After my recent excursion to a local blueberry farm where I picked 12 pounds of the little beauties, I had some serious jamming to do. I have yet to join the land of the home canners, and so “real” preserves aren’t in my repertoire. Aside from not having the appropriate equipment, I’ll need to do some serious studying and practicing before I get over the fear of giving myself and my loved ones botulism. I know, I know, home canners will say not to worry, but I’m not there yet. And refrigerator jams are just so darn easy, and keep so well in the freezer. Maybe next year will be a year for formal preserves. Maybe.
I did some experimenting with freezer and refrigerator jams earlier this summer, and they came out quite well. I took the same approach to my blueberry jam. The nice thing about blueberries as compared to strawberries is their ability to gel all on their own. With no pectin, and relatively little sugar compared to strawberry jam, the resulting jam sets up beautifully.
I kept mine simple, with just a bit of lemon for both flavor a its pectin-enhancing qualities. I don’t know the science, I just know it works.
Here’s what I did:
BLUEBERRY REFRIGERATOR JAM
5 1/2 cups of blueberries, washed and drained
Zest and juice of one lemon (at least 1/3 cup of juice)
1 1/2 cups sugar
First, I washed the berries really well.
Actually, first I turned on my Fleetwood Mac pandora station. Cooking tunes are really very important.
Then, I washed the berries. My local farm is great, but not organic. Blueberries usually get a good dose of pesticides to keep hungry bugs away, and while my farm says they use the bare minimum, it’s more than I want in my jam. I used my salad spinner to soak, rinse, and drain the berries. It’s a great tool for the job.
I then started the jam by mashing about a cup of the blueberries in the bottom of a high-sided sauce pan. The blueberries will pop and ooze while cooking, so you don’t need to bother smooshing all of them, but they do need a little liquid to get things going. Isn’t it amazing that the sort of yellowish flesh of the berries turns such a vibrant purple when cooked?
I then added the rest of the ingredients, along with the rest of the berries, stirred it together, and brought it to a boil over medium heat. I let it cook at a full boil for around twenty minutes, stirring occasionally. It started to look like it was thickening, so I started testing it using the “plate test.”
This is a photo of the plate test form my strawberry jam post. It simply requires stashing a plate–I used a small saucer–in the freezer, then pulling it out, placing a bit of jam in center, and seeing if the jam sets up. In the photo, you see that the jam holds in place when I swipe my finger through it.
I kept testing my jam every minute or so, and found that it took another ten minutes before I was confident that it was going to gel properly. It ended up setting up so well, in fact, I probably could have pulled it sooner. The bubbling jam will start to look thicker as it’s nearly ready, and the blueberries will have popped and oozed into a lovely bright purple lava.
I decanted the jam immediately into pint-sized mason jars. I then it cool completely on the counter before moving it to more permanent cold storage. Isn’t the color of the jam completely incredible? It’s a perfect aubergine purple, almost black, but then it turns everything it touches an almost violently bright fushia-like purple. From indigo berries with yellow interiors, to this. Is nature great, or what?
This recipe made enough jam to fill 3 pint jars with enough left over for one of the little 4 oz. jelly jars. Because this only keeps for 2-3 weeks in the fridge, the little jars might be your best bet. It depends on how quickly you expect to eat it. I put one large jar in the fridge for eating now, and then stashed the rest in the freezer for a day when I need to infuse a little summer sunshine into the long north country winter.
Aside from being totally perfect jam for toast, I’ve also found that it works really well on greek yogurt as a kind of DIY fruit-on-the-bottom snack like Chobani. Of course, I just put the fruit on top, because it’s prettier that way and, in my own kitchen, it seems silly to put the fruit on the bottom. We go through a lot of Chobani around here, and it’s quite a bit cheaper to buy it in large containers instead of the little individual packs. A little vanilla greek yogurt with blueberry jam on top is divine.
Throw a little granola on top of that, and then a pile of fresh berries, and that’s what I call breakfast. In fact, today, it’s what I’m going to call “lunch.”