Blueberry Jam: Two ways

On Thursday we held the second class in our workshop series: Blueberry Jam!

There’s nothing like a rainy evening spent cooking and eating in the company of lovely folks, and Thursday night was no exception.  We had eight participants, two instructors, 10 lbs of blueberries and two recipes for blueberry jam.

Now, time for a confession: I’m not a huge jam eater.  Neither is Alison.  We didn’t originally even want to run a jam workshop this year.  However, several people convinced us that jam was the gateway preserve.  It’s the preserve you learn first, that encourages you to learn to make other preserves.  And so, after much hemming and hawing, we added jam to the roster.

Do you know what I learned throughout the organizing of this workshop? There’s something really appealing about making jam.  The smell of cooking blueberries is amazing.  It’s worth it just for the smell.  But I digress…

As always, we started the workshop with the basics of canning.  Check out Canning 101 and Canning 201, if you’re looking for a refresher.

Then, it was time to made the jam.  We wanted to demonstrate two different types of recipes: one with pectin and one without.  What is pectin?  Pectin is a gelling agent. It’s naturally occurring in fruit (in varying quantities), and you can also buy commercially produced pectin, like Certo brand. Pectin also tends to be higher in under-ripe fruit, so if you are looking to make no-pectin jams, add some under-ripe berries to the mix or add some apple.

We also tried to find jams that were lower in sugar, without being fruit spreads or fruit butters (which are delicious, but not “jam”).  In our recipe search, we found that liquid pectin recipes tend to use the most sugar – more sugar than fruit. Original powdered pectin, tends to use a little less sugar and “low sugar” pectin might be your best bet if you want to use even less sugar.  We tested a low-sugar pectin prior to the class, and it was pretty good, but ended up going with an original pectic jam recipe for the class.

A few notes about pectin: liquid pectin and powdered pectin are not interchangeable.  Use the type of pectin that is called for in your recipe or find a new recipe.  Also, when making jam with pectin, don’t double the recipe.  Make two separate pots of jam if you want twice as much.  Because jams with added pectin cook up quite quickly, and because the jam at the bottom of the pot cooks faster than the jam at the top of the pot, you’ll not get a consistent thickness.  You might, in fact, end up with a solid rock of jam.  (Not that I’ve ever done that. *cough*)

Here are the recipes we made in the workshop and links to a few others that we’ve tried in past workshops:

East Coast Blueberry Jam
(adapted from Blue Chair Jam Cookbook by Rachel Saunders)

2 ½ pounds wild blueberries
1 pound 14 oz sugar (approximately 4 ½ cups)
6 oz lemon juice (3/4 cup)
1 (1-inch) piece cinnamon stick
Several drops of vanilla extract

Place a saucer with five metal spoons in your freezer for testing the jam later.

Combine all ingredients in a large pot.  Cook on medium high heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the juice begins to run from the berries.  When the juice starts flowing freely, stop stirring and let the mixture cook for 1 to 2 minutes.  Then stir well and increase heat to high.  Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture boils.  Once it reaches a boil, cook for 10 to 15 minutes more, stirring frequently, and decreasing the heat slightly if jam starts to stick.  Start testing for doneness after 10 minutes.

To test for doneness, transfer a half-spoonful of jam to one of your frozen spoons.  Leave the spoon in the freezer for 3 to 4 minutes.  After this time, remove spoon from freezer, tilt vertically to see whether or not the jam runs.  If it does not, the jam is ready.  If it does run, continue to cook the jam for another few minutes, testing again as needed.

When the jam is ready, turn off heat but do not stir.  Skim foam from the surface of the jam.  Pour into sterilized jars, leaving ¼ inch of headspace and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.

Yield: five to six 250 mL jars.

Blueberry Lime Jam
(adapted from Bernardin Guide to Home Preserving)

4 cups (1000 mL) crushed blueberries
1-2 limes
4 cups (1000 mL) granulated sugar
1 pkg (57 g) Original Fruit pectin

1) Wash and crush blueberries one layer at a time.  Measure 4 cups.

2) Wash and finely grate zest from lime(s).  Squeeze limes and measure 2 tbsp (30mL) lime juice.

3) Combine crushed berries, lime zest, lime juice and pectin in a deep saucepan.

4) Stirring frequently, bring mixture to a boil over high heat.

5) Add sugar.

6) Stirring constantly, return mixture to a full rolling boil that can’t be stirred down.  Boil hard 1 minute.  Remove from heat. Skim foam.

7) Ladle mixture into sterilized jars. Leave ¼ inch of headspace.  Remove air bubbles using a non-metallic instrument. Wipe jar rim to remove any stickiness.  Centre snap lid on jar and apply screw band (not too tight!). Place jars in canner.  Bring water back to a rolling boil and process for 10 minutes.

Yield: 6 – 250mL jars
Here are the recipes from last summer’s blueberry jam workshop and a delicious blueberry apple chutney for the non-jam lovers.

Yours in jam,

Marla

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