It’s Two For Tuesdays! Fasten your seatbelts, and come along for the ride!
Opening day at the Blueberry Farm…
A gorgeous Saturday afternoon…
Some of the most important people in my life…
…and amazing, luscious, ripe to perfection Blueberries.
With enough mostly non-whiney helping hands – in short order:
(Okay, so we picked more than blueberries… we got some Coho Raspberries, and Marionberries, too.)
But this post is all about the Blueberries.
Do you ever start out on a project – full steam ahead – plowing forward and then mid-project realize, “Umm… I’m out of…” Yeah – you probably don’t. But – in real life – in MY real life – it happens all the time. You’d think I’d figure out a system to keep this from happening. But I guess if I did, half of my adventures just wouldn’t happen, would they?!
I digress – back to the topic at hand!
Do you have a juicer/steamer?
‘Cause you NEED one. Not even just want one. Seriously – this is a need thing.
The possibilities are endless, mind-blowing, and fantastic.
Know all that excess straggler produce from your garden toward the end of the summer and early fall? Steam the veggies and make vegetable stock for your soup making during the winter! Make your own fruit juices. I make an amazing pomodoro tomato sauce with it. Seriously – it’s the right thing to do. Start right now by watching the canning section of every store that carries anything canning related. Watch the extra percentage off coupons. My $170-ish steamer/juicer cost me about $40 with an end of the season sale and percentage off coupons. How could I NOT buy it?!
Okay – tangent done…. on to Blueberries.
I traditionally make blueberry jelly and blueberry syrup most summers. (Last summer, not so much since I was too sick.) I also really, really, really want to have some picked in the morning, sorted, washed, allowed to air dry, and then frozen and stashed away for baking all year long blueberries, too. There is just something so right about blueberries at their peak of freshness.
When I make the blueberry jelly and syrup, I rely on my juicer/steamer. It’s a total breeze.
First, you fill the base with water:
Then you add the collection portion:
…and the steamer basket:
And finally, the berries and the lid:
That took all of about three minutes.
Next, you set the heat on the eye on high, and let the juicer do it’s thing. It takes about 80 minutes. And for this hopper full of fruit – I got about a gallon of blueberry juice. (It would have been more if it hadn’t been for that pesky little spill I had – but thankfully, maybe only 1/2 a cup or so lost.)
Here’s what the fruit looks like when it’s spent:
My chickens love the spent fruit!
While the fruit is steaming, I typically get my jars and lids sterilizing, my canning supplies all lined up, and take inventory of the ingredients I need… sugar – check. pectin… um…. pectin…. STINK! I’m out of pectin! And we’re broke! UGH!
So decisions need to be made here.
Freeze the juice and jelly at another time?
Think outside the box.
You know I’m an outside the box girl, don’t you?! 🙂
So, I pulled out Grammy’s old cookbook:
Read up on the old school methods of jelly making, and then checked out a couple other resources.
I mean – did they have pectin in Little House on the Prairie? Surely you don’t HAVE to have pectin, do you?
Well – as I found out – it depends on which fruit you’re working with – and fortunately enough for me – blueberries is one of the fruits that it’s easier to get away without it. And pectin – while lovely and convenient – doesn’t necessarily have to be a factor. It just takes a little more time, and attention to detail to do it without the pectin.
What I learned:
One to one ratio with sugar if you’re using a concentrated fruit juice (like I got from my juicer/steamer) – although it’s okay to go slightly less than 1 cup with the sugar. So I had 16 cups of juice, and 16 cups of sugar.
You need a GOOD and LARGE pan to boil the juice/sugar solution in. I used my All Clad 20 quart stockpot. I love that thing!
You need a little patience. This is gonna need at least 30 minutes to boil at about 200 F.
Having a good quality candy thermometer sure as heck is a nice thing to have on hand!
I decided I could do this with the supplies I had on hand and forged ahead!
I combined the blueberry juice and the sugar, put the heat to high, and stirred until the sugar was completely dissolved. It took longer than I thought it would to get it to boil and the 200 F mark. But once it got there, and I got the heat adjusted to just the right spot to keep it there, it was just a matter of setting a 30 minute timer and letting it boil away.
Can I just tell you how nice it is to have a nice deep large pot with a solid base on it that makes this sort of task no problem whatsoever?! No worries of boil overs. No worries about splatter – see below – it’s all splattered inside the pot – just where it ought to.
I was actually pretty thrilled that in pretty short order I started to see the mixture begin to form a gel!
In no time I was filling canning jars with jelly, processing them in the boiling water bath, and getting them tucked away into the pantry.
I will confess – we ate so many blueberries that there weren’t enough for syrup quite yet. But we’ll get around to it before the Blueberry season ends. Promise.
Other things we got done that day:
Coho Raspberry Syrup
All in all – a lovely – and very productive day!