Traditional jams are made with the fruit and sugar, lots of it in oldfashioned Southern receipts. This updated recipe uses much less sugar so that the flavor of the fruit will shine. Unlike modern recipes, it does not rely on the shortcut of commercial pectin for a firm set. Instead, it has a somewhat looser set. The extended cooking provides a more concentrated flavor of the fruit, with
caramel notes, and the traditional taste, without the off note of the modern additive.
8 cups of blueberries (if possible, use 2 cups slightly underripe fruit, with 6 cups of ripe fruit)
2 cups sugar
4 T. bottled lemon juice
A handful of lemon balm (or lemon verbena, mint or basil) leaves, torn into bite size pieces (optional)
- Place 2 small plates in the freezer for testing the jam later. Sterilize your jars and have them ready in the hot canning pot. Have clean rings and lids ready to go into a small pot of water.
- Remove any leaves, stems or twigs from the blueberries. Rinse briefly and drain, then place in a wide, large, non-reactive heavy bottomed pan – it is fine for the berries to still have some water on them. Stir in the sugar and lemon juice.
- Bring rapidly to a hard boil, stirring to crush the blueberries to release their flavor (or if you prefer to have whole blueberries, stir carefully). Then bring to a steady boil for 30 minutes or as long as it takes until the mixture has thickened.
- Taste early to see whether more sugar would enhance the flavor. Stir frequently and watch the mixture to be sure the jam is not sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- Skim to remove any excess foam.
- As you are working on the jam mixture, bring the water in the pot for the lids and rings to a simmer.
- At 221 degrees there will be a proper gel or you can use the plate test to check the set. Remove a plate from the freezer and drop a spoonful of the liquid syrup onto it. Put in the freezer for two minutes, then gently press the edge of the liquid syrup with your finger. If it wrinkles, it is ready. If not, return to a boil for 2 more minutes and then check again, using the second plate.
- When the jam passes the plate test/reaches 221 degrees, if using herbs, stir them into the mixture and simmer for another minute.
- Remove from heat and let the jam rest for five minutes or so. Stir occasionally to release air bubbles and reduce fruit float. Skim any foam from the top of the jam.