By Shirley Camp, retired University of Illinois Extension educator
Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and many others are available in stores and at local farmers’ markets. When you find them for a good price, why not buy enough to make some jams or jellies for enjoyment year ‘round? If you don’t have time to make the jam or jelly right now, give them a quick wash, remove any stems or bruised fruit, and freeze them on a cookie sheet or tray. After they are frozen, package them in freezer bags or containers and you will be ready to make the product later when you have more time.
Preserving Tip: One Batch at a Time. If you are planning to make jams, jellies, preserves or pie filling with your freshly picked berries, I do have one word of caution for you. Do not try to double the recipe and get the job done more quickly. If you do, you will likely have runny jam or jelly or unappealing pie filling. So take your time and do one batch at a time!
Preserving Tip: Don’t Skip the Boiling Water Bath. Make sure to start with clean rims on the jars by wiping off any bits of food with a damp paper towel. Prepare the lids according to the manufacturer’s directions, place the prepared lid on the clean jar and add the screw band but only finger-tight. Make sure there is a rack in the bottom of the canner to prevent thermal shock to the jars and using a jar lifter, lower the filled jars into the canner.
Make sure that the water is at least one inch over the tops of the jars with room at the top for the water to boil. Turn the heat up and when the water is boiling, start the timing process. Follow the directions in the recipe for the amount of time in the boiling water bath. When the time is up, take off the lid and turn off the heat. Wait 5 minutes for the process to complete and then remove the jars to a cooling rack or towel using a jar lifter. After 12 to 24 hours, check the jars to see if they have sealed – the lid should be indented. If they are not sealed, they may be reprocessed using new lids and the recommended processing time. For jams and jellies – reprocessing may result in a tough product so these should be refrigerated and eaten soon.
Preserving Tip: Freezer Jam Can Save Time. For those of you who don’t have time to process jam with a boiling water bath, try Mrs. Wages No-Cook Freezer Jam Fruit Pectin. You can make a batch of berry jam in a jiffy. Just stir in the pectin with the required of fruit and sugar and freeze. Just make sure you follow the directions on the package.
For jams or preserves, try mixing different berries together. One of my favorites from the food preservation classes was a jam that we made using strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries mixed together. The flavor was excellent and since the process for making jam from each of these is the same, you can mix them in amounts to suit your taste.
One of the newest Mrs. Wages™ products to hit the grocery shelves is the Mrs. Wages Forest Berry Pie Filling Mix. One pouch makes 3 quarts or enough filling for about 3 pies. All you need to add is the fruit, sugar, and some liquid and cook the filling. You may then make it into pies or can it in a boiling water bath canner for later use. Mrs. Wages™ pie filling mixes take making homemade pies to an easier level when most of the measuring and ingredient gathering is done for you.
For those of you who want to make jams, jellies, and preserves, but can’t have or prefer those with less sugar, try the Mrs. Wages® Lite Fruit Pectin Home Jell product. You have three options for making spreads with this product – sugar substitute, no sugar/sweetener, and using less sugar. The package insert has directions for all three variations. Keep in mind that a spread with no added sweetening product may be tart and have a different texture than you are accustomed to. With the lite product, fruit at its peak flavor will give you the best tasting product.
Preservation Tip: Don’t use aspartame. If you choose to add a non-caloric sweetener to your spread, do not use aspartame unless you check the manufacturer’s website for recipes using that particular sweetener. Sometimes less sweetener will give a better tasting product so you may want to test different amounts and different types of sweeteners to find the one that’s right for you.
So have a berrylicious May and remember that Mrs. Wages makes home food preservation easy!