I know what you’re thinking: blueberries are long gone from these parts, right? Well, I’ll be willing to bet that there are still some out there (although they may well be completely done after this weekend’s Big Blow). And it is still wild blueberry season in Maine (in fact, I’m also willing to bet that there are enterprising Mainers out in the fields right now, raking for all they’re worth, in advance of the storm). The blueberries I used in this jam were not actually wild: I picked them last week at Greig Farm, where they were surprisingly plentiful for so late in the season. Although these blueberries were cultivated, they seemed more like wild blueberries: perhaps they are a hybrid between wild, low-bush blues and the standard farmed high-bush blueberry? The plants were bushier, leafier, more densely filled-in than a typical U-pick blueberry. And the flavor? So, so close to a wild blueberry: bursting with blueberry flavor, bright and sweet. The only problem? They picked like a wild blueberry: lots of leaves, twigs, stems and (because thankfully, Greig Farm does not spray) bugs.
My 4 pounds sat in their bucket, waiting for me to work through the 7 lbs of blackberries picked on the same day. Nearly a week went by, work was busy, and I despaired of finding the time to sort through all those berries, picking off stems, cleaning out leaves & twigs, and making the berries ready for the freezer or the jam pot. Eventually I worried that they would start to mold: I dumped them in the sink for a quick bath, simmered them in my big preserving pot until they were soft, and pushed ’em through the food mill. Voila! No fuss, very little muss, and 4 lbs worth of blueberry pulp ready for jamming, free of leaves, twigs & critters alike.
Because time was tight, I kept the flavor simple and made one big batch. I added a bit of lemon, not too much sugar, and a few sprigs of peppermint. Because I had likely stripped away a lot of the skin (where a lot of the pectin resides) I added some apple pectin to the mix. Because it was a big batch, it did boil for quite a while, a full half hour, before reaching the set point: but the set turned out nicely, not too firm, nicely spreadable, but not runny at all. Nicely minty without an overpowering herby flavor. Simple yet delicious, and a nice way of skipping the time-consuming process of cleaning off wild blues. I’ll have to keep this trick in my wild fruit playbook. And wild or not: this blueberry jam is well worth having in your pantry.
East Coast peeps – keep yourself safe from the storm. And remember: you don’t need power to enjoy bread & jam!
Wild Blueberry Jam with Mint
- 4 lbs blueberries (leaves, twigs and all!)
- 1 lb (2 cups) sugar (organic turbinado)
- zest & juice of 1 lemon
- 1 cup apple pectin
- 4 – 6 sprigs fresh mint (I used peppermint); reserve a few perfect leaves to add to jars
- Submerge the berries in a large bowl or sink filled with cool water. Allow leaves and twigs (and bugs!) to float and skim off the top as much of the flotsam as you can. Drain and transfer to a wide preserving pot; add just enough water to cover the bottom of the pot. Bring berries to a simmer over medium-high heat; reduce heat to low and simmer until softened, about 10 – 15 minutes. Press through a food mill to remove any remaining stems, twigs, leaves, etc.
- Prepare canner, jars and lids.
- Rinse out the preserving pot and return blueberry pulp to the pot. Add sugar, lemon, pectin and mint; bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved, the raise heat to a boil and boil, stirring only minimally, until jam reaches the set point, about 30 minutes in a wide Dutch oven. Use the freezer plate test for this one, as mine never got above 216 degrees F on my thermometer.
- Pick out the mint stems with tongs or a slotted spoon. Add 1 or 2 perfect mint leaves to each jar, then ladle hot jam into hot jars to 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe rims, affix lids and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Yields about 5 cups.
- If you are more patient with cleaning your berries than I, you can skip the food milll step; simply rinse your berries then cook for jam. You may want to mash them a bit with a potato masher if you prefer a smooth jam. Also, you might be able to omit the apple pectin as there is a lot of pectin in the skins; however this is a low-sugar jam, so even with the skins you may find you need a little pectin boost. Obviously regular high-bush/cultivated berries can be used as well.
- I think many different flavors of mint would be lovely: Julia tells me that chocolate mint is fabulous.
- This is a pretty big batch; it took nearly 3o minutes of boiling to reach the set point in my 12-inch wide Dutch oven. Half a batch will certainly gel faster; do not double or you’ll never get it to set.
Canned, store in a cool, dark spot for up to 1 year.
A FUND FOR JENNIE
p.s. Don’t you love those labels? Wouldn’t you like your own?