I make about 20 half-pints of jams and jellies each year, some of which we eat and some of which we give away. One of the more appreciative recipients of my jamming efforts is my dad, who often enjoys a PB and J sandwich for lunch. When I told my mom I was making jam with blueberries Sunday night, he shouted from the background — “Make it jelly.”
At its best, jelly is a perfectly clear, jewel-colored confection, made with only the juice of fresh fruit and lots of sugar. To make jelly, you boil your fruit down, then drain the juice through layers of cheese cloth or a jelly bag. This takes a fair amount of time and makes a pretty big mess, but is worth it.
Since it was the end of the day, I made a modified blueberry jelly/jam by straining out most of the solids. The result is a tart, intensely berry-flavored spread with a thicker texture than jelly, but no fruit chunks like jam. I made this recipe up, based on a couple of online recipes, including this one and this fun video (keep an eye on grand-daddy).
- 10 cups fresh blueberries
- 5 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 package dry pectin (Sure-Jel)
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- spring of lemon balm (optional)
Prep: If you haven’t canned before, read up on the basics here. (However, jam in a hot-water bath canner is not hard, so don’t be intimidated.) Start by putting a large pot of water or canning pot on the heat. You’ll need it to be boiling by the time your fruit spread is ready. Wash six 1/2 pint canning jars with lids and rings in hot soapy water. Rinse. Put the lids and rings in a pan and pour boiling water over them. When the water in your canning pot boils, lower the clean, empty jars into the water for 5 or so minutes to sterilize them, too.
Fruit: Wash and take out stems from the berries and place them in a big cooking pot. Mash them to get the juices flowing. I also added 1/2 cup water. Bring this mixture to a boil and cook for 15 minutes to release all the juices. When finished cooking, add lemon balm (if using) and let it sit 20 minutes or so. Next, get out a colander or sieve and pour the hot fruit through it into another clean, large pot. Mash the fruit against the holes to get as much of the good juices out as possible. Discard the leftover solids. You should have about 5 cups of goodness.
Jam/Jelly: Take the fruit juice and add to it the pectin and lemon juice. Put this on the heat and bring to a rolling boil. (This will take a good 15 to 20 minutes.) Stir it frequently. (This is a good time to sterilize the jars, if you have not done it already.) Measure out the sugar and set aside. When the fruit liquid reaches a rolling boil that cannot be stirred down, add the sugar all at once. Stir it to incorporate all the sugar. Bring the mixture back to a boil, stirring often to keep it from scorching. When it is at a full, rolling boil that you cannot stir down, set a timer for one minute and continue cooking and stirring the jelly. Turn off the heat.
Processing: Ladle the hot blueberry jam/jelly into the prepared jars. (This should fill six 1/2 pint jars, with about 1/2 cup or more extra spread leftover for the cook to put in the fridge and enjoy.) With a clean, damp cloth or paper towel, wipe the rims of the jars clean, cover with lids, and tighten the rings around them. Carefully, place the jars in the boiling-water canner and lower them so there is at least 1 inch of boiling water above the tops. Cover the canner and process for 12 minutes. Remove the jars and listen for the pings that indicate the jars are sealed. Let them cool completely before labeling them and storing them. They should be good for a year.