We kicked off July 4th weekend by going blueberry picking . Yes, we have blueberry bushes but they are not producing. Last year fire ants got into the pots and destroyed the roots. We bought new plants but they are still young.
Normally, we would just go without but because of all the rain we were not able to forage as many dewberries as we normally are able to, so when a friend suggested we go blueberry picking I whole heartedly agreed. We went with several families, the pick your own farm is about 2.5 hours away so if made for a fun day trip. I also got an opportunity to talk with the owners about the troubles we’ve had with our blueberries and get some ideas. And we picked 60 pounds of blueberries!
Saturday morning we got busy preserving blueberries.
Canning blueberries is a great way to preserve them long term. You can make blueberry jam, syrup or “preserves” (which is basically blueberries in a simple syrup). For jams I just put the fruit in a heavy stock pot, add sugar, heat and mash. For these I used 13 cups of berries and 2.5 cups of sugar. We don’t like super sweet jam and since I’m not using pectin I don’t have to worry about using a lot of sugar. According to the National Center for Home Preservation the sugar will help the fruit retain it’s color, flavor and shape but does not help keep it from spoiling. The canning does that.
As the berries heat I used an immersion blender and blended them up some. You could use a potato masher if you want more chunks in your jam. Then I let the jam simmer until it was thick. I usually put a little jam on a plate and put it in the refrigerator to cool off and see how it sets up. It’s never as thick as store bought jam because I don’t use pectin in my jams. But we like it this way. If you like a thicker jam you can use pectin.
While the jam is cooking down, I sterile the jars. When it’s as thick as I want it, I ladle it into the sterile jars, put the lids and bands on and then process in a water bath for 5- 10 minutes.
But you don’t have to make jam, you could also make syrup with this recipe from Rachel at Grow a Good Life. She used honey and I bet it’s wonderful. Sharon at Simply Canning has a great article on canning blueberries in a simple syrup. These would be great over ice cream or to use in a pie filling.
Freezing blueberries is quite easy but there is a trick. Contrary to what you may have been told, you don’t really have to put all the berries on a cookie sheet and flash freeze them. You can if you want but you don’t have to. They will not freeze into a huge clump as long as they are dry. Our berries got some condensation on them while we were bringing them home so I laid them out in pans for several hours and let hem air dry while I made the jam. Then I just scooped them into quart size freezer bags and put them in the freezer.
There are couple of ways to dehydrate blueberries depending on what you want the end result to be. If you want chewy blueberries (kind of like raisins) you will need to blanch your blueberries to break the skin. I’m sorry but it’s true.
Instead of blanching them you could poke each one with a toothpick and this will help them dry faster and be chewy as if you blanched them.
However, if you don’t mind slightly tougher berries, just put them on your dehydrator and turn it on. They’ll be fine just not chewy.
Once you decide how to prepare your berries, lay them on a dehydrator tray with a mesh screen on it. The berries shrink quite a bit when they are dehydrating and the mesh will keep them on the tray. Dehydrate them for several days at 125 degrees. Just check them every once in a while and pull the smaller ones that are done. If you are sure there is no water left in the berries, you can store them in a jar in the pantry. I chose to store mine in the freezer as it was hard for me to tell since I didn’t cut them in half.
Did you know that dried blueberries and blueberry leaves can be used to treat a tummy issue? I’m harvesting some leaves from our trees to make a tea for when someone in our family needs it. The leaves can also be used for a sore throat and inflammation of the mouth.
You can also make fruit leather in the dehydrator (or oven). I really want to try this recipe from Sugar Free Mom.
Fermenting berries is not going to give you a long preservation. Fruit has quite a bit of sugar in it and if left to ferment too long it turns alcoholic. Now, if you are wanting to make blueberry wine, that’s great. But if not, you are going to need to store your blueberry ferment in the refrigerator and use it fairly quickly.
I made some fruit Kvass (not the traditional Kvass with rye bread) using this recipe. I liked it. My family is not quite sold on it, but I think I can win them over if I just have them try a little at a time. I’m determined to get them to eat something other than peppers that has been fermented! I also want to try our hand at making blueberry soda using this recipe from Fearless Eating but need to buy some soda bottles first.
I know there are many other ways to preserve blueberries so share your favorite ways with us in the comments.