January is my birth month, so I wanted to share something special to celebrate. When it comes to birthdays, typically they are a celebration of something sweet, and while I love pastries and …
January is my birth month, so I wanted to share something special to celebrate. When it comes to birthdays, typically they are a celebration of something sweet, and while I love pastries and confectionery, there was something else that was just too good to pass up this year. Blueberry jelly.
If you read my outdoor column, “The Way Out Here,” you’ll know that my wife and I have been busy this summer managing a blueberry patch for our farm business. While fresh berries will likely never lose their allure, it’s the squishy ones that mustn’t be overlooked.
As we sorted our berries over the summer, we filtered out all of the mushy berries so as not to ruin the firm, plump ones that held up. But rather than throw them away, we decided to fill Walmart bags up with them until we ended up with three or four gallons.
With the fodder for this recipe secured in our freezer, it ended up being a cold January day when we finally got them out to make jelly.
I love things like that that you can just freeze until later. Not all food is so forgiving, but I chalk that up as one of the great aspects of berries in general.
With a large canning cauldron plopped on our stovetop, we began opening the bags of blueberries and chipping apart the frozen masses to make them fit in the pot and thaw out. Granted, there was a handful of leaves, twigs, and undesirable plant fragments that were in the mix at this point. If you happen to be using this jelly recipe, just know that’s OK. As you process the berries, they will get filtered out. This is not as true for a jam or preserves recipe, which incorporates more of the pulp from the berries. Did I know this before? No. Did I fully understand the differences between jams, jellies and preserves? I still don’t. Let’s just say that the cookbook says one thing, certain relatives say another, and by golly, none of them are capable of being incorrect about the sacred art of making fruity spreads.
Recipe courtesy of “Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving.” Directions are abridged.
- 3 ¼ cups of berry juice ( about 3-4 pounds)
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice, fresh or bottled (optional)
- 6 tablespoons pectin
- 5 cups sugar
Combine berry juice, lemon juice and pectin in large saucepan and bring to boil.
Stir in pectin, then the sugar, stirring as it dissolves.
Bring to rolling boil for 1 full minute, stirring constantly, then remove from heat
Ladle hot jelly into sterilized and heated jars leaving about ¼ inch head space.
Clean rim and secure lid and ring before placing in canning pot.
Lower jars into simmering water until submerged by an inch and bring water to a boil for 10 minutes before removing and placing aside to cool and seal.
Note: if any jars do not seal, just refrigerate them and enjoy sooner than later.
As it turned out, my wife had a good jelly recipe from her “Ball Blue Book,” and I was just the passenger along for the ride—and, of course, the tasting. If you like to can or preserve anything I highly recommend this book, as it seems to be a staple among food preservers and we use a number of different recipes from it over the course of the whole year.
Anyway, back to the matter at hand.
I understood that we would be adding some pectin to help gelatinize the jelly and some sugar to balance the natural sweetness with… I don’t know, unnatural sweetness? There’s some chemistry in there I’m sure, but as far as my limited knowledge on the subject was concerned, there was an emphasis on the mystery in chemistry. (Yes, I know it’s spelled differently.)
So once our berries thawed, we began to boil them down, straining out the juice and hand-wringing it through a cheesecloth to filter out all of the undesirables. I highly recommend not doing this. If you have a juicer, use a juicer. If you don’t, make somebody else do this part because it is just a chore and a half. As it so happened, the juicer I got for my wife for Christmas arrived after we made this.
Once we had the juice, it was just a matter of boiling it as we added first the pectin, then the sugar. All 18 cups of it. Yeah, we had a lot of mushy berries.
Keep in mind, as I had yet to learn, that however much juice you end up with, it will double by the time you add all of this. Why is this important? You will want a very big pot. If you have any concerns that your pot is not big enough, you have two choices. Go fetch yourself a Harry Potter-sized cauldron, or use multiple pots. I don’t really like the second option but guess which one we ended up resorting to?
The third option, of course, would be to give up on the jelly, but that’s not really an option either, so learn from me and start out prepared.
The way out here we do what it takes to make a sweet birthday treat. And thanks to our copious collection of mason jars, it’s a treat I’ll get to enjoy all year.
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