Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Blueberry Preserves

With high gardening season upon us, it is time to start putting up some of the harvest for later months.  My three little blueberry bushes don't give enough for me to need to preserve the overage, but I picked up a few pints of blueberries at the farmers' market so I would have some to preserve.

I have found myself making more and more preserves in lieu of jam.  I have seen differing opinions on definitions, but for me, I consider jam to be whole or crushed fruit, sugar, and pectin.  What I call "preserves" is just whole or crushed fruit and sugar, with no pectin.  It is easier to make because you don't have the additional pectin step of the process, and it is more scalable because you don't have to have an exact amount of fruit to match up with a package of pectin.  (Note that you can buy bulk pectin that solves this problem too.)

Preserves will not be as thick as jam, which is fine with me because I can then use them in many different applications, from topping peanut butter to making smoothies to making desserts.  They will gel a little bit because of the natural pectin in the berries themselves.

One thing I like to do with my fruit preserves is pack my jars full of fruit, which often leaves me with a jar or more of plain syrup.  I can this syrup as well, and we use it in the winter as coffee flavoring or ice cream topping.

Blueberry Preserves
2 pints blueberries, washed and crushed
Equal amount sugar (you can get by with just a bit less, but sugar is essential to the preservation process)

Heat crushed berries and sugar until sugar dissolves, forming syrup.  Continue to heat until to a low boil.

Pack in hot, sterilized jars.  Seal with lids, and process in a water bath canner for 15 minutes for half pints.  As you can see, I got three half-pints of blueberry preserves, and one half-pint of syrup from my quart of berries, but your yield will depend on the juiciness and size of the berries.

The Analysis
Fast:  Making preserves is super-quick.  I have even been known to put up a couple of jars of preserves while I'm making dinner.

Cheap:  Surprisingly, making your own preserves is typically not a money-saver.  Generally, your finished product will come in about the same as store-bought gourmet preserves once you factor in fresh-picked berries and new jars.  (Reusing your jars season to season helps bring down the cost somewhat, so you really are only paying up when you want new jars for gifts.)

Good: Flavor and freshness are where it is at with the berry preserves.  I've never tasted a store-bought brand, even the gourmet varieties, that have that intense, cobbler-y flavor you can get when you make your own.
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