Wild Wineberry Preserves

wineberry4Rain, rain and more rain.  What is it about rainy Sundays that makes me just want to curl up with a good book? Luckily, yesterday was a gorgeous day here in Westchester County; bright sunshine, cool breeze, 75 degrees.  Tai & I took advantage and went to a nearby neighborhood street where wild red raspberries grow all along the sides of the road – thousands of crystal-red, delicious berries, ripe for the picking.

wineberry2The particular berries that line this Westchester backroad are wineberries, a type of raspberry originally imported from Japan as an ornamental plant. Normally, I would not applaud the escape into nature of an invasive, non-native plant, but when the plant offers up such delicious bounty… I make exceptions!  The berries are jewel-bright, almost like red currants but with a deeper, red-wine color.  They are very juicy and quite delicious; however the berries are extremely fragile and do not freeze well. Jam, jelly or other preserves, puree, cordial or homemade vinegar are all good options for preserving the bounty during the short wineberry season.

Here I make a wineberry preserve, starting out with a jelly of wineberry juice and sugar, adding back in de-seeded wineberry pulp and some fresh, uncooked berries. The resulting preserve is exquisite: soft, spreadable, sweet but not overly so, with the tang of a good Beaujolais or a fruity red zinfandel and that indefinable je ne sais crois that comes from wild fruit raised by nothing more than sun, soil and rain (lots and lots of rain!).

This beautiful preserve would be a show-stopper as the filling of a Linzer torte or mini-tarts, the topping for cheesecake, angel food cake or as the filling of a layer cake.  It’s just as comfortable in more downhome recipes, however, like the kick-ass PB&J that I am currently enjoying.  If you have the chance, search out some wild wineberries near you; they are worth the effort!

Adapted from Red Raspberry Preserves in Gourmet Preserves by Madelaine Bullwinkel

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Wild Wineberry Preserves

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 and 1/2 lbs wineberries (or other raspberries, blackberries, etc), about 10 cups, divided
  • 1/2 cup filtered water
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice, divided
  • 2 cups + 4 tbsp sugar (I used natural beet sugar), divided
  • large pinch sea salt

METHODS

  1. If canning, prepare canner, jars and lids.
  2. Rinse and drain the berries; as wineberries are very fragile, and will fall apart under the pressure of the faucet or sprayer, I usually fill a large bowl with cold water, then fill a large colander about halfway with berries and dip into the bowl full of water.  Swish berries in water for a few minutes until any leaves, small twigs, bugs, etc., come rising to the top and skim them off into the sink.  Then lift the colander out of the bowl of water, change to fresh water, and continue until all the berries are rinsed.  Combine 3 lbs berries with 1/2 cup water in a large stockpot.  Cover and bring liquid to a simmer.  Uncover and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Transfer simmered berry mixture to a colander suspended over a large, heat-resistant bowl.  Drain berries for 15 minutes, collecting the juice.
  4. Return juice to the stockpot.  Transfer the berries to a medium sieve or food mill and push through to remove the majority of the seeds (the medium disk on my food mill worked best).  If you want little to no seeds in your preserves, try using the fine disk, or a fine sieve, to remove even more seeds (I like some seeds for added texture and visual interest).  Reserve the berry pulp.
  5. Bring wineberry juice in the stockpot to a boil.  Add 2 tbsp lemon juice and 2 cups sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, allowing the mixture to return to a boil each time before adding additional sugar.  Boil, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reaches the gel point, which is 220 degrees F (or 8 degrees higher than the temperature of boiling water on your thermometer). This should take less than 5 minutes. Once gel is reached, remove jelly from heat.
  6. Add the reserved berry pulp to the hot jelly and stir to mix well.  Add 1/4 lb of the remaining uncooked berries and stir.  Allow jelly/berry mixture to steep for 15 minutes.
  7. Return the jelly/berry mixture to a boil.  Add the remaining 1 tbsp of lemon juice, 4 tbsp of sugar and pinch of salt. Boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the preserves reach the gel point, 220 degrees F; if preserves keep sticking to the pot, lower the heat to medium and continue to stir.  Once preserves have reached the gel point, add the last 1/4 lb of berries and return the preserves to 220 degrees F.  Boil for one additional minute past the gel point, then turn off the heat.
  8. Fill hot, sterilized jars to 1/4-inch headspace and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Yields about 4 and 1/2 cups.wineberry5

OPTIONS

  1. The original recipe stated, after draining juice from the berries, to: “measure juice and reduce to 2 cups.”  Originally I assumed that this meant “reduce” as in reduce by heating, or boil down the juice until only 2 cups remain, which I had planned to do.  I measured 3 and 1/4 cups juice from my 3 lbs of berries. I put it all in the stockpot, then promptly forgot to reduce it down to 2 cups and just added lemon juice and sugar and started boiling away.  I now think that the original recipe intends you to simply use only 2 cups of the juice (rather than reducing by boiling), as the very next line states “bring juice to a boil.”  Most classic jelly recipes call for a 1:1 ratio of juice:sugar, so 2 cups juice to 2 cups sugar makes sense.  I’m not sure why she would not simply say “measure juice and add equal amount of sugar” as most jelly recipes do; perhaps it has to do with maintaining consistent texture with the berry pulp.  At any rate, I used 2 cups of sugar to 3 and 1/4 cups juice and the texture of the finished preserve was quite wonderful, so I am happy with the result.  If you like a firmer set in your preserves, match the amount of sugar to the amount of juice you yield from your berries.
  2. The original recipe called for 3 lbs of fruit and did not include the addition of un-cooked berries in the later stages.  I added those in, in order to try to have some whole(ish) berries left in the finished preserves.  I can’t say that there were any whole berries left in the preserves; I think these berries are just too delicate, and they were boiled for 10 minutes in the water bath canner.  However the texture of these preserves is lovely, so I would repeat this same procedure again. 
  3. The original recipe also did not call for any straining to remove raspberry seeds; wineberries are a very juicy berry that are packed full of seeds.  I think that, without removing any seeds, the preserves would be far too seedy. Even though the pulping through the food mill makes an extra step, it is worth it if your raspberries are quite full of seeds.

STORE

If canned, store in a cool, dark spot for up to 1 year. If refrigerated, use within 3 months.

SEASON

Mid-summer. Near me, wild wineberries are at peak in late July/early August.

wineberry

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16 comments

  1. I just made a batch of wild wineberry preserves, and for some reason it came out tasting pretty much like… nothing! I didn’t use your recipe, but the one from the Ball Blue Book for berry preserves, which just calls for berries and sugar. We collected them in small amounts every couple of days for quite a while, and put them in the freezer until we had enough to do something with them. I think at least this time, being my second attempt at jam, I got the consistency right (last time it was more like strawberry concrete), but I’m really disappointed at the flavor. Do you think it could have been freezing them, or maybe just a bad year, that was to blame? What little flavor there is I would describe as…grassy, so maybe even somewhat like a slightly fruity beer. Certainly not like the fruity burst of a good red wine, as I was expecting. Any thoughts? Thanks!

  2. Hi Amanda,

    Not sure where you live, but here in the Northeast it’s been a really weird berry season (so far – jury is out on Fall raspberries). There were not nearly as many wineberries in my yard as last year, and I know of two nearby farms where the blackberry crop failed entirely. I assume the hot, dry weather is not allowing the berries to develop a lot of juice or sugar, resulting in small, hard and very tart berries.

    I have made this preserve with frozen berries and had excellent results. I suspect it is just this year’s crop; when I followed this exact recipe again this year, despite two attempts and much added pectin, I still ended up with syrup. Strange things are afoot in berry-land.

    Don’t give up on wineberries; try ’em again next year. Rule of thumb is that the better they taste when fresh, the better your jam will be.

  3. Becky

    Although I’m been making jams/jellies/preserves for years, I’ve never ventured to do it without purchased pectin. How do you think your recipe would work, adding certo at the end? As we have so many wineberries where I live, I might venture to try without the pectin, as I can afford a failed recipe, should that happen… Just wondering.

    Also, not having a food mill…do you think I could obtain pulp like you use by pushing pulp through my colander, or maybe that wouldn’t be pulpy enough? It would have some seeds, but fewer than if I just mashed them up. Again, just asking your opinion, using your recipe. I have a few days in which to plan, before the glut of berries is upon me. ; )

    I usually make jelly instead of preserves with wineberries, but my husband so likes the seeds in preserves that I thought I might try it this year.

    I appreciate any thoughts you might have on these questions.

    Thanks.

  4. Hi Becky,

    You should be able to push the berry pulp through a sieve or colander; you could always include all of the seeds, but wineberries are so seedy that I think that would be too seedy.

    As for the pectin; you can treat wineberries like regular raspberries and just follow the directions on the Certo package; I would just mash them and then push them a sieve to remove some of the seeds. Then just follow the directions on the package.

    Hope that helps,
    Kaela

  5. I’ve got a batch of jam going right now – but don’t give up on freezing wineberries! We have loads of these on our property and the kids ate them from the freezer all winter. They just get soft, so you need a spoon, but are perfect with yogurt or ice cream. And you can use them from the freezer in any baked recipe – if a pie just add a little more corn starch or flour than you would if making it with fresh berries. Unfortunately they are an invasive weed, but they are really delish so eventually we hope to just contain them on part of our property…after we deal with all the other non-edible invasives.

  6. baggagecarousel4

    thanks so much for posting this – our wineberries are just starting to ripen (the short season in northern VA begins in late June; by the fourth of July they’re mostly done) and I’m hoping to get enough from our bushes to make up a batch. worst come to worst, I’ll probably supplement with some black raspberries.

    I’m looking forward to the preserves!

  7. Juli

    Thanks for the recipe – I didn’t want to use boxed pectin. We have a bumper crop here in northern VA. Just want to let you know I doubled the recipe today, and it seems fine – it made 9 half-pints (I only left about 2 cups of berries unjuiced). I don’t have a candy thermometer, and wasn’t sure it set up, but the few tbs that were leftover seem to be sheeting well now. At any rate, it’s delicious, and the worst case scenario is that we have pancake syrup!

  8. Nancy T.

    I live in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. We have wild black raspberries, blackberries and wineberries I have been successful with putting the cooked down berries through the Folley Food Mill. A few seeds may make it through. You could also strain the juice using cheesecloth. I have been successful doing that. I follow the black raspberry recipe in the Sure-Jell Fruit Pectin. I have never had a failed batch. It is quite tasty.

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  11. Faith E.

    Curious as to why you say the wild wineberries don’t freeze well. I just froze 8+ pounds for making jam and ice cream. The harvest is plentiful this week, but I just don’t have the time to work with it.

  12. Sarah

    I picked wineberries for the first time this year (didn’t realize they were on my property till now) and I didn’t have time to do anything with them (and I didn’t want deer or the landscapers across the street getting them), so I washed and froze them. I took out one bag yesterday and made a pie and it is delicious!

  13. Caitlin Atkins

    I make this every year from wineberries and black raspberries, and I cannot get it to set! No matter what, I can’t seem to get it past 200 degrees. Any tips? I have added a little bit of pectin, but find it hard to control and end up with it being way too stiff… so we just end up using it as more of a sauce than a jam.

    Faith E., I freeze wineberries every year. I lay them out on a cookie sheet in the freezer first. No problems here!

  14. RenskeNeeltje

    Hi, it may be that the quantity you are making (and the pan you are using) are too large for the heat source. Try a smaller quantity and you should get it hot enough to set.
    r

  15. Caitlin Atkins

    Thank you! Oof, it’s already so much work for the quantity I get, I’m loathe to reduce it. I’m getting a new range that may have a gigantic middle burner; perhaps that will fix my problem!

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