SoBo Mama's Tips & Tricks











{November 24, 2012}   An Explosion of Flavor

Growing up in Michigan, my great-grandmother had a farm with berries, beans, and I don’t even know what all else.  Summertime meant trips to Grandma Z’s to pick whatever was in season.  And pick.  And pick.  Tipping and tailing green beans is not the way a pre-teen wants to spend her free time, but I realize now those were invaluable lessons.  I’m not going to jump up and down in excitement over a day in the summer sun in someone’s garden, but I can do it.  I’m not afraid of hard work.

The monkeys have not had this experience.  Berries and popcorn come from the grocery, not from Grandma Z’s acreage.  Tomatoes are picked by someone else and bought at the Farmer’s Market.  They live in a world of instant gratification.  And I think it’s time to change that.

My cheertastic friend Peggy and I took the monkeys to a Pick-Your-Own farm back in June.  Blueberries ripen early in Louisiana and I wanted them to have a taste of my childhood.

Not the greatest plan ever.

We got a later start than I had wanted and it was hot as Hades.  After barely covering the bottom of a berry bucket, Monkey 1 decided it was time for a break.  Monkey 2 kept telling me how hot and tired she was.  I had sweat in crevices I didn’t know existed, but I was going to tough it out and show them.

We ended up with about 5 pounds of blueberries by the time we gave up for the afternoon.  Blueberries and three lemonades cost me about $7 and lunch at Pepe’s.  I consoled myself with the idea that it would have been so much more expensive at the grocery.

That weekend, my little family would be heading to Michigan, so I stuck the bag of berries in the freezer, with the idea I’d use them for something later in the summer.

Fast forward 5 months.

I’ve been doing some cleaning and reorganizing and those blueberries are taking up real estate.  Yesterday I had made some jelly and I started thinking – why couldn’t I use the blueberries for jelly?  My canning cookbook did not have a very doable blueberry recipe, so I’d have to get creative.

Have you ever heard of Champagne Blush jelly?  Here is a link if you’re interested: http://www.freshpreserving.com/recipe.aspx?r=193. Yum.  It calls for bottle raspberry juice, but why couldn’t I use blueberry juice?

Um, how do you get blueberry juice?

My five pounds of blue yummy came out of the freezer to thaw.  I dumped the entire mess into a colander in a big mixing bowl and started sorting.

Instead of using a potato masher, why not process in a blender?

I understand that you can squish the heck out of berries with a potato masher.  I’m a little lazier than that so I busted out the blender.  Then I cut a pair of panty hose and pulled them across a mixing bowl to strain the pretty purple juice for the jelly.

Except the hose had a hole in the toe.

So my smushed berries mixed back in with the juice.

And I decided it would be ok.

This is the modified recipe I used:

  • 3 cups blueberry juice – or, if your straining backfires, mush
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons pectin
  • 1 1/4 cup champagneEnglish: Making blueberry jam. Blueberries (wi...

I combined my mush, lemon juice, and pectin, stirring constantly, and bringing to a boil.  After it reached a hard boil, I added the sugar.  Return to a boil.  After the concoction has been at a hard boil for one minute, remove from heat and stir in the champagne.  Skim any foam – the air bubbles are bacteria magnets.  Fill your jars and process in a Waterbath canner for 10 minutes.

The original recipe says it will make 6 half-pint jars, but with my mush, I ended up with 7.  Also, when blueberry mush starts to boil, it spatters.  Everywhere.  My kitchen currently resembles a crime scene.

Blueberry spatter is all over my stove, microwave, and walls – but boy, does this mess taste good!

And when DH came in from the woods, he asked me “Did you have some trouble with the blueberries?”

Wisacre.

I’m a rule-follower from way back, so modifying a jelly recipe is a little out of the norm for me.  I’m excited about the outcome, though!  The berries were not super-sweet Michigan berries, but the champagne really brings the flavor out.  I already have visions of serving this with cream cheese and crackers at my next Bunco.

Again, I had all of the stuff I needed on-hand so no extra out-of-pocket expense – yay, me!  And I’m using up stuff that has been taking up space.  With these 7 jars, I’m thinking it was under $1/jar, but there is a reason I teach ELA and not math!

Do you ever experiment with jelly recipes?

~ Katie

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