So far this year I have harvested about 33 pounds of blueberries and blackberries. I don’t know if that sounds like a lot to you, but it is like most things–no matter how much one has, one always wants more. Especially more berries.
That said, I am very pleased with my berries. I have frozen several quarts and eaten them fresh on cereal and in crepes and cobblers. Today I am making jam.
If I followed the Sure-Jell pectin recipe, I would be using about 16 cups of sugar for the 16 cups of berries I want to make into jam today. Yes, 16 cups, one cup of sugar per cup of berries. Now the 1:1 ratio applies to crushed berries, and my measure of berries isn’t crushed. However, I am using blackberries as well as blueberries and the proportion of berries to sugar for blackberries is 7 cups of sugar to only 5 cups of crushed blackberries. So I sort of split the difference. My point is, that’s a lot of sugar. A lot of sugar.
I’m not going to do that. I use tart apples to augment the pectin in the jam which helps it to set up. The apples cook down to sauce and are not noticeable in the finished product. I have tried recipes with no pectin and no sugar and they are fine and one way to do it, but in my experience they don’t set up well. They are good for syrup, but trying to balance the syrup on the toast reminds me of one of those games that used to come in cracker jack boxes where you had to guide a tiny bead through a maze–the syrup flows all over the toast and down your fingers. I use half a package of commercial pectin because pectin is sour and more pectin means more sweetener unless you like a very puckery jam. I don’t mind a bit of a tang, but I like a balanced tang. Here’s my recipe, not sugar-free, but a far cry from 16 CUPS:
4 quarts mixed berries (blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, etc.)
4 tart apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 cup honey, more if your berries are particularly tart
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 package pectin (Sure-Jell, Certo, or the like, about 2 1/2 T.)
Clean and sterilize jars, lids, and rings.
Put clean, stemmed berries into a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Pare and chop apples. I used Granny Smith, but any tart cooking apple will do.
Take a bit out on a spoon and put it on a cold plate. Are the juices watery-looking? Keep cooking until you when you put a little dab on a plate it has a more syrupy consistency. Let the dab cool a bit. It should begin to set up a little. It doesn’t have to be terribly thick or gelatinous (you want to be able to spread it on your toast without undue effort). If you have much foam, skim it off with a spoon. At this point, turn off the heat and ladle the jam into the jars.
I don’t have a jar gripper, so I take a tea towel and wrap it around the empty jar like a scarf as a heat-proof handle.
Then I fill them up within 1/2 inch of the top, add lids and loosely screw down the rings.
Lastly they go into the canner for a 5 minute process and they are done. Let them cool. Tighten lids up a bit. Over the next hour or so, the lids will seal with a pop. After they seal, if you press a finger on the top of the lid, the lid will be pressed in and will not pop back and forth. That’s a good seal.
This recipe makes 5 pints.