I was in Sam’s and saw that they had the most awesome looking Blueberries and Strawberries. The Strawberries came from California and the Blueberries came from South Georgia. They had a small display set up and were sampling the fruit. It was great, they gave you a little cup with a piece of sponge cake (from they’re bakery) with a couple of pieces of strawberry and 3 or 4 blueberries and a blackberry just to make things better and served with whipped cream on top. They had a line of people waiting for their sample.
When I did the blog about strawberries I left out strawberries from California. It seems that they have strawberries almost the year round. I still like my local berries, but I have to admit, the ones they were sampling were hard to beat. Well back to the subject for this blog, blueberries. It is well-known that the best in the country come from the upper Northeastern part of the country, with the ones from Maine being the best. The only ones I have ever had from Maine were frozen, so I still have to go with my local fruit as best. But maybe someday I will have a chance to sample fresh berries from Maine.
The most popular things made from blueberries is Blueberry Jam and Blueberry Syrup. Everybody likes the blueberry syrup at IHOP and the ones in the grocery store. The only place I can think of where you might get blueberry jam is at Cracker Barrel. I don’t think anybody else has jam available. There might be a restaurant that has jam for its customers in other parts of the country.
Blueberry Jelly is something that is easy to make. For some reason, you don’t often see Blueberry Jelly on the grocery shelves. But you see Blueberry juice in the specialty foods department. That is what we are going to start with. If you can’t find the juice just buy a basket of berries and we will process them to get juice. The easiest way is by putting a couple of cups blueberries and about a 1/2 cup water in a medium-sized pot, bring the mixture to a slow boil. Stir to make sure all berries explode. Cook 2 to 3 minutes then remove from heat and let the liquid cool. I have found that 30 minutes is a good time, I want to get busy so I rush things a bit. Strain the liquid to remove any seeds or left over pulp. Don’t push the pulp thru the strainer, you just want the juice. Save the pulp to make jam. If you really want prize-winning jelly, strain the liquid with muslin. We covered this in an earlier blog. Take 3 1/2 cups of juice 5 cups of cane sugar, 1 box pectin, and 2 teaspoons lemon juice. Combine all except the sugar, mix well and bring to a boil for 1 minute. Add the sugar and bring back to a rolling boil. After boiling for 1 minute remove from heat. Skim any foam off the top. Ladle into prepared 8 ounce jars (you can use 16 ounce, but 8 works better for me). Clean tops of jars and place dome and ring on. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes then let sit to cool overnight. Check for unsealed jars that have to be reprocessed. You now have a beautiful jelly that anyone would be happy to get in a gift basket. Remember to label your gifts with the ingredients on the jar. Some people might have a allergy to something used. That wasn’t hard to do, all it took was a little time and effort.
Blueberry Jam is probably the most popular use for the fruit. It is even easier than the jelly. You will probably need 2 baskets of the fruit to get 6 cups berries. Then use 6 cups cane sugar and 1 box pectin. Mix crushed berries and pectin and bring to a boil, add the sugar, bring back to a boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat, skim foam from top and using a ladle put into prepared 8 ounce jars. Boil in a water bath for 10 minutes, let sit over night. Check for unsealed jars. They are ready for a label or a toasted english muffin with butter. Now you have made two great items with just a little work.
Blueberry Preserves is a little more work, but worth the effort. Combine 4 cups washed and drained blueberries with 4 cups cane sugar. Mix to make sure all berries are sugared. Let set for an hour, till the juice begins to flow from the fruit. Put sugar and berries in a medium pot. Slowly bring to a boil, while gently stirring. Boil till the jelly stage. (This means that when you lift the spoon out of the pot, the liquid drips slowly almost ready to jell). Skim and ladle into 8 ounce jars, process 10 minutes. The next day you will have Real Blueberry Preserves. This is something that we won many ribbons for at the fairs.
Blueberry Syrup is easy to make. Add 6 cups fresh juice (or bottled juice), 3 cups cane sugar, 3 cups light corn syrup. Simmer all ingredients, till completely mixed then put in jars or syrup bottles if you have any. Sometimes you might want a little pulp in your syrup. If you do just push the fruit thru a little when you are straining the fruit. This will give you pulp without seeds or stems. If you wake up one day and want blueberry syrup on your pancakes and don’t have any, then this is a short cut that will make do. Heat your regular syrup on the stove and add a tablespoon of blueberry jam or preserves. Stir to mix and pour over hot pancakes. It makes me hungry just talking about it.
The last thing w are going to cook is a bit harder and requires much more hands on. We are going to make Blueberry-Orange Marmalade. Navel oranges work the best for us. They don’t have any seeds and the skin is thick enough to give us enough peel without the white part. You will need to peel the orange lightly to get strips of orange with no membrane. This requires several attempts to get the process down. I usually have to use a couple or oranges before I get it right. Next cut the peel into juliane strips, no longer than an inch. You will need 1/2 cup. Boil the slivers in water for 1 minute then drain. Take these slivers, 1/2 a cup sugar and a 1/2 cup orange juice, boil for at least 5 minutes. What you are doing is cooking the peel and making it sort of candy. Next take the orange that you have removed the skin from and cut the segments of fruit out. Mix 5 cups blueberries, 6 cups sugar, 3 cups orange sections, cooked pieces of peel and 3 cups water. Heat the mixture until it comes to a boil. Lower the heat and cook until it begins to thicken (usually about 45 minutes). Stir to keep from sticking. Ladel into 8 ounces jars and process. If you don’t want to stand at your stove and cook for 45 minutes, after you have brought it to a boil put it in a crock pot. Cook on high with the lid off. You still have to keep stirring occasionally. Cook until you get the right thickness. How long will depend on the amount of liquid from the oranges and blueberries. Either way, you want a nice thick liquid to go with the fruit. After you jar and process you will appreciate the time you spent making this marmalade.
Blueberries are a very strong fruit, they can make something with no help from any other fruit. Many fruits don’t mix well with other fruit. Mary Lynn came up with another combination, blueberries with peaches. She was making a peach pie and just for the fun of it, she add blueberries to the peaches. She cooked the peaches and just before she poured the hot peaches into a crust, she added fresh blueberries. The pie was beyond good, it was one of the best pies I have ever tasted. If you know me, then you know that I have tasted plenty of things. It was more than a blueberry pie and even more than a peach pie. It was the best of both. Served warm with a scoop of Vanilla Ice Cream, it was almost too good to be true. Try to make at least one of the items above, and just for good measure, try the pie. I have seen ads on TV that say blueberries are high in antioxidants. Well I don’t know about that, but I do know they are high on the taste chart.
I have gotten a couple of requests for blogs. I need ideas so I can give you what you want to see. Without you there is no blog; it is just me typing on my computer.
A gift of something you made personally means so much more than say towels or something else from a store. It took maybe 15 minutes to buy where you took the time required to make a home-made item.
Please comment and please help me spread the word that home canning is not hard work. Anybody can do it. All you have to say is Can U Can It. The answer is yes you can.