So my first water bath canning experience happened the summer after my junior year of college. We rented a house with a double lot that had some garden boxes in it. I thought to myself, well I am just going to plant something in there and so I did. I planted bush beans, bell peppers, and pickling cucumbers. As I now know, in Portland these are crops (the peppers and cucumbers specifically) that will do well some years and suffer others. And on occasion, just sometimes, they can be prolific. Now, the peppers did nothing, they just got all bushy and made a couple of sad little fruits. But the pickling cucumbers took over half the back yard that year. Since I had planted the pickling cucumbers with the hopes of making pickles, I had no choice but to set out on my pickling journey.
That journey was not all lollipops and rainbows and for the record, I HATED IT! After that summer I abandoned water bath canning and did not look back. It might have been because I was a 21 year old college student with “more exciting” things to do, or it might have been that Portland was crazy hot that summer, hence the pickling cucumbers doing so well and I was hulled up in a make shift kitchen boiling pickles all day, but either way, it sucked! **As an aside, I am not kidding about the kitchen, it was a square with a stove and a refrigerator. No cupboards, counters, nothing. And there as an alcove with a sink in it. Worst part, it was huge, just one empty square!
Anyhow, the worst part was that the pickles did not turn out, I made quart after quart and they were all mush. Ha! But I have finally come full circle. I have sent away my distaste for the water bath canner, vowed only to make fermented crunch pickles, and started canning things that should be canned, like blueberries (super excited for chutneys and salsas later this summer).
This recipe was very easy and took no time at all. The result was a super simple blueberry jam that tastes awesome with crunchy peanuts butter. I think this is a great blank slate for you to add your favorite flavors to.
Small Batch Blueberry Jam. Makes 12 half pint jars.
3 quarts of ripe organic blueberries, the fresher the better
4 cups of sugar
the juice of one large, ripe organic orange
2 packets of liquid pectin (6 oz total)
Mash berries until they are smooth (using an immersion blender here is very helpful). Place berries in an 8 quart stock pot with 4 cups of sugar. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir frequently to avoid burning and ensure the sugar is fully dissolved into the berries. When the mixture boils add the orange juice. Boil for 20-25 minutes, stirring frequently.
The mixture will cook down and thicken during the boiling process. It will turn glossy and dark in color. At the end of the boil, add the liquid pectin. Return mixture to a boil and maintain a full boil for 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently. Using a spoon or spatula check for thickening of the liquid. You are looking for the liquid to hold onto the spoon when you pull it from the pot. If the liquid easily slides off the spoon, continue to boil. Once the liquid holds on with a sheet like consistency, you are ready to put it in your jars.
**Follow jar/canner preparation below. Fill jars, leaving appropriate head space. Clean rims and add lids and bands. Place jars in water bath canner. When water returns to a boil start your timer for 10 minutes. Remove jars (if using Tattler lids, finger tighten your rings), and allow to cool for 24 hours. Check seals and you are done.
Clean jars, lids and bands in hot soapy water (if using regular canning lids also clean your lid lifter). Place bands aside. Place lids into a sauce pan and simmer to keep warm. Place jars in your canner and fill with water to 1-2 inches above the jars. Bring pot to a boil. When you are ready to can, remove jars from hot water with a jar lifter, pouring water back into the canner. Prepare jars and place them back in canner. Add or remove water as needed to maintain 1-2 inches of water above the jars.