Blueberries. How can you not love them? Sweet, tart, and one of the only naturally blue foods. I try to keep a bowl of dusky, indigo spheres in my refrigerator all summer long. I eat them with yogurt and honey for breakfast, by the handful with almonds as a mid-afternoon snack, and muddle them into bourbon-lemonades after a long day at work. After receiving about five pints of them from my Bushwick Food Coop hookup I decided to make the bounty last by flash-freezing them. It’s such a treat to have frozen berries in your possession during the grey and slushy winters in New York. Next to freezing, canning and jamming is my other favorite way to make summer’s harvest last until winter. I love Anarchy in a Jar’s jams and preserves and blueberry-lavender was the first flavor I remember trying from them. I don’t think they’ve made it for a few seasons, but I remember it so fondly that I decided to try to re-create it.
Canning is intimidating to many a home cook; you usually have to buy new kitchen supplies, deal with giant pots of boiling water to sterilize and seal jars, and think about scary things like botulism. But, I promise it’s not as hard as it sounds. And once you purchase your initial supplies, it’s not expensive either! In fact, it saves you money in the long run. I suggest that newbie canners pick up Kelly Geary’s amazing book, Tart and Sweet. Kelly runs Sweet Deliverance, a CSA pickup service and also makes awesome jams, marmalade, and preserved lemons. Her book is beautifully laid out and photographed and the recipes are written for small-batch preserving, perfect for just starting out. It’s one of my favorite cookbooks and I find myself reading it in bed with a cup of tea as often as any novel I own. Another great reference for preserving help is Food in Jars. Marisa McClellan is an expert on canning and preserving, she pretty much revolutionized the way modern cooks think of mason jars.
I haven’t included a picture of the finished jam because I’m working on a recipe for blueberry-lavender ice cream using said jam. I should have it posted on Tuesday, so keep an eye out. For now, I suggest slathering this delightfully-floral jam onto some toast with extra salty butter. I may have done this three times this morning, but who’s counting?
5 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
2 cups sugar
2 tsp calcium water*
2 tsp pectin*
3 tbsp lavender syrup**
2 tbsp lemon juice
Sterilize your jars, bands, and lids by placing in large pots of water and bringing to a boil. Boil for at least ten minutes, turn off heat and let stand, covered, in hot water.
To make the jam, place blueberries, syrup, and lemon juice in a large non-reactive pot over medium-low heat. Bring to a boil, stirring and mashing the berries with a wooden spoon every so often. Skim off any foam that forms and discard. Add calcium water to pot and stir. Bring back up to a boil while you mix the sugar and pectin in a separate bowl. Add sugar and pectin to the pot and stir for a few minutes until jam starts to thicken. To test if the jam is done, dip a cold spoon into the pot and draw your finger through the jam along the back of the spoon. It should clearly separate. If not, continue cooking and stirring vigorously. Remove from heat when the spoon test succeeds.
To fill jars, carefully remove sterilized jars from pot using tongs or a jar lifter. Bring the pot you used to sterilize jars back to up to a boil. Fill jars to about 1/4″ from the top (a funnel is very helpful.) Wipe rims with a clean cloth to remove any spilled or splashed jam. Screw on lids and bands tightly. Carefully place jars into boiling water in a single layer. If you don’t have a pot big enough to hold all the jars at once, do it in multiple batches. You want the water to be able to circulate all around the jars, so stacking them on top of each other is not safe. Boil for 10 minutes and turn off heat. Let cool slightly before removing jars from pot and setting to cool completely. If they aren’t all sealed, don’t worry. As the jars cool the air will suck out and you’ll hear little pops indicating that the seal is set. Jam will keep upwards of a year unopened and for a few months opened in the fridge.
*I use, and highly recommend, Pomona’s Universal Pectin because it doesn’t require a ton of sugar to set. Follow the instructions for making calcium water that are included.
**To make lavender syrup, bring 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar to a boil. Add in 3 tbsp of dried lavender and turn off heat. Cover and steep for about an hour. Strain out lavender and place in a clean jar in the refrigerator. Syrup will keep for several weeks and is an excellent addition to limeade, gin drinks, or drizzled over desserts like pound cake or vanilla ice cream.