Guest Post: A First Time Canner Makes Blueberry Jam

I don’t often run guest posts, but I do find that it’s nice to occasionally include a voice other than my own. Today’s guest writer is Todd Van Patter from the blog Foodie’s Arsenal. He is an able cook but a very new canner. This is his account of his first preserving experience (aided by my cookbook!). Thanks so much for making one of my recipes and writing about it, Todd! 

For whatever reason, I’ve never tried canning before. I realize that in our convenience culture it’s more of a niche skill or a hobby for the culinarily ambitious, so I’m not exactly alone in my cluelessness. But I have every reason to be all about canning, and it just hasn’t clicked until now.

I grew up in a family of good cooks and pretty good gardeners; my wife and I care a lot about our food and are always looking for ways to simplify our lifestyle; I have a food blog where I write about such important things as being better foodies and learning skills to get more out of your food on a frequent basis. I even grew up in Central Pennsylvania, come from Pennsylvania Dutch heritage, and have a surprising number of Mennonite friends. But still no jars. So I guess my canning destiny has been a long time coming.

The final push I needed came from Marisa and her awesome book. She didn’t ask me to promote it or anything, but I’ll happily do so because it’s my kind of cookbook. Laid back, thorough explanations, enticing recipes and pictures, and just a little nerdy– it’s exactly the kind of canning book I would have pictured if I knew I wanted one so bad. So I’m really glad to have Marisa’s guidance be my gateway into the canning world.

Anyway, I gave it a shot, and I’m hooked. Right now is the perfect time to learn to can if you’re interested in it, with summer gardens headed toward harvest and farmer’s markets bursting with color and variety. The couple of jams and fruit butters I’ve tried so far have turned out well, and since I’m lucky to have a strong gardening/preserving culture here in Harrisonburg VA, I know that I’ll continue to learn great ways use this new skill in my own food adventures.

I decided to share my debut canning experience with you all using Marisa’s Blueberry Jam recipe from the Food in Jars cookbook, since blueberries are one of my top favorite things on the planet. Thanks to you all for hosting me here and letting me add my voice to the mix, and I hope that you’ll also come follow along at my blog, Foodie’s Arsenal, where there will soon undoubtedly be a lot more canning recipes popping up.

Todd’s annotated version of my blueberry jam recipe is after the jump. Thanks again, Todd! 

Blueberry Jam

Ingredients

  • 8 dry pints blueberries
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon (I’m into Mexican cinnamon right now, so I tried that)
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • zest and juice from 1 lemon
  • 2 things of liquid pectin

Instructions

  1. Start heating your water bath with 3-4 pint jars or 6-7 half pint jars. I went with the smaller jars since I thought smaller portions would be nicer and easier to work through. Heat your lids in a wide pan at a bare simmer.
  2. Mash up your blueberries. This is a sad moment at first if you’re a blueberry hoarder like me, but it gets easier and strangely satisfying as you go. It should be about 6 cups of purply goo filled with lots of blueberry skins when you’re done.
  3. Mix the blueberry mush with the sugar in a good-sized pot and bring to a boil. Add the lemon juice, zest, cinnamon and nutmeg, and continue cooking for 15-20 minutes to reduce the mixture. When it looks thick and shiny, add your two 3-ounce pouches of pectin and return to a boil for 5 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat, and ladle your hot jam into the prepared jars. Get your lids and bands in place, and process in the water bath for 10 minutes.
  5. The result? A gorgeous, thick, deep bluish-purple jam with a hint of spice and a fruity sweetness.
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I’m really excited to have this jam be the first of many jars to hit the shelf this season. So if you’re like me and have been hovering around here but can’t decide if all this canning stuff is for you, take it from a newly converted canner that this is a skill worth enjoying.

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55 Responses to Guest Post: A First Time Canner Makes Blueberry Jam

  1. 1

    […] the link to the post on Food in Jars… go check it out! And if you’re visiting here because you read the post and wanted to […]

  2. 2
    MAria says:

    I made a batch of this last weekend, and it totally blew me away – I was never crazy about blueberry jam in the past, but this is now elevated to close to the top of my fav list! great recipe.

  3. 3
    Krista says:

    I love blueberries and would love to try this recipe for my first canning project. My question: is it necessary to use so much sugar?

    • 3.1
      Leah says:

      The sugar helps assure the quality of your jam in the long term, as it’s a preservative, and helps assure a proper set. Marisa’s jams are actually a lot lower in sugar than many traditional recipes, and this one is incredibly tasty.

    • 3.2
      Amanda says:

      If you use Pomonas Universal Pectin you can use as little as 1/2 cup to 1 cup of sugar, honey, agave or whatever is your sweetener of choice. I started using it this year and I am so happy to not be going through as many bags of sugar as I did last summer.

      • Krista says:

        Thanks! I will try the recipe as written, then try Pomonas Universal Pectin to see which I like best. Your replies are helpful and very much appreciated.

  4. 4
    Jane Vaughan says:

    I printed this and plan to use it very soon. It sounds divine. I have been canning since childhood. Just one suggestion…you can use the store brand of pectin or the dry in a box as well. It all works the same. I experimented and found this to be cheaper and it works. Happy canning! Oh….one more tip my MIL shared with me. During the winter save your glass jars and lids. They will reseal when you put your jams/jelly/pickle in them. I also tried and found this too works. Saves tons on jars. I have my teacher friends save their jars for me and they are willing since they often get my goods! Any glass jar with any metal cap will reseal over and over…try it for yourself!

    • 4.1
      Ivriniel says:

      It is not advisable to try to reuse canning jar lids. They are meant for single use, and you’re playing Russian Roulette with your seal there.

      Also if you’re advising reusing jars that commercial food came in, that is also a gamble. Home canning jars are made out of a thicker glass meant to stand up to reuse, and being knocked around a little inside a home canner. Unless they’re something like Classico pasta sauce, which come in real home canning jars, this is kind of iffy.

      • Bruce says:

        Check the Classico website. They recommend against using their jars for home canning – the jars were intended as single use.

  5. 5
    Jo says:

    I’ve made jams all my life (I’m in my 70s) and learned to seal my jam jars with melted paraffin without lids. I no longer use paraffin. I wipe the top of each jar earefully, put a sterilized lid and ring on the jar and tighten it down and let the jars of jam seal on the counter without the boiling water bath. I have never lost a jar of jam. Why do current recipes advise boiling water bath for foods high in acid and sugar? As you say, botulism isn’t a problem. Are the jar manufacturers just covering their b–ts?

    I freeze summertime berries as I pick them, in batch sizes of 6 – 8 cups, and make jam as needed throughout the winter which relieves canning time in July and August.

    • 5.1
      Jennifer says:

      My mother, who taught me to can, is a Master Canner. Many moons ago when the Extension Office began teaching a 5-10 minute water bath immersion for jams alot of canners wanted to know why the change.
      Here it is.
      It’s Insurance.
      A jar full of near boiling fruit and sugar is plenty hot enough to seal a clean jar safely. However, even if jars and lids are Not perfectly clean, the water bath ensures both a good seal and kills absolutely everything that might have snuck in on a finger smudge/projectile toddler drool/missed bit of stubborn clearish whatsit.

      Mistakes are a part of every activity. Even the most scrupulous canner can manage to wash only 41 of the 42 jars they use that day. And I doubt i’m the only one who has been a jar or two short and grabbed one from the cupboard, done a quick dip in the canning bath and filled that questionable vessel before the last of the jam set up like concrete.

      Thanks to the gratuitous-seeming water bath my jam has to wait to wait till that seal is broken to acquire any superpowers.

      • mary w says:

        See Marisa’s posting titled something like “Canning 101 Why You Can’t Can Like your Grandmother Did”. As Jennifer said, “It
        s Insurance”.

        I see following USDA “rules” as similar to seat belts. When I was young cars didn’t have seat belts. We bounced around the back of cars while two adults smoked in the front seat. I never died or was hurt in a car accident. I never knew anyone who died in a car wreck. I could go my entire life without using a seat belt and probably do just fine. However…I wear a seat belt. And would never let a child bounce around without a seat belt.

        • Ivriniel says:

          Exactly. Just because something never killed your Grandma, doesn’t mean it didn’t kill someone else’s Grandma.

  6. 6

    This recipe has half the sugar of the recipe in another book I have. I presume it’s still safe?

    • 6.1
      Todd says:

      Emily– I actually thought it had a lot of sugar, but my question was the same about how much sugar you need to make it safe. Marisa can chime in with more details, but I was doing my research and generally people said the sugar doesn’t have much to do with safety, just shelf life (things might start to discolor or lose freshness quicker) since it’s a preservative. I was hoping to do some less-sugar canning, so that was a big insight for me.

    • 6.2
      Leah says:

      The sugar doesn’t effect the safety of the jam, but it does help preserve the quality of the product over the long term, and also helps the set. It doesn’t have anything to do with the safety from botulism, that’s taken care of by the acid in the fruit. Marisa uses much less sugar than some traditional recipes, but it’s enough to do the job.

  7. 7
    val says:

    More canning novices (like me!) should share their stories, then writers like you will know the areas where people need help. I think I focused so much on the process and being safe in the beginning that I did not really learn how to make the jam itself. As a result, my failures have been over- or under-cooking. Now that I know the preserving process itself is really not all that difficult, I need to focus on the actual cooking part.

  8. 8

    I need to get canning or is it jammin?
    LOL

  9. 9
    Jenn says:

    Hi all! Another newbie canner here! I just wanted to say ‘well done’ Todd! Your jars look awesome! I’m convinced that putting up food is a way of life for me now, for so many reasons and it’s fantastic to see that I’m not alone. I just started canning this summer because of Marisa’s blog (which I stumbled across while searching for a recipe to make yummy favours in jars for my wedding). I didn’t do so well with strawberries, but have rocked the lemon curd, the raspberries, the rhubarb and now I’m onto Saskatoon berries and pickles! Enjoy your adventure and write more!!

    • 9.1
      Todd says:

      thanks Jenn! yeah, it’s pretty exciting that it’s an accessible skill for those of us who aren’t grandmas or food scientists or whatever. Hope you start stopping by the blog to say hi!

  10. 10

    Great post! I am a first time canner too. And I am making my first ever batch of canned pickles this weekend. I am a little nervous – I think canning is really intimidating. Too bad Marisa doesn’t do over-the-phone coaching!

  11. 11

    Beautiful jam. I have five blueberry bushes, and they put out a lot of berries. I made blueberry jam one year but didn’t like it; my recipe called for running them through the food processor and the texture left a lot to be desired. I like your squishing method better; I’ve done that for compote and it’s close to ideal for jam (just needs to be a little thicker). I may have to do blueberry jam again after all.

    I’d also love it if Marisa would chime in with an answer to Jo’s question about the boiling water bath. I find that the water bath makes my fruit more likely to float than if I just use the inversion (horrors!) method.

    • 11.1
      Todd says:

      I was tempted to do the butter instead, it was a hard choice. I just bought two little blueberry bushes this year, any advice for a novice blueberry farmer?

      • Benign neglect for the blueberries! I’ve had these bushes for about 7 years, and all I’ve ever done is water them. Now I need to prune them, but that’s an early spring activity (I just googled), so I”m off the hook for a bit.

        Just made ginger plum jam since my friend’s tree is producing plums like crazy. I have enough for another batch tomorrow. And yes, I did do the water bath. It makes the jam not set up as fast as my one non-processed jar. (I’m going to use the 9th one right away, so no water bath. It has already set.) But last year these did eventually set, so I’m not too worried.

  12. 12
    Chris says:

    YUMMY! I made Marisa’s blueberry butter last weekend. I didn’t have enough blueberries for the batch, so I added some bing cherries. Oh, what a lovely jam it made. (I didn’t puree it enough for it to be a butter.) I’m very happy with “Food In Jars” and look forward to making more of her recipes!

  13. 13
    Kelly H. says:

    I just made this same recipe yesterday! I’m new(ish) to canning, having helped my Gram a time when I was younger (hate cherries now! HATE!). We moved to a house this year with so so SO many black raspberry and blueberry bushes that I’ve been forced into canning. Everyone said “Freeze them!” but my freezer isn’t capable of holding 20+qts of berries (and that’s just the black raspberries!).

    I loved the blueberry jam recipe! It was super easy and very tasty (though I’m going to halve the cinnamon – bit too strong for my sensitive palate). I’m going to have many (many) jars of it ahead. Your black raspberry jam recipe is awesome, too! I really need to buy that book of yours! It’s on my list.

  14. 14
    Lynn says:

    Just love reading about your experience Todd and everyone’s comments! I started canning two years ago and after my first try, just like you, was hooked. I’ve made a few of Marissa’s marmalades (have citrus trees) that are fun to make. My first try didn’t set but I eventually got it. Jam wasn’t enough so I ventured into pickling, fermenting and more.

    I too have concerns with the amounts of sugar and am glad Marissa’s recipes have less. Most of my jams are low-sugar and I always look for new low-sugar options that are safe. If anybody has one, please share! Happy canning everyone ;-)

    • 14.1
      Todd says:

      Thanks, glad you enjoyed reading along! I’m always trying new food projects and experiments (my wife doesn’t even ask questions anymore when I do stuff like put wood chips in the oven), so this is a natural new area to explore for me. It’s great to have so many people at the same spot.

  15. 15

    […] farm stand to get some berries, only to discover they were being sold for $4.19 each.  The recipe I’m intending to use calls for 8 pints and I wasn’t about to spend over $40 on blueberries.  There’s only so […]

  16. 16
    Natasha says:

    Way to go, Todd! I am one of those people you wrote about, the ones that are on here trolling but haven’t actually canned anything. I made the leap and bought jars/lids, pectin, a huge pot with a jar rack, pot holding tongs, etc. and even went as far as going to the farmers market and buying a HUGE box of cucumbers to make pickles. But then they sat on my counter and went bad because I got busy. This is re-inspiring me to just take the plunge! I think tonight may be the night! Oh boy!

  17. 17
    Kris says:

    I made this jam yesterday and it didn’t set (though all the jars sealed properly). I’m bummed! Now I have 7 half-pint jars of runny blueberry liquidy stuff. Any ideas what I can do with it?

    • 17.1
      mary w says:

      Use as pancake syrup, in a smoothie, with club soda to make a summer drink, toss peaches in it rather than sugar when making a crumble or shortcake, stir into soft homemade ice cream to create blueberry swirls…Can you tell I’ve made a few runny batches of preserves??? Now I mostly make fruit butters while are easier to judge.

      Before you panic wait a few days (weeks?) since sometime it takes awhile to set up completely.

      • Marisa says:

        Like Mary said, it can sometimes take a week or two for jam to fully set up. Give it some time before you call it a failure.

        • TrishR says:

          Oh!? I’d never call runny jam a failure though – still delicious!!!! Stir it into yogurt – wow :-) I did first try the blueberry butter in a slow cooker. It came out great, though my little boy wasn’t that crazy about it. Probably not sweet enough! So Tuesday evening, after the trip to the market, he and I made this jam. Such fun to do together, and it tastes so good. So good, in fact, that we’re thinking 8 half pints is simply not enough. Back to the farmer’s market over the weekend! Thanks Todd and Marisa. I’m officially addicted!!!! I may need to build more storage shelves in the basement.

      • Kris says:

        Thanks for the ideas on how to use and the tip about how long it can take to set up. I (mistakenly) thought that if it didn’t set properly within 48 hours, it never would. It still hasn’t set completely, but I think it’s a bit firmer than it was. And either way, now I have lots of ideas about how to use it!

  18. 18
  19. 19

    […] Friday with the intent of making blueberry jam.  I used the recipe posted just days before on Food in Jars, but left out the […]

  20. 20
    Jennifer says:

    Beautiful looking jam!! Todd, where did you get those amazing jars from?

    • 20.1
      Ivriniel says:

      I have one jar that looks like the ones in the picture. It says “Consumer’s Glass” on the bottom. Not sure where it came from, it might have belonged to Mr. Ivriniel’s grandmother, or I might have gotten it at a second hand store.

      Unfortunately, Consumer’s Glass shut down in 1997 after an industrial accident. One of Mr. Ivriniel’s best friends was working in the factory at the time.

      I don’t know if anyone else makes the same pattern.

  21. 21
    Ivriniel says:

    I just made some blueberry jam for the first time as well. However, I used Bernardin no sugar needed pectin and the recipe in the box, because my father-in-law is a blueberry-loving diabetic who is terrible at watching his sugar.

    http://www.bernardin.ca/pages/product_page/47.php?pid=10

    The box gave the choice of using either apple or grape juice, and I used grape because I thought it would work colourwise. I wouldn’t recommend it. The jam ended up tasting more like grape that blueberry.

  22. 22
    Lisa says:

    Wow………so many versions of “canning” lol. It should be more simple one would think. I’m fairly new to canning (water-bath) myself. My grandmother canned for years when I was way to young to learn so I’m teaching myself. Having fun but it’s hard to read so many different views on safety and preservation and try to make the right choices. I’m trying to make jams and jellies and my first attempt with a blueberry & cherry preserve from a book “Preserving The Harvest” was a bomb. It called for 3c. each of cherries & blueberries, 4&1/2 c. sugar, lemon zest & nutmeg. Instead of giving me a “time” to cook on the stove before canning, it said I needed to reach 220*F on a candy thermometer. So I did……..it took awhile but then later when it cooled (after being canned)……..it was way too sweet and very, very stiff in texture. You could probably slice the stuff lol. Maybe using pectin will alleviates the need for a thermometer??? Want to try another jam recipe but not sure which type of “test” is best when making a jam or jelly for the “set” stage and not waste alot of money practicing. Do very many of you “experienced canners” use a themometer or simply use a pectin??? thanks for any advice……..

  23. 23
    Diane says:

    I have never once been able to get the thermometer up to 220 degrees, without having the jam either turn out too stiff or discolored from, what I think of as, too much cooking. The most I have ever reached comfortably is 210 degrees. And, my jam has never ‘sheeted’ off the spoon. The only test that has ever worked for me is mounding the jam on the cold plate out of the freezer and running your finger through it to make sure it stays separated. What do you think are the reasons for the first two tests not working for me? Tks/A

    • 23.1
      Marisa says:

      Diane, unless you live very high up in the mountains, your thermometer is giving you a bad reading. Because there’s no way for the jam to boil and only be at 210 degrees. Have you tried calibrating it by inserting it in a pot of boiling water? It should read 212 degrees when you do that. If it doesn’t, it’s not accurate.

  24. 24

    […] pretty new to the canning world, but it’s growing on me fast. I’ve been playing around with different jams, and there […]

  25. 25
    Kathleen says:

    The recipe under Todd’s lovely photos says 4 cups of sugar, but the recipe in the index says 6 cups… kind of a big difference. I know sugar helps with preservation, so is 6 the right amount?

    Thanks.

    • 25.1
      Marisa says:

      The recipe that Todd used is from my cookbook. I tweaked many of the recipes when they transitioned from the blog to the book. Use whichever one you prefer, they both work.

  26. 26
    Kathleen says:

    Oh, I have another question. I don’t have any liquid pectin… Have you ever made this with powdered?

    Thank you.

  27. 27
    Kathleen says:

    Thanks! Made a batch this afternoon — looks fantastic, and from licking the utensils, it’s going to taste divine!

  28. 28
    Applesauce says:

    […] I mean, jams and jellies are great to eat, but it’s a lot of work (although definitely worth it) for something that only impresses your friends once and you can get for like a dollar at the […]

  29. 29

    […] flour, and I ground it myself from spelt berries. The jam was the blueberry jam I made for the Food in Jars post I did last year when I learned canning for the first time. The pancetta was a gift from one of […]

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