no sugar is sticking/clumping in the corners. Boil for about 1 minute. You want all the sugar and pectin dissolved before canning. Remove from heat.
- Pour the boiling water from the tea kettle on top of the lids in the shallow pan, just until they are covered. This softens the seal for a good, strong seal on the jars.
- Place the wide mouth funnel on a jar and carefully begin filling the jars, leaving about 1/4"-1/2" of space at the top of the jar. Fill all the jars, topping off the jars as the residual blueberry mixture allows. Place lids, carefully removing each one from the very hot water, and rings on the jars.
- To process the jars, place them in the 10-qt boiling water in several batches. You'll need at least a few inches of water to cover the jars. If needed, add more water. Process (boil) for 10 minutes.
- Wipe the jars clean and dry after removing them from the boiling water.
- The jar has sealed when you hear a "pop". Test the seal by pressing the center of the lid down. If the lid can still be pressed down, the jar has not sealed. Wait for 24 hours, and if the jar still has not sealed, store in the fridge and use within two weeks.
- Before storing the jars, label the lids with the type of jam and date. Jam will keep for up to a year stored in a cool, dark place.
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