July 8, 2015

Blueberry Lemon Jam

Blueberry Lemon Jam

Every summer, I eagerly await the first ripe berries of the season to appear. Frozen berries are fine for the rest of the year, but when they are juicy and fresh, straight from the bush, they are simply heavenly. We always eat some of the berries fresh, and then use the rest for pies and jam.

This summer, my first berry picking venture was for blueberries at a local farm. Unfortunately for me, I had chosen a day for blueberry picking where the temperature soared to nearly 100 degrees. I was feeling determined that day, so despite the scalding sun, I traipsed into the field armed with my berry bucket, and picked as many as I could before succumbing to the heat. Happily, they were worth it - these blueberries were just as delicious as I had hoped, and cost a mere $2 a pound to boot!  

After we ate a ton of fresh berries from my haul, I used the rest to make my yearly batch of Blueberry Lemon Jam. It’s a jam that is sweet, and a little lemony, and is perfect on toast, or as a topping for a cheesecake. I even once made a couple hundred tiny jars of this jam as wedding favors, and they were a bit hit! I make it with a generous helping of lemon zest, because that’s where the real lemon flavor comes from.

Since blueberries are low in naturally-occurring pectin, my recipe uses store-bought pectin to help the jam to set. Can you make blueberry jam without added pectin? Absolutely! The way to achieve this, however, is to cook down the jam for a long time to evaporate some of the water from the berries. I like my blueberry jam to have a fresh, bright flavor, so I use the pectin to avoid a long cooking time, which dulls some of the brightness. I do have recipes for other jams that don’t use added pectin, but for this particular jam, I find that less cooking time makes for a nicer flavor.

I also use a moderate amount of sugar in this jam. There isn’t as much sugar in this recipe as you find in many traditional jam recipes, but since I am planning to can this batch, the sugar acts to preserve the quality over the long term (up to a year or so). Jams that are too low in sugar will be quicker to lose their color and flavor when being stored, and are also more prone to developing mold. For this reason, when I want a low-sugar jam, I will usually freeze it, or make a small batch that goes straight into the refrigerator.

Of course, you can freeze this blueberry lemon jam, too – just freeze it in small jars, or look for small containers made specially for freezer jam that you can pick up nearly anywhere that canning supplies are sold. 

If you are new to canning, and would like to learn the process, rest assured that canning jam in a boiling water bath is safe and easy.  Here are two references that will give you step-by-step instructions:

  • http://nchfp.uga.edu/ - The National Center for Home Food Preservation at The University of Georgia offers a free online course that gives you the basics of at-home food preservation. I have taken this course and I highly recommend it!
  • PickYourOwn.org - This website not only gives great instructions for canning and making jam, it also gives information about local farms and orchards where you can pick your own fruits and vegetables in your area.

There are two other points to mention here – one regarding safety, and the other regarding cost:

In terms of safety, jams and jellies are the safest things to can. Most fruits, like berries, apples, peaches, plums, etc., have a high level of acidity (pH of 4.6 or less) that prevents botulism spores from growing in the low-oxygen environment of the sealed jars. They don’t require extra acidity in the form of lemon juice or vinegar to make the jam safe to process in a boiling water bath (although you will find that many recipes do include lemon juice for flavor, or to help the jam set.) The biggest problem you could encounter with these high-acid fruit jams is the formation of yeast or mold. If mold forms, or the jam looks bubbly, or smells funny when you open it, simply throw it away. This is actually very rare, and I have never encountered it in any of my jams or jellies. (Note: mangos, banana, melons and a few other tropical fruits are not high-acid fruits so stay away from these when making jam, or use a tested recipe from a reliable source like Ball. For a complete list of pH values visit: FDA List of pH for Fruits and Vegetables.)

The process of canning fresh vegetables is an entirely different story. Vegetables always require extra added acid (like pickles), or otherwise need to be processed in a pressure canner. It is even recommended these days that tomatoes have extra citric acid or lemon juice added to the jar before canning, because many modern tomato varieties have less acid than would be safe to can in a water bath without that extra added acidity. If you want to can tomatoes or other vegetables, make sure you learn the newest methods and stick to tested recipes. A good place to start is with the book The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.

The second thing I want to mention is cost. If you are new to canning, and looking to get started, the initial cost for jars and other supplies may seem expensive (anywhere from $25 to $100). If canning is something you do you year after year, the cost is spread out over the lifetime of the equipment, so the investment isn’t very costly in the long run.

On the other hand, if you buy a bunch of equipment and jars, but then never use any of them again, well maybe the investment wasn’t worth it. For this reason, I recommend that anyone new to canning buy just a few jars and buy the bare minimum of new equipment (you can just use a stock pot, and don’t really need to invest in a $75 canning pot right away). You can also buy one of the smaller canning kits that are made for those just getting started.

And as I mentioned, you don’t even need to can your jam – just pop it in the fridge or freezer and enjoy!

Recipe:
Makes approximately 6 half pints

Ingredients:

  • 8 cups fresh blueberries (2 quarts, or approximately 3 pounds)
  • 6 tablespoons low-sugar needed powdered pectin, or 1 pouch (for a stiffer jam, use 9 tablespoons, or 1 ½ pouches)
  • 6 cups sugar
  • Juice and zest from 2 lemons
  • Pinch of cinnamon

Directions: 

1. In a large bowl, mash the berries with a potato masher, then transfer the crushed berries to a large, heavy-bottomed pot. In a small bowl, mix the pectin with ¼ cup of the sugar, then set the remaining 5 ¾ cups of sugar aside. Stir the pectin/sugar mixture into the mashed berries, then add the lemon zest, lemon juice and cinnamon to the pot.

2. Stirring constantly, bring the berry mixture to a full rolling boil that can’t be stirred down.

3. Add the remaining sugar. Return mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Skim foam if necessary.

4. Ladle into HOT jars* (never put hot jam in cold jars), and process in boiling water bath for a full 10 minutes. If not canning, allow jam-filled jars to cool, then store immediately in the refrigerator or freezer. If using plastic freezer containers, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

*To keep the jars hot while making the jam, allow them to simmer in a pot of water, or run through the sanitizing cycle in the dishwasher, and keep the door closed until ready to use the jars. 

5 comments:

  1. I can't wait to try this over the weekend. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Your Blueberry Lemon Jam looks wonderful. I am going to be making some jam very soon. Hope you are having a great day and thanks so much for sharing your awesome post with Full Plate Thursday.
    Come Back Soon!
    Miz Helen

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank-you for hosting a great party! I'll be visiting again soon!

      Delete
  3. Congratulations!
    Your recipe is featured on Full Plate Thursday today! Hope you have a very special day and enjoy your new Red Plate.
    Come Back Soon!
    Miz Helen

    ReplyDelete

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