recipes

Small-Batch Blueberry Preserves for Refrigerator OR Dry Storage

This summer has been awesome for blueberries here in North Georgia. I’ve made several cobblers, yogurt parfaits with granola, a pie or two, sprinkled them across cereal, and blended tons into smoothies. I was looking to get creative with what I had sitting on the counter, so I started checking online to see what I could find. Thanks to my amazing MIL I had several cups of fresh blueberries just waiting to be turned into something delicious. After browsing for a few minutes, I decided to make jelly…until I noticed how much sugar was in it and how long it took. 12 cups of sugar and a metric ton of berries weren’t exactly at my disposal, nor did I have cheesecloth, pectin, and 8 hours for the process. New plan. I found and tweaked an incredibly easy recipe for blueberry preserves. First, I doubled it. The original yield was 1 1/2 cups, which I didn’t think would be nearly enough for us. Second, I left out the lemon zest it called for as all I had was regular lemon juice in a jar. I also used an immersion blender (AKA stick blender) to puree the berries, lemon juice, and sugar together instead of using a potato masher like the recipe suggested. I don’t like big chunks of berries in my jam, so I chose to puree. It’s all personal preference though, and can be done in a regular blender or food processor, and even half puree/half mashed berry if you prefer. What I ended up with is sweet, but not overly sweet. It’s a bit “seedy”, sort of like blackberry jam, but it’s not off-putting in any way. My son absolutely adored it, and my daughter gave two thumbs up as well. I hope y’all try this and get to enjoy it on a hot buttered biscuit or piece of toast soon!

  • 5 cups fresh blueberries, washed and stemmed
  • 2 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Pour berries, sugar, and lemon juice into a large sauce pan and bring to a simmer on medium heat. Bringing this up to a simmer gradually lets the berries release juice, which keeps the mixture from burning or caramelizing with all the sugar. Once the berries have released some juice, take the pan off the heat and use the immersion blender to puree the berries to the consistency of your liking. Once blended, put the berries back on the stove, up the temp to medium-high, and bring the liquid to a slow boil, stirring frequently until reduced and thick. This process takes about 20 minutes or so, so be patient!

This is the point where you decide how you wish to store the preserves. If you want to keep them in the refrigerator, then grab some clean jelly or pint jars and pour away. You should be able to fill about 2 1/4 pint jars, or 4 1/2 half-pint jelly jars. Place clean lids and rings on your jars, and store in the refrigerator for up to a month. Done! If at this point you decide to can your preserves to make them shelf stable, read on.

Canning is a pretty precise science, and if you don’t do it correctly then your results will absolutely not be what you had anticipated. Read my lips: FOLLOW CANNING INSTRUCTIONS CAREFULLY!!!

First, you need to have sterilized jars and lids. To sterilize your jars, put them upright in hot water (not boiling because they can shatter) in a canner (or large stock pot) about an inch over their tops, and then bring the water to a boil. Cover pot to prevent splashing. Once water is boiling, set a timer for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes, CAREFULLY remove the jars from the water bath and drain. If you are through sterilizing your jars then go ahead and reduce the heat to a simmer and add your lids to the canner. I also add the rings as well, but according to Ball canning guidelines, this is not necessary. If you plan to make a larger batch, place your already sterilized jars on a cookie sheet in a 250 oven until the rest of the jars are sterilized. The jars need to be HOT when you pour the preserves into them. Pour the boiling preserves into the hot sterilized jars, making sure to leave only about 1/4″ headspace. Headspace is the distance from the top of the jar’s rim to the top surface of the jam, and is important to prevent bacteria growth. Use a rubber or plastic utensil to scrape around the insides of the jars to eliminate air bubbles. Wipe the jar rims very well to ensure there is no food residue on them, remove the lids from the simmering water with a magnet or silicone tongs, and then carefully place them on top of the jars. Tighten the rings around the jars until they are finger-tight, being careful because the jars are extremely hot. Using silicone jar grips, carefully lower the filled jars back into the simmering water and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, place a lid on the pot and set a timer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, turn the heat off and let the jars sit for 5 minutes before removing them to a dry towel in an area where they won’t be disturbed for at least 8 hours. You should hear the lids making a “popping” sound soon after removal from the water bath. This is normal, and is the jars sealing properly. If they do seal properly, then there should be no “give” to the tops of the lids. If there is “give” then the jar didn’t seal properly and needs to be refrigerated immediately to be consumed first. Once the jars have sat for 8 hours and it is determined that they have sealed properly, loosen their rims and store in a cool, dry place for up to a year.

Now, all of that sounds terribly complicated I know. Trust me, I know. It is not at all complicated though, and once you get the gist of things it really goes very quickly. Fruit jams are some of the easiest things to preserve because they don’t require a pressure canner or any experience. Follow the Ball canning guidelines, make sure your jars are sterile, and ALWAYS be careful with boiling liquids. Have fun y’all, I know I can’t wait to make my next batch!

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