Saturday, June 14, 2014

One Berry, Two Berry, Pick Me a...

Berry picking time is one of my favorite times of the year. In Kansas I remember picking wild mulberries that grew in our backyard. Their tartness made my mouth pucker! Now that I live in Florida, my favorite berries to pick are blueberries! This past Friday I took my two youngest kiddos along and headed out with friends to the local berry patch for some serious blueberry hunting.
Yummy berries!
We were up by 6:00 and ready to go. We reached the berry farm by 7:30. Cloudy and cool, with drops of dew scattering the light around, we were treated to a comfortable and cool experience. I could hear the excited calls of the younger children who joined our expedition as they hunted their berries down, buckets tied at their waists.

Rocking the bucket look
 The morning was deliciously cool, such that isn't frequently seen in Florida in June, and I was deeply grateful for it.
Filling it up!

 Savoring the time, I slowly gathered the berries. Eventually both kiddos decided they had gathered enough. The sun was breaking through, and it was time to head back home to our studies. I finished picking just a few more and headed for the scales.
All in all, we picked only about six pounds, a far cry from my girlfriend's 21.5 pounds, but still plenty for what I had planned to do with them... JAM!

We returned home with our treasure and rejoined reality for the rest of the day. Then this morning I woke up extra early to begin the jam making process.

I remember making jam only a few times with my mother when I was a girl. Then in 8th grade my Home Ec teacher showed our class how to make grape jelly. I loved it! When we moved out to Florida, I decided it was time to start canning again, and in that spirit I gamely tackled both strawberry and blueberry jam. Each time I made a batch I learned more about canning, which eventually brought me to this morning.

With everyone else still tucked up in bed, I quietly assembled the necessary supplies. When I first started canning, I did it without any special supplies, but it didn't take long before I saw the wisdom in investing in an inexpensive canning set to preserve singed fingers.
Freshly Picked Berries Waiting for a Bath!

 I set the berries to wash in a bath and then laid them out to dry on paper towels.

Jars on the bottom
 While the berries dried I prepared the jars, seals, and lids. I don't have a special canning pot, so I utilize my large stock pot with the pasta insert and steamer basket.
Lids and seals on top!

As the jars started to boil, I began to work on the jam. I gathered up the berries, sugar (oh, so much sugar!), butter (to control foaming), lemon juice, and pectin.

By the time the household began to stir, I had jam bubbling on the stove and was almost ready to begin filling the jars.

Berries and sugar... YUM!
I did a double batch. By 10:30 in the morning all the jars were completed and the kitchen cleaned up.
Jars of Florida Sunshine and Sweetness!
I've got quite a few jars, and I'm looking forward to having jam to last for the year and to give as gifts.

If you want to make your own blueberry jam, now's a good time to pick up berries at the grocery if you aren't near an orchard. Here's my favorite recipe:

Blueberry Preserves

7 cups whole blueberries, washed
5 cups sugar (yes, 5 CUPS)
2 T lemon juice
1/2 t. butter
1 package liquid pectin (I like Certo)

Boil all of the jars and lids, being certain to leave them in the hot water until you are ready to use them.

Bring all of the ingredients to a full rolling boil and then make certain you stir the mixture constantly. When the boil can't be stirred down any longer, add one package of the liquid pectin. Keep stirring. When it reaches a full boil again, boil for one minute longer. Remove from the heat.

Take one jar at a time out of the hot water and ladle it into hot jars and seal them. Check to make certain they seal properly. If they don't, no sweat, just transfer the jar to the fridge and make certain you consume it first! As you pull the jars from your pantry to consume throughout the year, be certain to visually examine them to ascertain that the seal is still intact. And enjoy!
Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
Psalm 34:8, NIV

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