A bit about us...

We are a modern family of three, living on less than two acres with a 3,000 square foot garden that meets our produce needs and allows us to share with friends and neighbors. Our laying flock of chickens seems to expand each year as we raise chicks each Spring to replace older hens. This blog is more of a journal, if you will, for us to chronicle and share our experiences in the yard, garden and kitchen. It is our hope that along the way a few folks might learn something, be entertained, or simply enjoy sharing in our stories and the lessons we learn on a daily basis. I named the blog after the times when I am the happiest, when I am elbow deep in earth.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Spreading The Love - Blueberry (Wedded) Bliss

I received a call a few weeks ago from a very nice young lady who had purchased some jams and jellies from me (my side "job" as Earthly Grace Preserves) at the farm stand last summer. She thought of me as she was planning her sister's bridal shower. The bride had selected blue and white as her colors, and she hoped I could make some blueberry favors for her to hand out to her guests. We put our heads together and decided on two flavors for the guests to choose from: Blueberry and Blueberry Basil. I offered to include the decoration and labeling to eliminate some work for her as well. Once the details were arranged, I went to work.

Blueberries work up so dark and gooey, they just beg to be gelled into jam or made into a delightful sauce for pancakes or over ice cream (jam can be warmed and served that way as well!).

I am sending along a sample jar of each for her to allow tasting by the guests. This way they can swap with someone if they prefer one flavor over the other.

I had a great time putting these together for her. The young lady who employed me to the task will be picking them up Friday for the party on Saturday. I am eager to hear how the bride liked them and if the guests were pleased or decided on a favorite flavor.

To make blueberry jam:

6 1/2 cups chopped blueberries
1/2 cup water
4 1/2 cups sugar
1 package low sugar/no sugar pectin

9 (or so) half pints

Prepare water bath canner, sterilize jars and lids.  Keep jars hot in canner while you work.

Discard stems and any berries showing signs of drying out or overripeness.  Evenly chop blueberries (not puree) using the pulse function on a blender or food processor.  (I hit the berries with a stick blender in a few spots and then mash them with a potato masher, but I like larger berry chunks in my jam.)

Measure the exact amount of blueberries into a large saucepan  Stir in water.

Measure exact amount of sugar into a separate bowl, reserving 1/4 cup to mix in another bowl with the powdered pectin.

Stir pectin-sugar mix into the berries, mixing well.  Bring the mixture to a full rolling boil (not able to disturb the boil by stirring), stirring constantly.  When it reaches a rolling boil, quickly stir in the remaining sugar.  Return to a full rolling boil for 1 minute, still stirring constantly.

Remove the jam from the heat and skim off any foam that has formed on top. Ladle quickly into prepared jars, leaving 1/8 inch headspace. Thoroughly and carefully wipe the rims of the jars to remove any sticky debris, ensuring the best chance for a proper seal. Place two piece lid on, tightening to fingertip tight.

Place on an elevated rack in the canner and process (water covering jars by AT LEAST one inch, brought to a boil) for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, turn burner off and allow jars to cool in the canner for 5 minutes. Remove and place upright (DO NOT tip or turn your jars over) on a towel to cool completely. Let them sit overnight, at minimum, to cool and to allow the jam to set properly. Once cool, check the seals by pressing on the button in the middle of the lid. Any flex in the lid indicates lack of seal. Refrigerate any unsealed jars and use within two weeks. Store in a cool dark place with rings removed and in a single layer. Do not stack your jars.

The most important step: Enjoy your hard work on toast, a biscuit, pancakes, warmed over ice cream... or however you prefer.

The recipe I used for blueberry basil is not my own... I found it here, at Love and Olive Oil. 

I added some simple sheer ribbon in the closest blue I could find to her bridesmaids dresses and printed labels for the tops of the jars. To avoid messing with the simple elegance of the look by adding a tag to distinguish which flavor is which, I color coded the labels - blue print for blueberry, black for blueberry basil (thanks to my brilliant customer's suggestion!).

Best wishes to Charles and Samantha as they embark on married life together in just two weeks!

I am honored to have been a very small part of their preparation and celebration!

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