Freezing and Jamming with Blueberries

We could be considered odd for this, but we only can food at night. It’s hot, sweaty, steamy work and doing it in the heat of a Maine August day is silly to us. So we wait til about 9 pm, a while after the sun has gone down, and the heat of the day has dissipated. Only then do we turn the water on.

For today, I am going to talk about freezing blueberries and making regular blueberry jam, which we did last night. And will be doing again tonight. Tomorrow we will be taking a beak from regular blueberry stuff, but more on that in a little bit.

So, on the subject of freezing berries, I am a bit of an expert. I am not even bragging. Mr. Gillis and I have got this down to a science. We are serious about keeping our harvests until the next harvest. Our deep freezer is full of this years strawberries and raspberries already. So time to throw some blueberries  in there as well.

For freezing berries for ease of use later, you need a few things other than clean berries.

  • Cookie sheets
  • Freezer paper
  • Bags
  • (Look Ma, I learned how to use bullets!)

We use a food saver so we can get the bags airtight and sealed properly. We both believe this has been a hugely beneficial investment. We freeze and save so much food and this machine really cuts down on any freezer burn.

So, get your cookie sheets in a row. Grab your freezer paper and cut out your pieces so that they are a little bit larger then the pans.

Since the paper is larger then the sheet, it makes for easier handling later

Now, grab your berries and spread them out. You can put a little bit more then a single layer, because blueberries freeze so well. They are super easy to break apart.

Three cookie sheets full and ready to go into the freezer.

Now find a place in your freezer, and throw them in. They’ll need to be in there  for about 2 to 3 hours in order to be frozen all the way thru.

A look into the depths… I am pretty good at finding more room tho.

This is when we get out our food saver. We make up a rather large bag and put all three trays into it.

This bag will be about 10 inches long

When the berries are completely frozen, take the edges of the freezer paper and pull them towards the middle forming a circle. Put one open end inside your bag, and carefully lift the other side of the bag. If everything is in its place, your berries will just roll on down and into the bag.

It can be a little difficult to get the berries to stay in the paper.
This bag will hold three trays of berries

Then we turn the machine on, and let it do its work. You end up with a bag of frozen berries that you can easily scoop out in smaller portions.

Our giant bag of frozen berries, air sucked out and sealed tight.

Now, repeat. We usually end up with about 8 of these bags.

So, with that done, we move onto making our standard blueberry jam. This is a pretty fool proof recipe, as we use the Official Certo instructions for this one. They are included in every box, and we even keep a copy on our fridge.

For the jam, you’ll need:

  • A full box of Certo (it has two packs inside)
  • 7 cups of sugar
  • 2 TBSP fresh lemon juice – usually one medium lemon
  • 4 and 1/2 cups of crushed blueberries – you’ll need about 8 cups of whole berries to get this.

For tools you’ll need :

  • A large pot
  • A small pot
  • A water bath canner (we use our pressure canner, just without the gauge and weight)
  • A funnel
  • Jars, bands and lids
  • Paper towels
  • A ladle
  • A rubber spatula
  • A metal spoon
  • A jar grabber
  • A medium bowl
  • Immersion blender

To start, you need to fill your canner with enough water to cover your jars. Get that onto your stove top and going so that the water will be boiling when you need it.

Next, take your small pot, fill it with some water and get that on the stovetop as well. This water needs to be nice and hot for the lids to go in. It helps to relax the rubber in the seal which will help the tops pop once they come out of the canner.

The water isnt boiling, more of a hard simmer.

Now is time for some dishes. Get your jars, rims and lids. Wash them all with soap and hot water. Rinse them all really well. Fill one bay of your sink with really hot water. Put your jars and bands in the water so they stay hot while you’re making the jam. Your lids are going to go in the small pot of hot water.

 

Hot jars, patiently awaiting their jam

So now the real fun begins. Grab your bowl and immersion blender. Throw your berries into the bowl. Use the immersion blender to crush the berries and get this juices flowing.

An immersion blender is pretty essential for these types of things.

 

These berries are now blended and ready to become jam

In your large pot, combine 2 TBSP Lemon juice, 4 and 1/2 cups crushed blueberries and 7 cups of sugar. Mix well and turn your stove onto medium/high heat. This mixture needs to be stirred pretty much constantly so it won’t burn. This is where the rubber spatula comes in handy.

Our perfect for blueberry jam measuring cup

 

This is actually 3 lemons worth of juice.
This is the blueberries and lemon juice

 

I swear , there are berries underneath all that sugar
Everything all mixed together. Use the spatula to scrape the sides as you stir.

Open up your packs of Certo so that it will be ready for you when you need it. We put ours in a coffee cup off to the side so it’s close but not in the way.

Our Certo.. and the zucchini bread in the background was a good snack between batches.

Next, grab your paper towels, ladle, funnel and metal spoon. You’ll need at least three paper towels, one wet and two dry.

This is how we setup our canning area. I use another wet paper towel under my jar to give a non slip surface. It also makes cleanup easier.

Now, back to the pot full of sugar and berries. Stir this on a medium/high heat until it gets to a bubbling boil. Once it gets to a hard boil, add in the two packs of Certo. This is will calm down the boil for a minute or two. Keep stirring constantly. Once it gets back to a hard boil, put 1 minute on your timer and stir until it beeps.

I swear, this is at a rolling boil.

Take your jam off the heat and get ready to really work. It is pretty important to get the jam into the jars before it cools to much. Grab your ladle and start filling your jar. Once it is about a half inch from the top, stop. Do not fill your jar to the brim! It will not seal.

The captions on the following pictures explain the process pretty thoroughly.

Here it is! Our first full jar of blueberry jam for the season.

 

Use your wet paper towel to clean the rim of the jar.
Use one of your dry paper towels to dry the rim and the lid before putting it on

 

Cover the jar with the lid, and secure the lid with a band.
This is a Ball tool that helps to secure the band to the right tightness to help ensure your jar seals.

 

The click of the arm lets you know it is at the pefect tightness.

For canning, this Ball tool is SO worth the $10 you’ll spend on it. We have 99% seal rate. It takes the guess work out of it completely. We even got ours on clearance at a Tractor Supply Company.
Now, continue filling your jars, until you’ve scraped your pot clean. We usually end up with 10 or 11 jars. When all your jars are full, cleaned and covered, put them in your canner using your jar grabber. After you’ve got them all in, put the lid on your canner and start a timer for ten minutes. While the canner is doing its thing, this is a good time to lick the spoon.

The real reason people make jam … to clean the pot with their tongues

When the timer goes off, use your jar grabber to get the jars back out. Put them some place where the can be undisturbed for 24 hours.

So that’s it. How we deal with an overabundance of berries.

Whew, what a long post tho. It actually took me two days to write it. I think I will be sticking to one topic posts from now on.  Like my next two posts, which will be off shoots of this one. I have two special blueberry jam recipes, but they are not for the faint of heart. First we will be doing a sweet and spicy Blueberry Serrano Pepper jam and after that a Holiday Spiced Blueberry jam.

So until that time, have a wicked good evening.

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