Adventures in Jamming

A couple of people have requested my recipe for blueberry lime jam. Figured this would be the easiest way to share it.

First off, it isn’t my recipe. Its a mash up of two recipes I found on the internet: this one from Ball’s Blue Book of Canning, and this one from barefoot kitchen witch.

One of the reasons for my new obsession with jam is that I have found a new way to enjoy it…through the magic of cocktails. Make a gin and tonic and add some lemon juice, muddled mint and a teaspoon of yummy jam in it and you have entered a new world of sittin and sippin, if I may say so myself.

I’ve discovered there seems to be two distinct camps when it comes to making jam: cook the berries right away, or the mix the fruit with sugar and let it sit for a spell method. I’ve tried both, and have to say that the batch I did where I let the fruit stew in its own juices was more robust. It pulls more of the natural juices out of the fruit and that seems to deepen the flavor a bit. That being said, if you don’t want to mess around with that, don’t bother. I don’t think most of us have that much invested in how our jam tastes and for the most part it doesn’t really matter.

There are also those that use pectin, which is naturally found in fruit but you can also buy it in packets in the store, and those who don’t. I usually don’t, mostly because I never remember to buy it. Now that I’ve made a couple of jams, I have to admit, I don’t think I need the extra pectin. I like them to be more spreadable than jellied, and the blueberries have enough of their own to hold the jam together. If you want the effect of pectin, but don’t want to buy it, you can take the pithy bits from and orange or two, put it in a tea infuser or cheesecloth, and have it in the jam as it cooks. The pithy bits are anything white that you wouldn’t want to eat when you eat an orange. They pack a pectin whallop, and I’ve had good results with it.

I knew I was canning this jam, so it’s scaled up to make A LOT. Scaling back to more realistic levels just involves a little math. I’ve made batches with as little as 1 1/2 cups of berries. I’ve also thrown in a hand full of blackberries, but decided that even though I liked the flavor, I didn’t like the snap of the seeds in the finished jam.

If you want the sit and stew directions, go back and go to the kitchen witch link. I am not that organized normally, so I’ll give you the instant gratification recipe:

makes about 12 half pints of jam

9 cups blueberries
7 1/2  cups sugar (I’ve used as little as 5 1/2 cups and its still yummy)
2 T. grated lime peel (I think I ended up zesting 2 limes)
2/3 cup lime juice

Put 4 or so small spoons on a saucer in the freezer (trust me, you’ll need them later)

Crush blueberries in a large saucepan or dutch oven. Most recipes recommend you do it in layers. I’m kind of lazy so I just put it all in the pan and go at it with the potato masher. You’ll want to use a fairly thick walled pan to make sure you don’t accidentally burn the fruit during the boil. I don’t recommend aluminum pans, they are pretty thin.

Turn the heat up and bring to a boil, stirring a lot. Once it starts to boil, add the sugar and stir until dissolved. It’s going to foam and bubble a lot, so use a deep pan. Once the sugar is dissolved, add the lime zest and lime juice. Return to a “violent” boil. You don’t want a wimpy simmer here, you want this stuff going crazy in the pan. Crazy boil for 1 minute, then turn it down to a regular boil. Go ahead and skim the foam off the top. Cook and stir until it thickens a little and gets more syrupy. I’ll admit to doing this part mostly by the seat of my pants, so I don’t have a set time. I’d give it about 10 minutes and start testing. Don’t let down your guard, this is where I almost always get distracted and burn the jam.

“Start testing?” you ask. Yes, this is where those spoons come in. Take one out of the freezer, scoop up a bit, and put it back in the freezer. Give it two minutes or so. Take it out an try to pour it off the spoon. If it resists, or if you can swipe a finger through it and leave a trail through the jam, it’s done. If not, let it cook a little longer. You can also see if the bottom of the spoon feels neither hot nor cold. Technically, the jam is done anytime. It doesn’t have to be cooked to a certain temperature for food safety or anything like that. This is just to check if the pectin is working its magic, and the jam is “setting”. If you blow this part the worst that will happen is runny jam. And that’s a #FirstWorldProblem if I’ve ever heard one, so don’t sweat it.

When it’s done, take the jam off the heat, ladle into jars, let them sit for a bit, and then stash them in the fridge. If you want to can them, you have to go through the steps of washing jars, boiling them, keeping them warn, filling them, then water bathing them. It honestly isn’t that much work once you get your groove on, but you might want to make a small batch first to make sure it’s worth it for you.

Hope this makes sense/works. If you have any questions I’ll do my best to answer them, but I’m no Betty Crocker, so keep your expectations low.

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