Blueberry Balsamic Black Pepper Jam

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Red, White, and Blueberry!   Happy Fourth of July!

As promised, the jam I made last week is here for you to see.  The recipe could easily be titled 3B Jam!  Although most of my small batch preserving goes into the refrigerator for safe keeping, I acutally put these jars into a traditional hot water bath for 10 minutes, sealing them nicely for storage on my pantry shelf.  A number of ways to set up water bath canning make it easy for anyone to do.  If you have a stock pot with a circular rack that fits the bottom and a fitted lid, that will work.  There are canning sets available from multiple sources, for prices that range from $ to $$$.  Let me give you the short version!  You can go online and order a large blue granite (enameled) pot with handled rack which handles all sizes of jars) to be picked up onsite at Walmart for $19.99.  Or, if you have a stockpot already, go to Sur le Tables and buy only the rack for $11.99.  I liked this option because 1)I don’t need another big pot to store – 2) this rack has 2 sides:  one holds 7 8 or 16 oz. canning jars, flip it and the other side will hold 4 quart jars.  This is perfect for most of the smaller amounts that I usually have when I make jam or jelly.

Recipe adapted from one found at www.coconutandlime.com

Blueberry, Balsamic and Black Pepper Jam

8-10 cups fresh blueberries

4 1/2 cups sugar

1 box Certo liquid pectin, both packets

1 tablespoon black pepper

 

Equipment:

7-8 8 ounce Mason jars, or other glass canning jars.  Avoid using recycled food jars.

Lids and Rings to fit jar size you are using.  Always buy new lids if you are going to seal them in a water bath for shelf storage.

large stockpot for water bath

separate pot for cooking berries

large bowl for mashing berries

potato masher

long-handled wooden spoon

ladle

wide mouth funnel for filling jars

Wide tongs for lifting jars out of water bath. (these can also be bought where other canning supplies are sold)

Pour the berries into a bowl and mash with a potato masher. A blender or food processor will overdo the crushing, so just muster up the elbow grease for this job. It is almost as good therapy as kneading bread!  Measure it out. There should be about 6 cups of mashed berries. Add sugar and blueberries to a large pot.  It is a good idea to have a pot big enough for berries to only fill about 1/3 full, as ingredients will tend to boil over in smaller pot.

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If you are using a water bath, fill the large stockpot to a level that would be 1 or 2 inches above jars when placed on rack. Start heating to a boil.  This takes a long time.

Prep jars/lids for canning. I like to put all into the dishwasher and run a sanitize cycle, then place the jars upright while still hot on a towel. Lids should be put into a bowl covered with very hot water.

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Stirring occasionally with a long-handled wooden spoon, bring the sugar and blueberries to a boil. Boil for about 10-15 minutes. Stir in the pectin. Continue cooking at a low (rolling) boil for 5 minutes. Stir in the vinegar and pepper. Fill the jars, wiping off lids and threads. Place lids on top and screw on rings. When stock pot water is boiling, lower the jars to rack and process in the hot water bath for 10 minutes. Remove the jars carefully, setting them upright on a towel very gently. Leave overnight, during which time you may hear the popping of lids as they seal.  In the morning, press down on the center of each lid. If the lid pops back up, it did not seal, and that jar should be refrigerated for storage.  Tighten screw rings again, wipe off any sticky on the jars, and label if you wish.

Yield: about 7 8-oz jars

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Note: A good source of canning information is the Blue Book guide to preserving. There is also good information on the information sheets packed inside Certo boxes. 

Figs Any Way You Like Them

This will be remembered as the summer we fell in love with figs!  My post last week illustrates how much we loved making a grilled pizza with them, but it seemed a shame to overlook some of the other ways I used them.  Having them sliced with some Greek  yogurt and honey as a simple back porch breakfast doesn’t need a recipe, but oh my, we certainly considered it a keeper!

I have made two batches of Fig Chutney!  This is wonderful on a grilled burger, or spread on a block of good cream cheese for serving with whole grain crackers or toast as a snack or appetizer.


A week of rain with its resulting drop in temperature has been so very welcome. However, it means that our fig tree has delayed ripening the few remaining figs. I enjoyed picking over a quart twice a day, and am glad I dried some figs at the peak of harvest. This is probably easier if you have a food dehydrator, but it worked pretty well in my convection oven. Aren’t the figs pretty, all lined up? The best part is they retain their moisture and wonderful flavor.

Making Dried Figs

A pound of fresh figs, or more as you like.

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Wash figs gently in cool water. Drain, and roll in clean tea towel to blot dry. Trim any stems, and cut each fig in half lengthwise. Using a baking sheet with a rim, place figs cut side down in a single layer, but touching, so there is not space around them. Place pan in oven for one hour.

After one hour, turn the figs over. There will be some juice in the pan which you can rub the cut side in as you turn them, so they are coated in their juice. Put back into the oven and bake another hour. I like to set my oven timer so I don’t forget. Repeat this step as often as needed until the figs are wrinkly and sticky. Usually, one more hour (3 total) is about right. at this point, reduce to heat to 200 and keep checking until the liquid is used up and the figs become more solid. In about 30 minutes the figs will have the texture you expect in dried figs. Turn the oven off, and let them cool with the oven door shut.

Remove the cooled figs and store in a Ziploc bag in the refrigerator.

Ways to use them? Stuff with roasted walnuts or almonds and serve with wine and cheese, or use them in any recipe calling for dried figs.

Strawberry Jam with Rosemary and Black Pepper

Maddie and Skye went out to Froberg Farms and helped me pick strawberries last year.  They were best eaten immediately, but of course we picked way more than we immediately used, so several pint bags went into the freezer.  This morning I decided to make preserves with them, because Joe likes strawberry preserves.  He always says his mother made wonderful strawberry preserves.  This time I didn’t even try to make them like she did.  I picked several sprigs of fresh rosemary from my herb garden to chop finely, ground black pepper on top, and the lemon and small amount of sugar were all that was needed more than all my frozen strawberries  As they bubble in the pot (2 pots, actually as I had 8 pints of berries), I wish the little girls were here to help me stir.

  • 4 pints fresh (best) strawberries – I used frozen this time 
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 Tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  •  Juice of 1 large or 2 small lemons
  • 1 teaspoon freshly chopped rosemary

Put all ingredients in soup pot or Dutch oven,  and stir to combine. Bring to a boil. Then lower heat toand simmer about 30 minutes. Cook until thickened. Pour into pint jars and refrigerate for up to two weeks.  Wonderful on waffles or as a spread for toast or scones.  Also good on Blue Bell ice cream!.