Loving This Process…

The process I used making blackberry jam, the other day, that is. It works equally well on blueberry. Much better, in fact, than the process I used last year. My set’s are turning out awesome, if not even too much. Probably will start cutting back the pectin which I have been overdoing based on my previous “way of doing things”.

So the major difference is in the heat times and order of operations. Before, I was adding the pectin and a little sugar early, then getting to a boil, then adding the rest of the sugar, bringing back to a boil and keeping there for 1 minute. Sets have been almost there, but I can’t say I ever had one well set – and I was increasing the pectin by half to three-quarters. I was blaming it in my mind on the low quantity of sugar, but I think that does not truly explain it now. Not to mention that I always seemed to have a bunch of foam at the end, which is not tragic, but a bit of a pain.

The new process is to start the fruit to boil, then add the bulk of the sugar, and heat until boiling and thickened. Usually the foam is copious here, but it dies down later. Once it is thickened a bit (couple minutes?), I am adding the pectin with little bit of sugar and bringing back to a boil; it usually doesn’t even stop, actually. Following that, I boil for 5 minutes (stirring!). And so far the sets are wonderful and the foam at the end is almost non-existent.

Blueberry Jam/Preserves

I am getting ahead of myself! This morning, I began on my two batches of blueberry jam/preserves. The first was “plain”, and as mentioned, I decided to go with the “new” process, rather than the one used last year (and earlier this year). I continued with the same ingredients, basically – well, sort of, as I didn’t make “plain” blueberry jam last year. Anyway…

Canning The "Plain" Blueberry

Canning The “Plain” Blueberry

My first batch was “plain”. As a change from last year, I blended half of the berries with a half-cup of water and a tbsp. of lemon juice. The other half were cut in halves. All of the berries (3.5 pounds) were then put into the cooking pan and heated to a simmer. Once the simmer was reached, the bulk of the sugar  (4.25 cups) was stirred in. I brought this to a full boil, and kept it there while the batch thickened a bit. Then I added 1.5 packages of pectin (normal, powdered) mixed in a 1/4 cup of sugar. It stayed at a boil, and I held it there for 5 minutes.

I then jarred (10 full 8 ounce jars). It seems to me that I may have overdone it in the “less big pieces” department, as compared to last year. Which I addressed in the next batch. Canning was a cinch, with all jars given ~7 minutes (or just a tad more) in the boiling water. I tested just a bit ago and the set was very firm. Flavor was good, too; not too sweet, but tasty and definitely blueberry.

Well, since I wasn’t quite as thrilled by the blending of half the berries, on the second batch I only blended 1 pound (a little less than a third of the berries). Also, the other berries were simply smashed with a potato masher. While I couldn’t guarantee that all berries would get crushed that way, the end product seems perfectly fine, and it was certainly quicker. Plus, easier to have the younger kids smash berries than trust them with sharp knives and tiny berries…

In any case, everything else was the same, with the exception of the addition of a 1/2 cup of basil leaves added to the blending: same amount of water (1/2 cup), same sugar (4.25 and .25 cups), same lemon juice (1 tbsp.), same pectin (1.5 packages) and same amount of total berries (3.5 pounds). Process was exactly the same as above, and the set and flavor, also tested just now, was great. And this batch produced just a hair shy of 10 full jars, as well.

But that was not the end of the day!

Blueberry and Blackberry Wine

Tonight it was time to pitch the yeast for the blueberry wine. I rehydrated 1 packet of Montrachet yeast, and while it waited its fifteen minutes, set myself to racking the blackberry wine to a carboy for secondary fermentation.

Before racking, I checked SG, a low 0.993. Racking was simple enough, but took a little longer than the fifteen minutes. I got it all done, and the air-lock on top. I rinsed the hydrometer with distilled water and then tested the blueberry wine. It’s starting gravity is 1.095. That should be fun! In any case, I pitched the yeast, stirred to incorporate oxygen, and topped with the air-locked lid.

L to R: Blueberry, Blackberry, Peach, Russian Stout, Plum

L to R: Blueberry, Blackberry, Peach, Russian Stout, Plum

More?

Jenna has been asking all afternoon if we can make another jam or jelly. She really likes to help cook, and I’ve enjoyed showing her how things are done. I do have some muscadines in the freezer that I still haven’t gotten to, but it won’t be tomorrow. She and I both have a martial arts seminar, and I have my first of 6 (minimum) black belt tests. Not even sure we can get to it this week, or next.

I’m glad she is enjoying it so much, though!

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