Although I like to cook, I love “craft” cooking, meaning cooking that’s not for a meal. And at holiday time, my recreational cooking often becomes DIY gifts.
One of the things I make all year round is jam. In the summer, I pick strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and peaches when they’re in season. I love going to local farms and picking the fruit that looks good to me rather than the already picked fruit in containers.
I enjoy being outdoors, and I also love eating the fruit while I’m in the fields picking it! Yum. It can be a really fun day out with kids, too, so they see where their food comes from.
Some of the fruit is freeze-able, so it can be available long after it’s gone from the bush or tree. Like blueberries. They’re really easy to freeze. Jeff gave me a FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer a couple of years ago. I wanted one forever, and it has been great for freezing fruit and preventing freezer burn.
So just recently, I defrosted blueberries I picked in July, and I made blueberry jam. IMHO, blueberry jam is pretty fool-proof. Here’s how I do it.
Getting Everything Ready
Before getting started, I get all my gear in order:
- jam jars (Mason jars, Ball jars, any jam jars) and screw tops/bands washed in hot soapy water
- new lids with rubber seals
- a big pot, with a lift-out wire rack if you can get one
- canning tools, especially a device to lift the jars into and out of the pot and a funnel with a handle that fits the jar mouths (Ball sells a little kit for less than $10 that’s really handy)
- long-handled wooden spoon
- pot holders
- a couple of dish towels
- measure out the sugar so that it’s ready to go
Then I fill the pot with water high enough to cover the jam jars and bring it to a boil.
I boil the jam jars for 10 minutes to ensure they were clean and sterilized. I throw the screw tops and the new lids in for about 5 minutes.
Blueberry Jam Recipe
I use pectin to make sure the jam jells, and liquid Certo is my pectin of choice because I’ve had better luck with it than with other brands or types. There are others that you may prefer.
Here’s the recipe that’s on the Certo package or pretty close to it. It makes at least eight 8 ounce jars.
- 4 c. blueberries (about 2 quarts, cleaned and washed)
- 1 box of Certo Sure Jell containing two packages of liquid pectin
- 1 T. fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tsp of butter
- 7 c. sugar
I know that looks like a ton of sugar, and it is, but if you put in less your jam may not jell, and that’s a drag after you’ve done all the work. There are pectins that are “no sugar” pectins or “low sugar” pectins, so look for those. I went with the traditional high sugar recipe.
You can make small but not drastic changes to your jam recipe, if you like. For example, sometimes I add some Chambord, a raspberry liqueur, to my blueberry jam. I’ve added bourbon to peach jam. Whatever you want. You just can’t add too much because changing up the recipe can cause the jam not to jell. If you plan to change up the recipe, do that when you’re not making gifts in case it doesn’t work out. Similarly, you can’t just double or triple the recipe. Making jam or jelly is more like baking where it’s an exact science than like cooking where you can wing it.
Jam Making Procedure
- Put the washed and cleaned blueberries in a 6-8 quart pot, a good-size pot, and crush. I use a potato crusher. I like some whole blueberries in my jam, so I crush it in layers. Crush the bottom layer or two. Leave about 1/4-1/3 of the blueberries whole.
- Turn the heat on to medium-low to start.
- Stir in the lemon juice.
- Stir in both packets of liquid pectin.
- Add the butter to reduce the foaming, though it seems to happen anyway.
- Turn up the heat to medium or medium-high and bring to a full, rolling boil while stirring with a wooden spoon. It usually takes less than 5 minutes to come to a boil. Boil for exactly one minute, stirring constantly. Shut off the heat and skim off the foam with a metal spoon.
- Ladle immediately into the clean jars. Fill to 1/4″ of the top. Wipe off the lip of the jars with a clean dishtowel or paper towel. Place the rubberized lid on top and then screw on the band. Do not tighten them all the way.
- With the jar lifter, place the jars back in the boiling water and boil them for 10 minutes.
- Remove the jars, place them on a wire rack or on a dishtowel. You’ll hear the lids seal as they make a sucking or popping noise. Tighten the bands.
- Let the jars cool. And let them sit for about 24 hours to fully thicken.
If canned properly, they should last at least 6 months or maybe more without refrigeration.
Decorate the jars with a ribbon or fabric top or just a gift tag, if you like. They’re ready to go! Or keep for yourself and your family to enjoy. It is so delicious to make jam yourself.
Have you ever made jam? Would you give it a try?