This jar of blueberry jam (and its 7 brothers and sisters) feels like so much more than a simple jar of jam. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen and I love trying new recipes. In fact, I make way more new recipes than the same ones over and over again, mostly because I am always bookmarking or doggy-earing recipes that sound fantastic. In all of the cooking, baking and creating I have done since starting this blog back in 2007, I can honestly say that these jars of blueberry jam have given me the biggest sense of kitchen satisfaction since I mastered yeast bread (which was a long time ago). Sometimes I rush around the kitchen and many times my mind is in a million different places at once. When I made this jam, I slowed down. I didn’t do it consciously, but I eventually became aware that I had allowed myself to become fully immersed in what I was doing. I was truly appreciating the process. Crushing fresh blueberries, stirring the jam while it boiled, carefully filling each hot jar with the mixture, picking them up, one-by-one, once they were finished. I enjoyed each and every step, and I can see how folks can get into a serious canning habit. It’s more than just filling jars with jelly or jam; it’s a reminder that even though we’re busy, every once and a while allow life to slow down, be simpler, and be in the moment. It’s totally worth it.
I have been wanting to try my hand at canning for what feels like ages. I became disheartened when I started reading labels more carefully a couple of years ago. I couldn’t believe all of the corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup that was in just about every jar of jelly and jam on the shelf. There were a few organic exceptions, but they were incredibly expensive. I decided that at some point I would try my hand at canning. Heck, I was already baking pretty much exclusively from scratch, why not add something else to the list?!
It was last summer when I bought what has been termed the bible when it comes to home canning. Last summer. So, what took me so long? As crazy as it sounds, even though I’ve successfully tackled all sorts of breads, pastries and candies, canning has always intimidated me.
It’s going to take all day.
It’s going to make a massive mess.
I’m going to give people botulism.
I will inevitably not get it right.
These are the thoughts that had been running through my head for over a year, and why my book sat collecting dust while I lusted after all of the fun and creative jams and jellies I was seeing online.
I finally sucked it up, ordered all of the supplies that I needed, talked to Tracy, who is a canning guru, and read her canning basics post. She recommended that I start with a blueberry jam, since it’s easy and a good beginner recipe. I designated a day to do it and just went for it. I was so thrilled about how wrong I was regarding the entire process. From start to finish, including prepping the jars and cleaning up, took me 3 hours. Keep in mind that it was my first time, so I was reading and re-reading things, looking at diagrams and generally taking my good old time. Eight jars of jam in 3 hours? That’s unbelievably awesome if you ask me.
Look at that plump blueberry jam in all its glory. The flavor is absolutely amazing and clean; it tastes like I’m eating a spoonful of fresh blueberries with every bite. It’s not sickeningly sweet and the taste of the blueberries isn’t muddled at all.
Now, I’m not really a jelly or jam on toast type of girl. When I eat breakfast out at a restaurant and they bring the side of toast with an assortment of jams and jellies, I never even give it a glance. If it’s toast with breakfast food, I go butter all the way. Not surprisingly, I usually only eat my jam along with peanut butter. One of my favorite afternoon snacks is a stack of saltine crackers smeared with peanut butter and jelly or jam, whatever I have in the fridge. I thought that was the perfect way to enjoy the inaugural consumption of my very first batch of jam. Pure afternoon snack bliss.
I know that a lot of you can… what are some of your favorite recipes? I can’t wait to try more!
4½ cups crushed blueberries
4 tablespoons lemon juice
7 cups granulated sugar
2 (3-ounce) pouches liquid pectin
1. Prepare canner, jars and lids. Wash the jars, lids and screw bands in hot, soapy water. Rinse well and drain (you don't need to dry them). Place a rack in the bottom of a boiling-water canner, then place the required number of jars on the rack. Add water to the jars and the canner until it reaches the top of the jars. Cover the canner and bring the water to a simmer (180 degrees F) over medium heat. Do not boil the jars. Keep jars hot until you're ready to use them. Place the lids in a small saucepan, cover with water and bring to a simmer (180 degrees F) over medium heat. Again, do not boil the lids. Keep lids hot until you're ready to use them. Set the screw bands aside, they do not require heating.
2. In a large, deep stainless steel saucepan, combine crushed blueberries, lemon juice and sugar. Over high heat, stirring constantly, bring to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. Stir in the pectin. Boil hard, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and skim off any foam.
3. Working with one jar at a time, remove a jar from the canner, pouring hot water back into the canner. Place the jar on a heat-protected work surface, such as a wooden cutting board or towel. Ladle the hot jam into hot jars, leaving ¼-inch headspace. Slide a nonmetallic utensil, such as a rubber spatula, down between the food and the inside of the jar two or three times to release air bubbles. Adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding more hot jam. With a clean damp cloth or paper towel, wipe jar rim and threads. Using a magnetic or nonmetallic utensil, lift a hot lid from the water and place it on the jar, centering the sealing compound on the rim of the jar. Place a screw band on the jar. With your fingers, screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight. (Do not use excessive force to tighten.) Return the jar to the rack in the hot water-filled canner. Repeat filling steps until all jars are filled.
4. When all of the jars are in the canner, adjust the water level in the canner so that it covers the jars by at least 1 inch. Cover the canner with a lid and bring the water to a full rolling boil over high heat. Once the water is boiling hard and continuously, process (continue boiling) for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, remove the lid and let sit for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, remove the jars, lifting them out of the hot water without tilting them. don't dry the lids or jars at this point. You don't want to disturb the lids while the seal is being formed. Place the jars upright on a towel in a draft-free place and let cool, undisturbed, for 24 hours.
5. When the processed jars have cooled for 24 hours, check the lids for seal. Remove the screw bands and with your fingers, press down on the center of each lid. Sealed lids will be concave (they'll curve downward) and will show no movement when pressed. Jars that have not sealed properly must be refrigerated immediately. Use unsealed refrigerated product within a few days. For the jars that have good seals, with a damp cloth, thoroughly wipe lids and jar surfaces to remove any water residue or food particles. Store the sealed jars of jam in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.
Note: I found liquid pectin in my local grocery store, where they had a little display with jars, lids and canning accessories