I don’t know about you, but there’s something about summer that makes me turn into some sort of homesteader. I start wanting to do things like bake bread, plant a garden, shuck corn, and of course, make jam. Making jam was one of those things that I always wanted to do, but I was incredibly intimidated by all of the steps. Also, there was this underlying fear that I would mess it up and give everyone some sort of food poisoning. Well, I am here to tell you that you CAN can. (See what I did there?) Seriously though, it is much more simple than most people think.
My favorite kind of jam to make is blueberry jam. Everything about plump, juicy blueberries just screams “summer” to me. We are blessed to have some truly wonderful friends that have bountiful blueberry bushes each year. They are kind enough to let us come pick berries when the bushes are overflowing and producing too much for one family to consume. We love to turn these blueberries into tasty treats to share with friends, and jam is the perfect way to make sure we can hold onto this summer staple well into the cold days of winter.
Here is how it works…
- Gather your blueberries. You can pick them or go pick some up at the farmer’s market or grocery store (frozen works too, I won’t judge). This recipe uses 8 cups of fresh blueberries, and produces 4 pints of jam.
- Gather your supplies. You can really make do with whatever pots/pans/utensils are hanging around your house, but adding a few specialty items to your arsenal will really help make your jam making experience exponentially easier. My favorite tools are a large canning pot with a rack (not a pressure canner), a funnel, a jar lifter, and a magnetized lid-getter (it’s a technical term).
- When making jam, prep is so important! Having everything at the ready will make the process so much smoother. Go ahead and wash your berries, measure out pectin and sugar, and wash the jars in warm, soapy water (rinse well). This would be a great time to put a small plate in your freezer (more on that later). Fill the big canning pot with enough water to cover the jars and bands, and put it on the stove to boil. Just before the water begins to boil, add the jars and bands (not the disc-shaped lids, as this can compromise the seal) to the water, and bring to a boil for 10-15 minutes while you’re making the jam.
- Now comes the fun part– the jam making! Add the blueberries, lemon juice, cinnamon, and nutmeg to a large pot (like what you might make soup in). Turn the stove on medium-high and squish the berries around a bit to release some of the juices. Lots of people use a potato masher for this step, but a plain wooden spoon always does the trick for me.
- Sprinkle the pectin over the top of the fruit and stir to combine. Bring this mixture to a hard boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Once it’s boiling hard enough that it cannot be stirred down, it’s time to add the sugar.
- Add the sugar one cup at a time, and stir constantly. Bring to a hard boil and boil for a solid minute. At this point, your jam should be done. You can test the “gel” by putting a bit on that super cold plate that you put in the freezer earlier. If it has gelled properly, the jam will firm up on the cold plate. If it’s still super runny, either there was not enough pectin added or it wasn’t cooked long enough. Hopefully your jam is good to go, and you’re ready to put it in the jars.
- Remove the hot jars from the water bath carefully, and set on a towel on your counter. Make sure not to put them directly on a cold counter, as they might shatter with the temperature change. You can wipe them down a bit with a clean towel or paper towel, and begin filling the jars. I love to use a funnel because it keeps things more tidy, and is more forgiving than ladling directly into the jars.
- Once the jars are filled with about ¼” or so between the top of the jam and the rim of the jar, wipe off the mouth of the jar, and set the flat lid on top. You can then dry off the rings and gently screw them on. Only twist the rings until you feel the slightest bit of resistance. You’ll tighten them later on 🙂
- Once the jars are filled, return them to the boiling water bath for processing. This is a super important step to make sure the jam will be safe and shelf-stable, and that the jars have a good seal. Make sure that all of the jars are fully submerged, and boil for about 10 minutes. Turn the heat off and let the jars sit in the water for about 5 additional minutes before removing them to a clean towel on the counter.
- If your jars don’t seal right away (if the button on top of the lid is down, your jar has successfully sealed), don’t panic! It could take a while before you hear that satisfying “ping.” Leave the jars out for about 24 hours, and then check the seals. At this point, you can tighten the lids. Any jars that did not seal can be put in the refrigerator and used within a couple of weeks. If the seal is good, the jam will be shelf stable for a year or more!
Congratulations! You just experienced the adventure of canning! This blueberry jam is delightful on homemade bread, biscuits, scones, and so many other things! I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!
If you would like a more detailed explanation of canning processes and why it works the way that it does, please visit this page to find FDA guidelines for canning various categories of food.