the berry mania hasn't stopped around here. we went blueberry picking at a you-pick place outside of town. we all had a great time, and picked a lot in a short amount of time. cosmo was great at picking, but didn't end up with any in his bucket when we went to weigh them. luckily, they didn't weigh him going in and coming out.
i froze several bags, but we don't have much room in our freezer, so, after muffins, and a blueberry tart (with pastry cream, see below),
we still had enough berries to make jam. i've canned before, but it has been a while, and i have never made jam. i wanted something that would actually jell, that could be spread on toast. in my research, it seemed like the pectin sugar/ratio was crucial to get the jam to set, so i was afraid to alter the recipe. still though, i couldn't bring myself to add 7 cups of sugar to 8 cups of berries! so i reduced it by 2 cups, and it worked just fine. the finished product was very jam-like, but still way too sweet for me.
(jar turned upside down to demonstrate that it jelled)
we had so much fun making it, that i went back out the next day with a couple of friends and picked more berries. this time around, we got serious. we purchased a canner, with the thought that we might want to can other foods, like tomatoes, later in the season. i also looked into some low sugar options. i got some pectin that indicated it would make jam with less or no sugar, but i was slightly suspicious of it, since it had other ingredients besides pectin, and, unlike the pure pectin box, it did not say "all natural." i could not find the natural, low-sugar option i had read about...our co-op said they were having trouble keeping it in stock during berry season. so, i did two batches: one with the low sugar pectin, and 1.5 cups of sugar for 8 cups of berries. and i used evaporated-cane-juice-type sugar. it jelled beautifully. then i tried the regular pectin, and used 2.5 cups of sugar for 8 cups of berries. i used a little extra pectin, and it also jelled. i did cook these two batches a little longer than the recipe recommened, because i had read in mark bittman's book that all jam will jell at 224 degrees F. so, we kept checking the temperature, and tried to get the mixture that hot, but it never got there.
i don't think we needed to cook it so long, and it did reduce quite a bit, which means less jam. i learned an important thing (which is why i am going into all this detail), you don't have to follow the recipe exactly when it comes to making jam. at least that is how it worked for me. all of the jam i made jelled. some of it is too sweet, some probably not sweet enough, and some is just right!
(jars sterilizing in pot, before we got the canner)
carl and i really had a blast with canning. there is a point when the stuff goes into the hot sterilized jars, gets the lids put on, and then goes back into the boiling water bath, and you have to move very quickly (and carefully). we worked efficiently as a team, though i did freak out once when the small jars wouldn't stay standing on the canner's rack (which is designed for larger jars).
the best part is when the jars are all out, cooling on the counter, and as you're cleaning up, every now and then you hear a very satisfying "ting" as a lid snaps down and seals a jar. i am proud to say that all of our jars sealed, and it feels like money in the bank to have all that jam on our shelf.
the general recipe and instructions we used can be found at here.