Blueberries are a superfood — one of the fruits highest in lycopene and antioxidants. Take advantage of their season and stock up. Unfortunately, their skins get tough when frozen, but they do very well in the dehydrator and make scrumptious preserves to dollop on plain yogurt, slather on toast, or to fill quick little tartlets.
This is a very thick, low-sugar preserve, very different from the Sure-Jel type.
Note: Wait to wash blueberries until just before you use them. If you are freezing, don’t wash them until you are thawing them to use. Wash just before putting them on the dehydrator or into the jam pot.
Makes 5 half pints
• 4 pints blueberries
• 3 cups cane sugar in all
• 2 medium-large lemons
• 1 cup water
1. Use a fine zester to peel the lemons — you want shreds just 1/16 inch. If you don’t have a zester, you can use a vegetable peeler and just sit and snip shreds with scissors.
2. In a 1-quart pot, put the pile of lemon shreds with 1 cup of the sugar and 1 cup of water. Bring this to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Cook until the syrup reaches 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Turn off the heat and set the pot aside.
3. Juice the lemons into the measuring cup. You should have about ¼ cup lemon juice.
4. Put the blueberries into your jam pot, grab your potato masher or pastry blender and mash some of the berries. You don’t have to mash them all, just some to get some juice started. Add in the remaining 2 cups of sugar and stir until the berries begin to juice out. Add in the lemon juice.
5. Over medium heat, continue stirring until the sugar and juice form a syrup; then cook, stirring every few minutes to bring your berry mix to a full boil. Turn off the heat, cover the pot, and let your jam rest overnight. The resting time develops flavor in your preserve.
6. In the morning, fill your waterbath canner with hot water, put in the rack and put over high heat. When it comes to a boil, dip your jars as well as your ladle and canning funnel for a few seconds to sterilize them.
7. Remove the lemon peel shreds from the syrup into a small bowl. A fork works well for this. Don’t throw away the syrup! Keep it in a jar for making lemonade, sangria or any other summer recipe that calls for simple syrup.
8. Meantime, put your jam pot over high heat and, stirring frequently, bring your jam to a boil. Continue cooking, stirring, until the jam reaches 220 degrees. Be careful to stir the whole pot so your jam doesn’t scorch.
9. At 220 degrees, turn off the heat and stir in your candied lemon shreds, stirring to distribute them. Ladle your preserve into the sterilized jars and apply 2-piece lids. Process for 7 minutes in your boiling waterbath, then immediately remove the jars to cool.
Dehydrated blueberries go in muffins without staining the batter purple. Use them also in quick breads, especially a zucchini bread made instead with over-mature yellow squash, with some lemon zest added.
Loosely fill the dehydrator tray(s) and set the temperature at 135 degrees. Watch them closely after 3 or 4 hours — they go pretty fast. You want to catch them when they balloon, before they deflate. Transfer the berries into zipper freezer bags and leave on the counter overnight so they “homogenize”, then freeze.Wendy Akin is happy to share her years of traditional skills knowledge. Over the years, she’s earned many state fair ribbons for pickles, relishes, preserves and special condiments, and even a few for breads. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.