This weekend I was fortunate enough to be dragged out of bed by my friends idea (and admittedly it was a fabulous idea at that!) of berry picking.
Shelf over the farmers market.
Of course, I knew in advance what we were doing this weekend, but waking up at 8am on a Sunday by alarm is still not the best way to start the day of rest. The berry picking was wonderful, despite waking up on the wrong side of the best. We drove out to Underwood Family Farms in Somis, CA. They had their blue and raspberry picking stuff all set for visitors, as well as a small farm area to feel alpacas, chickens, sheep, and goats.
freshly sheared sheep
the cutest chickens I've ever seen
this brave little goat was on top of his hut, enjoying the sun.
Before entering the fields, I did have my portrait taken. I think it came perfectly.
The fields were wonderful. About half of the berries weren’t ready to be picked however. We had to venture out farther and farther into the fields to get the best, and most ripe of all berries. Aside from the tiny spiders and their webs, I had the best time! The light wasn’t the best so, sadly, there aren’t any pictures of the berry fun. I was able to pick 2 containers, about 4 lbs of berries or so, (each container had about 3 1/4 cups). I also got two containers, one from my friend and one from the boyfriend, generously donated to make my jam.
I didn’t really follow one specific recipe for my jam. I just sort of continued to read about four recipes that looked the easiest and made the most sense. I’ve come up with this version, and it’s to my liking, with nice jelly and bits of blueberry throughout. However, if you prefer your jam more smooth, like jelly, you’ll need to skip my masher step and run them through the food processor.
8 cups of fresh blueberries
3 cups caster sugar
1.75 oz of sure-jell pectin
1 tbsp butter
1 cup of vanilla sugar (recipe below)
I used my 7-quart dutch oven to make the jam, but 5-qt and up is really all you need. The reason for such a large pot is because the sugar and berries will bubble when boiled, and they must have enough room to keep bubbling without the fear of bubbling over!
Pour the berries into the pot and put on medium-high heat. Warm the berries for a few minutes and then take a potato masher and start mashing and bruising the berries until they get to your consistency.
Add the sugar and pectin and stir for 1 minute. Let simmer for about 4 minutes without stirring.
In one of the recipes for jam I referenced the author recommended adding in some butter to lessen the foam aspect when the sugar starts to bubble up. Although this is my first time making jam and I don’t have a reference of my own ,the bubbles were significantly lower than what I expected so I assume this step did it’s job.
the yellow dot in the sea of red-purple is the butter
Stir the mixture one more time after adding the butter and let it come to a rolling boil ( meaning it’s a solid bubbly mash, that’s consistent in temperature, usually at medium heat) and keep it there for 35 minutes or so. At this time, place a plate in the freezer for the pectin test. This step I borrowed from Nigella.
After 35 minutes, stir the jam once more. At this point it should be nice and deep in color and liquidy .Take a spoon and get some of the juice to spread on the plate that’s good and cold by now. Let the juice sit for a minute or so. Hold the plate to the side to see how slowly the juice will slide down to the side. The slower it moves the better. If it’s completely solid, congrats! you’ve got jelly.
a good 35 minutes of bubbling away
Turn off the heat and let the jam sit for 10 minutes to solidify. While you’re waiting prep your canning jars. I used Kerr 1 pint jars. Fill 5-6 jars with boiling water and let them heat up until you’re reading to spoon in the jam.
you can see here that there are 6 jars but I only needed 5
Dump out the water and start ladling in the jam. About 2.5 ladles words wonderfully for me and got all the jam into the jars. Clean up the rims of the jars to make sure that the seal will the clean and tight. Put the lids on the jars and tighten completely.
At this point on the bloggers I read suggested that you flip the jars upside down (to help with the sealing). I thought, why not? and did just that. I held them upside down for about 5 minutes. While I was waiting for that I boiled some water and filled up a 13×9 rectangular baking dish with the hot water. I don’t use traditional hot water bath methods because I find them to be tedious and long. And you need a lot of materials which I don’t have room for, nor want to buy.
I just flipped my jars right-side-up and placed into the hot water. I’ve used this same technique for my apple butter canning.
water is about 90% of the way up the jars. Just below the lid.
The hot water around the dish will keep the temperature inside and outside the jars consistent which helps with the sealing process. At the same time, it allows proper cooling, as when the water cools down the jars will do the same. So in about 4 hours or so the jars should be cooled and sealed.
*I checked in about 15 minutes, while the water was still hot, and about half of the jars had already sealed.
- 4 cups caster sugar
- 1 vanilla bean pod
- 1 glass container big enough to fit all the sugar
Place the sugar into the container. Slice the vanilla bean in half and cut each piece into half, leaving you with four pieces. Bury these in some sugar. Tighten the lid on the container, and store in a dark, cool place for about 1 week. When ready to use go ahead and stir the sugar around.
Because the vanilla will add moisture it will be clumpy but it’s totally worth it. I use this sugar in jams, apple butter, in pie crusts, and sometimes in scones instead of vanilla extract.