Okay, so I guess I technically cheated - I made freezer jam. But, the point is, it worked.
Last Monday, we picked 23 pounds of blueberries and yesterday we were down to our last 6-8 cups and I have to say, they weren't in terrible shape considering it has been over a week. Some were getting a bit too soft, but quite a few were still firm and only one showed any sign of mold. Not bad.
However, it was quite apparent that we were reaching a crucial point and really needed to use them up, so I decided to try jam since, compared to most recipes, this would use up the largest amount of blueberries. I have never done any canning before and though I plan to learn, this wasn't the time. After doing a bit of reading, I decided I wanted to try freezer jam and went to the store to get some pectin.
Once I was there, it was a bit confusing. They had regular pectin and freezer jam pectin. The freezer jam recipe looked incredibly easy - no cooking at all. Then I took a look at the ingredients and noticed that the freezer jam pectin contained several added ingredients, including a preservative: dextrose, fruit pectin, citric acid (assists gel), sodium citrate (controls acidity), potassium sorbate (preservative). I wasn't too keen on using something with a preservative since that's part of the attractiveness of making my own jam in the first place, but then I noticed that with this recipe, you only use 1 1/2 cups of sugar per 4 cups of berries. That's a lot lot less sugar than a cooked jam recipe where the ratio is generally 1:1.
Anyway, I ended up grabbing some regular pectin and one package of the freezer jam pectin. Once home, I kept hemming and hawing and finally decided to give the freezer jam pectin a try. It's very easy. You mix 1 1/2 cups of sugar with the package of pectin, add 4 cups of crushed berries, stir for 3 minutes, let it sit for 30 minutes to let it set and you're done. Ridiculously easy!
As I mashed the blueberries, I was looking at the rather gross mush on my plate and having second thoughts. For some reason, squished blueberries make me think of squished bugs - they just look gross! (My photos of the final mashed product didn't come out.....too bad, huh?) Then I started thinking about having to bite into a jam full of blueberry skins. Even if I could get past it, I knew the family would not. And these problems are unique to blueberries - any other kind of berry - no skin, no brown squishy "guts".
I finally decided that I simply had to run them through the food processor. Not only would this eliminate the problem of biting into all of those skins, but I knew from making blueberry ice cream, that it would make the whole mixture turn a much more attractive color of purple instead of the brownish colors you get from just crushing the berries. I had read that you shouldn't use a food processor because it can break down the natural pectin in the berries and prevent your jam from setting (the Ball instructions also say not to process the berries), but I decided to try it anyway. If it didn't work, I figured I could probably find some way to save it.
So, my experiment was a success. I now have 6 1-cup containers of blueberry jam in the fridge and freezer, waiting to be enjoyed the rest of the year. I'm still not keen on the preservatives used in this pectin, so next time I'm thinking about trying the freezer jam recipe I found inside the package of regular pectin (which contains dextrose, fruit pectin and citric acid). The drawback there? 5 1/4 cups of sugar for 3 cups of berries. Hmmmm..........