Remember all those blueberries from last week? Well, today I got around to making a delicious jam from the remaining berries. We've had pancakes and muffins and pork with blueberry compote and cobbler and pie--and I'm officially done with blueberries. So, time to preserve some of the summer bounty for later in the year. I'm freezing a bunch of the berries for smoothies and baking, and today I made a batch of jam.
Whether smoothing it on my morning English muffin or shaking it into a cocktail (oh yes, jam cocktails are a thing and they are uh-maaaaz-ing), I love homemade jam. I especially love simple, pectin-free and preservative-free jams. Just fruit, sugar, lemon and thyme in this recipe--as simple as it gets, but really delicious. I've put the recipe here, for those of you willing to do a little stirring. You can preserve this jam for long-term storage using a traditional boiling-water-bath canning method (as I did), or you could just put it in jars and store it in the freezer (make sure you're using a modern glass canning jar that's freezer safe, not a vintage find, which generally are NOT freezer safe).
Oh, and one last note--for those of you saying, "Uh, no, that canning stuff is too hard and requires all kinds of expensive equipment--not for me," I made this using a saucepan, a cheap, tall, ten-buck enamelware stock pot from Walmart, a butter knife, a ladle, metal barbecue tongs and a long-handled spoon. Canning does not require a ton of equipment (but the equipment does make things easier--unfortunately, my canning equipment is in a shipping container on a boat somewhere).
Lemon-thyme Blueberry Jam
Makes 6-7 half-pints
- 10-11 cups fresh or frozen blueberries. (You could also sub in raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, huckleberries, boysenberries, dewberries, gooseberries, or a combo--this recipe is ultra-flexible)
- 5 cups sugar
- 1 lemon, juice and zest (I used a vegetable peeler and peeled all of the zest off in long, wide strips that I fished out of the jam before ladling into jars. You can also use a microplane to zest into fine pieces.)
- 5-10 sprigs of thyme
- Put a glass or stoneware plate in the freezer--you'll use this later for checking the readiness of your jam.
- Prepare your containers for storing. Are you planning to can using a water bath? Wash your jars in hot soapy water (or the dishwasher) and then keep them warm in a sink of hot water or in the dishwasher's dry cycle. Fill your canning pot with water and bring to a rapid boil. Going to freeze your jam? Wash your jars and dry.
- Wash your blueberries and drain. (If you chose strawberries, core and quarter them). *This recipe makes a rustic jam with a chunky texture. If you want a smoother jam, you may want to pulse your berries in a food processor until broken up into small pieces--your choice. I'm lazy, so I threw the whole berries into the pot.
- Combine all ingredients except the thyme into a large, heavy-bottomed pot (8 qt for most berries, you'll want a bigger pan for strawberries). A wide, shallow pan works best, so if you have a really deep, large skillet--use that. If not, a stock pot is fine, but the wider the better. Heat berry mixture on medium heat until sugar dissolves, then turn up the heat to medium-high. Bring mixture to a boil--but make sure it doesn't boil over (turn the burner to a level that can maintain a boil that can't be stirred down, but isn't trying to climb the sides and spill over). Stir frequently. After sugar is dissolved and berries have softened, use a potato masher or the back of a spoon to press berries just enough to release some of their juices and partially break up the berries, keeping the texture chunky. After you've finished mashing, add the sprigs of thyme and continue to boil mixture, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. Mixture will foam up and expand, and then shrink back as it cooks. Use metal spoon with thin edge to skim foam from surface, if near the end of the cook time, you have foam on the surface of the jam. (I didn't have any foam, but results will vary depending on the berry).
- Continue boiling until mixture visibly thickens. Grab the cold plate you stashed in the freezer earlier and spoon a bit of jam onto the plate. Return the plate to the freezer for about 2 minutes. (Remove jam pot from heat while waiting for gel test.) At the end of the 2 minutes, pull out the plate and tilt it sideways. If the jam runs quickly--it isn't done. Put the pot back on the burner and keep stirring for another 3-5 minutes. Do the tilt test again: if it stays put or just runs really slowly, try running a finger through the jam on the plate. Does your finger leave behind a defined channel in the jam? If so--your jam is ready. If not, continue cooking, testing again with a chilled plate every 5 minutes until it has gelled.
Now your jam is ready. You can either refrigerate it (it'll keep about 2 months), freeze it (you get 6 months to devour it all) or water process it in jars to store for a year at room temp.
For water process canning
Remove thyme sprigs and any large pieces of citrus peel (if used). Add hot jam to hot jars leaving 1/4" of headspace, carefully place in the boiling water, cover pot with lid, and water process for 15 minutes. Turn off heat, remove lid from pot and leave jars in hot water for 5 minutes. Remove your jars from the canner, place on a folded towel (hot glass + cold marble/steel/granite counter = exploding glass and a big mess) and let the jar rest undisturbed for 12 hours. (This is a really basic summary--for the full process and details, visit the Ball website.)