Canning and preserving your own food can be a bit intimidating. There’s a lot to learn if you have never done any canning before. There are tools to purchase and books to read. There are hot, boiling canners and steam filled pressure canners. If it all seems a little much, start small with one of summer’s yummiest treats.
The very first thing to do is to get a copy of the Ball Blue Book or a similar canning instruction book. It will provide precise recipes for many different foods as well as tutorials on the canning basics. Follow the directions given in these books. Make sure your book is up to date as well, as the directions for some foods (especially tomatoes) have changed over the years. If you are going to put good food and precious time into jars, you want the results to be safe and delicious. My goal in this post is to show you some of the basics and encourage you to try to preserve your own food. It is not necessarily everything you need to know. Again, get the Ball Blue Book and study it so that you will be knowledgeable and safe.
Canning blueberry jam starts with lots of blueberries and a willing helper with a potato masher. Let her crush the berries while you go about your work. She’ll have a blast and feel so great when she eats some of the jam, knowing she played a part.
Next, you get to add insane amounts of sugar to the crushed berries and stir them up.
Slowly, bring the berries and sugar to a boil. I like to do all the prep-work ahead of time and save this hot work until after the kids are safely in bed. Canning isn’t as scary as it might seem to someone who as never done it, but it is a hot job that is best done when the kids are not running through the kitchen. If you must can during the day, put up your baby gates in the kitchen door to protect yourself and the kids from spills.
Set out your tools. Be sure they are clean. I always re-wash my tools and jars before use just to be sure.
I stick 7 or 8 spoons in the freezer before I get started to use in testing the jam. You have reached the jelling point when the jam coats the cold spoon (I drop some jam onto the spoon from the spoon I’m stirring with) and runs off in one long “sheet” instead of runny little drips.
Now, you are ready to fill your clean, hot jars. I use a canning funnel, a large plate for catching drips and a glass measuring cup.
Wipe the rim of the jar with a clean cloth (I use a paper towel that is slightly wet). Be sure that any stray jam is removed or it could interfere with the sealing of the lid.
Add your lid and the band to hold it in place. I find that a kitchen towel works well when I am tightening the lid. Those lids and jars are hot!
Carefully place your jars of jam into a boiling water bath canner. Process the jam according to directions. For this jam, you start the timer when the water begins to boil well. Read, read, read the instructions. Then, read them again just to be sure.
Remove the jars carefully and place them on a towel to cool. You will hear each jar’s pop that signals a tight seal of the lid. Do not remove the bands for at least 24 hours, as you want to give the jars adequate time to cool so the seal will not be damaged.
Enjoy the most wonderful, amazing tasting jam ever. Share it with the people you love. Be sure to save a jar back for when the late February blues hit. There is nothing like a little taste of summer on a cold winter day to make you and your family smile.