Black and blue

This grasshopper feels like a regular ant these days with green beans, sweet corn and enough blackberries in the freezer for two more batches of that heavenly blackberry-whiskey jam.

The blackberries are passing their peak, and the blueberries have slowed down. But we had enough for a couple of blueberry crumb pies while our baby girl was here (she’s gone back to Pennsylvania — sniff!) and one batch of blueberry preserves today.

Earlier this summer I made two batches of strawberry preserves, but now I have the keys to the kingdom — I know how to tell when my jam (without pectin added) will jell. (Remember our little trick of chilling a small plate in the freezer, spooning a bit of jam on it when you think it’s cooked long enough to see if your finger will leave a track that stays through the little puddle of yum?) I’m feeling so cocky I may stop at the Pecan Park farmers’ market tomorrow afternoon and see if the St. Clairs have any of their wonderful peaches for a peach-amaretto spread.

The blueberry preserves recipe I started with — I may modify it if I get any more berries — calls for 6 cups beautifully fresh and clean berries, 3-1/2 cups sugar, 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice and 2 teaspoons lemon rind to which you might add either 1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon and 3/4 teaspoon nutmeg or 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves and 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice (this is the way I made it this afternoon and it’s really Christmasy!).

Cook this mixture for 20 minutes or until it passes the jam test above. Mine actually jelled in 20 minutes today!

Follow your basic drill for safely canning preserves, including a 10-minute water bath. This recipe fills 6 quarter-pint jars.

If you haven’t tried any jam or preserves or pickle relish or chutney this summer, you need to get cracking. The secret to confidence is to do a small, manageable batch every day or every other day.

If you start with a project that’s overwhelming, you’ll never try it again. I’m so happy with my six squashed-looking little jars, resting on the counter, I can’t wait to try the next fruit in season. That may be tomatoes — they’re piling up in alarming numbers.

 

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