When it comes to canning, blueberries were my gateway fruit (although they didn’t usher me through the doorway into the realm of canning preoccupation until I reached adulthood). Growing up, I’d often pick them with my family, but I always left the jam-making and canning to my mom, participating only when it came time to squish the berries into jammable shape with my fingers (there’s something so deeply satisfying about crushing those juicy little blue orbs into pulpy bits).
However, one fateful July day during the summer of 2007, my friend Seth and I decided to go blueberry picking and everything changed. That summer, I was in grad school and he was unemployed, so we both had free time on our hands. It was the first time I had gone berry picking without parents, a sibling or babysitting charges that needed to be entertained. We spent at least two hours out in the blueberry field, filling up our buckets and eating until our fingers were stained blue and our stomachs were ready to burst with fruit.
Later that day, when I was home alone with my berries, I did the thing that was innate. I called my mom for canning advice, ran across the street to the hardware store for some jars and pectin and made my first solo batch of jam. Thinking back on it now, it’s hard to imagine a time when I had so little canning experience, when I hovered anxiously over my filled jars, praying for them to seal (admittedly, there are times when I still check and recheck freshly processed jars, only able to relax when they ring out a ping of sealed success).
Since then, I have made at least 100 batches of jams, marmalades, fruit butters, chutneys and pickles. However, blueberry jam will always feel familiar, foundational and necessary in a way that no other fruit can match. Summer doesn’t feel complete without at least one blueberry picking trip and a batch of homemade blueberry jam cooling on the kitchen counter.
We’re heading into the end of blueberry picking season here in the mid-Atlantic region, but there are still to be found if you look (as a side note, if you’re interested in the history of cultivated blueberries, check out this interesting little article). You can also get them at the grocery store for relatively cheap prices, if you don’t have any u-pick farms in your area.
And on to the recipe…
- 6 cups of smashed blueberries (you’ll need 8-10 cups of unsquashed berries to equal this amount)
- 4 cups sugar
- 3 tablespoons classic pectin powder
- zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- Prepare a canning pot and 3 pint jars. Place 3 lids in a small saucepan and bring to a bare simmer.
- Pour the smashed berries into a low, wide, non-reactive pot. Measure out the sugar and whisk in the powdered pectin. Add the sugar and pectin mixture to the fruit and stir to combine.
- Once the sugar is mostly dissolved, place the pot on the stove and bring to a boil. Cook at a controlled boil for 10 to 15 minutes, until the fruit begins to look thick and any foaming has begun to subside.
- Add cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon zest and juice and let jam continue to cook until it passes the plate test, or until the drips hang off the spatula in thick, sticky rivulets.
- Remove jam from heat and funnel into prepared jars. Wipe rims, apply lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes.
- When time is up, remove jars from canner and place them on a folded kitchen towel to cool.
- Once jars are cool enough to handle, remove rings and test seals.
- Sealed jars can be stored on the pantry shelf for up to one year. Any unsealed jars should be refrigerated and used promptly.
Eat atop fresh scones or biscuits for maximum enjoyment.