Recipe Catch-Up #1 – Raspberry-Blueberry Preserves

Raspberry-Blueberry Preserves

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4 Cups Seedless Raspberry Juice

5 Cups Fresh or Frozen BlueBerries

3 Cups Sugar

1/4 Cup Lemon Juice

5 Tbsp. Clear Jel mixed with 5 Tbsp. Water

  • Combine raspberry juice, blueberries, sugar and lemon juice in large stock pot. Bring mixture to a near boil.
  • Add Clear Jel slurry and bring to boil. Boil for one minute or until thickened. Remove from heat and let sit five minutes.
  • Ladle preserves into hot jars, wipe rims, adjust lids, and process in water bath for 15 minutes.

Yield: 11 – 8 oz. Jars

This preserve is excellent on toast, English muffins, bagels, or just about anything, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

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Crazy For Cranberries

Last winter, around February or March, once all my Christmas decorations were stored away and the house was back to some semblance of normalcy, I decided to work on some winter canning.  Pulling out my recipes and scanning the internet for ideas, I decided that I wanted to work with some of the fruit juices I’d frozen from the summer before and experiment with combining these and cranberries.  Going to my freezer I found I had only two bags of frozen cranberries.  No worries, so I thought, I’d just run up to the store and buy some.

Well, when I got to the store, there were none to be found.  There were none in the fresh fruit section and none in the freezer sections.  I went to every market and grocery store within 20 miles, calling some and visiting most, and was told they were a seasonal item and would not be available again until late October.  This was not at all acceptable.  I needed them right then, not seven or eight months from then.  Not accepting the situation, I went to the internet.  There I found several sources for fresh cranberries, but in order to purchase them I had to buy 30 pounds or more at exorbitant prices.  The reality hit me hard, but the lesson was not lost.  I made a note right then not to make the same mistake ever again.

At the end of October, just as promised, every grocery store in my area began stocking fresh cranberries again.  I was thrilled and immediately began stocking up.  The first time I found them they were $2.50 per 12 oz bag.  I bought four bags.  With these I began experimenting with homemade cranberry sauce and combinations of cranberry, plum and mixed berry sauces.

My next trip to the grocery store, a different one this time, I found 12 oz bags for $1.99.  I bought 10 and threw them immediately in the freezer. Cranberries are the absolute easiest fruit to freeze because you just throw the bag in the freezer and that’s it.  They keep for up to a year in the freezer as is, but if you freeze them and then slip them into another freezer bag or container, they will keep even longer.

Happy that I’d stocked up on cranberries, I still kept my eyes open for any sales.  Last week, while I was picking up a few things from yet a different grocery store, this time Aldi Market, I found they had a special on their 12 oz bags of cranberries.  They had them on sale for $1.19 per bag.  Oh Happy Day!  I picked up another dozen bags and threw them in the freezer as well.

With 22 bags in the freezer, you’d think I’d be content.  But I NEVER want to find myself in need of cranberries again, so before they are out of the stores for another year, I will no doubt pick up at least another five or more bags — just to be sure.

Although canning at this point in time, due to the approaching holidays, is not realistic (there are just so many hours in the day you know), I am still finding time to bake.  Just the other day I made a batch of blueberry muffins and on a whim decided to make a second batch, but this time I added some cranberries to the blueberry mix.  They were great.  I actually thought that the combination of flavors was more satisfying than just the plain blueberry.  I love my blueberry muffins, but by adding just a cup of cranberries, it really made them pop.

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Cran-Blueberry Muffins

  • 1 3/4 Cup Flour
  • 2 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 3/4 Cup Milk
  • 1/3 Cup Cooking Oil
  • 1 Egg, beaten
  • 1 – 1 1/2 Cups Blueberries (I like lots of berries in mine)
  • 1 Cup Fresh Cranberries

Crumble Topping

  • 1/2 Cup Flour
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Cold Butter

Combine dry ingredients for muffins in large bowl.  Make a well in center and add egg, milk and oil.  Mix by hand until combined.  Fold berries into batter.  Fill greased muffin cups 3/4 full.

Make crumble topping by combining flour and sugar and cutting in butter with pastry blender.  Sprinkle one heaping teaspoon of crumble on each muffin and bake at 400 for 20 minutes.

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One of Hubby’s favorite sayings is “When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.”  I am so glad that last years mishap with cranberries is definitely not going to happen again this year and we are well stocked for whatever recipes I want to concoct, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Putting Clear Jel To The Test

Blueberries are one of the easiest fruits to work with when it comes to canning.  Basically all you have to do is wash, sort, blanch, and can.  There is no peeling, cutting, coring, or pitting.  They are even easier to freeze because prior to freezing you should not even wash them.  Just bag ’em, label ’em, and freeze.  It doesn’t get much easier than that.

Homemade blueberry pie has always been a bit of a thorn in my side.  For some reason, no matter how much flour or corn starch I used, the pie was runny.  After the first piece of pie was removed from the pie plate, all the blueberries would fall into the open section and the amount of juice that was produced when baking would overflow the dish.  My pies looked nothing like those beautiful magazine advertisements for “Perfect Blueberry Pie.”  My pies were anything but perfect!

To remedy this faux pas with blueberry pie, I decided to give Clear Jel a real test.  Although I have been using it for several months with great success, all the fillings that I have made were ones that had never caused me the type of grief blueberry pie has.  This was the first real test to see if Clear Jel could live up to all its hype.

Blueberry Pie Filling

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  • 6 Pints Blueberries
  • 2 1/2 Cups Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Clear jel mixed in 1 Cup of water
  • 2 Cups Additional Water
  • 1/4 Cup Lemon Juice

Wash and drain blueberries.  Blanch fresh blueberries in boiling water for one minute.  Drain and set aside.  Combine sugar, Clear Jel slurry, and water.  Cook on medium-high heat until thick and bubbly.  Add lemon juice and boil one minute more.  Remove from heat and immediate add blueberries and stir to combine.  Ladle hot filling into hot jars leaving 1″ head space.  Wipe rims, set lids and bands, and process in water bath for 30 minutes at full boil.

Once I’d made a batch of this and let it set overnight, it was time to give it a try.  Seeing as if the pie filling were baked in a pie and then cooled it would no doubt be the same consistency as what was in the jars, I decided to use a jar of filling for blueberry shortcake.  The filling was thick and very tasty.  It was not runny in the least, and the flavor — well lets just say I’d have a hard time telling the difference between eating a handful of blueberries and eating a spoonful of filling.

A lot of times what sounds or looks good on paper doesn’t necessarily translate into something that will work in the real world, thankfully this was not the case today.  Clear Jel certainly lived up to my greatest expectations, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Drinking Blueberries

When I first came across a recipe for a blueberry-lemonade concentrate I wasn’t sure that it sounded very appetizing.  In fact it didn’t sound good at all. Although I like blueberries, they are one of my favorite fruits, the thought of drinking blueberry juice just didn’t appeal to me.  So when I made a batch, my expectations were not high.  To my surprise, it was very good.  So good that I had to make two more batches just to be sure we’d have enough to get through the winter.

Blueberry-Lemonade Concentrate

  • 6 Cups Blueberries
  • 4 Cups Lemon Juice
  • 6 Cups White Sugar

Wash blueberries.  Place berries in large stock pot and puree with stick blender.

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Add lemon juice and sugar.  Stir to combine.  Cook over medium-high heat until mixture reaches 190 degrees.  Strain mixture.  Return strained juice to pot and return to boil.  Ladle hot mixture into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch head space.  Wipe rims, apply lids and bands, and water bath process for 15 minutes.

I am absolutely in love with concentrates and juice from fresh fruit.  This is definitely one that I will be making again next year and possibly sooner if I run out, as you can use frozen blueberries, which I have lots of in the freezer.

So, what I thought would not be tasty in the least turned out to be a new favorite because I didn’t let my narrow-mindedness cloud my determination to try canning new things, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Michigan Blueberries

The harsh Michigan winter certainly took its toll on the fruit crops this summer.  Cherries were first, now blueberries, and next peaches.  All these crops were or are sparse at best.  Thankfully, produce from all over the state is offered at most grocery stores during the summer months and I was able to buy Michigan blueberries for $1.30 a pint or about $1.68 a pound.

So far I’ve bought around 50 pints, stocking the pantry and freezer the best I can.  One of my favorite new recipes for blueberries came from Caitlin at The Babbling Botanist for Blueberry Lime Jam.  She was so right when she said that the addition of lime really made the blueberry POP!  What a difference.  I don’t think I’ll ever make plain blueberry jam again.

Caitlin’s recipe was based on the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.  Being that I wanted to use Clear Jel, I changed up the recipe just a bit.  I think the results were very good, but if you don’t have Clear Jel, you should really check out Caitlin’s post: The Babbling Botanist – Blueberry Lime Jam.

Blueberry Lime Jam

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  • 4 Pints Blueberries
  • 1 Lime, zest and juice
  • 4 Cups Sugar
  • 5 Tbsp. Clear Jel dissolved in 1/3 cup water

Wash and stem blueberries.  Put in large stock pot.

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Zest and juice lime.  Add to stock pot with sugar.

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Over medium heat bring pot contents to low boil.  When berries start to crack and breakdown, use a stick blender/immersion blender to puree.

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I like to leave some of the blueberries intact, so I use short pulses to breakdown most of the berries, but not all.

Cook jam for 10 minutes over medium heat. Add Clear Jel slurry, increase heat and bring to boil.  Boil 1 minute.

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Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes.  Ladle hot jam into jars, seal, and process 10 minutes in water bath.

This is definitely a recipe worth trying.  I’m so glad I did.

Once the jam was processing, I decided to take some blueberries and dehydrate them.  On the internet there are countless sites claiming to have the best way to accomplish dehydrating blueberries.  Not knowing which one would work, I decided to try two of them and see which one worked better.

The first called for the berries to be blanched in boiling water for 30 seconds or more (until the berries crack) and then spreading them on the dehydrator trays.

Blanched Berries

Blanched Berries

The second was easier in that all I had to do was rinse the berries and then spread them out on the dehydrator trays.

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Putting the trays in the dehydrator at 135 overnight, here is what they looked like in the morning.

Unblanched Berries

Unblanched berries.

Blanched Berries

Blanched Berries

Both berries were crunchier than I wanted.  I must have dehydrated too long. The blanched berries were less crunchy, but both tasted about the same.

Since I had the dehydrator running anyway, I decided to try some blueberry fruit leather.  Unlike other fruits, blueberry needs a few more ingredients to make it smooth.

Blueberry Fruit Leather

  • 1 Pint Blueberries
  • 1 Tbsp. Water
  • 1/4 Cup Honey
  • 1 Cup Unsweetened Applesauce
  • 2 tsp. Lemon Juice

Heat blueberries and water in saucepan until berries start to breakdown.

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Remove from heat. Add remaining ingredients.  With immersion blender puree mixture until smooth.

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Pour blueberry mixture on lined dehydrator tray and dehydrate at 135 for 8 to 10 hours.

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This turned out really good.  As you can see, the kids couldn’t even wait for me to cut it.

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It’s sad that Michigan blueberry picking in my area isn’t possible this year, but it is wonderful that our local grocers are able to get Michigan berries for us, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

 

 

Cherry-Berry Canning

This morning Zeb and I spent several hours in the kitchen whipping up a few new recipes using some of the tart cherries we picked this past weekend. It amazes me how much faster everything goes when you have a helper.

The first recipe I wanted to work on was one using cherries and blueberries. I have several packages of frozen blueberries from last years season left and with blueberry season approaching, I figured it was a good time to clear out the old to make room for the new.

Several times a year I make Belguim waffles for breakfast, serving them with a mixed berry topping. The preserves I made today is similar and I think I could even use it in a pinch if Zeb or Grace want a special treat on a frozen waffle. (Yes, I am guilty of occasionally buying them a package of those large-corporation, heavily processed frozen waffles. When I do though Grace is sure to tease me and say, “Mom, make me a waffle like only you can make.” No one can toast a frozen waffle like dear old Ma!)

Cherry-Berry Preserves

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3 Cups Pitted Tart Cherries
3 Cups Packed Blueberries
1 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
2 Cups Sugar
4 Tbsp. Clear Jel dissolved in 1/4 C. Water

  • Combine cherries, blueberries, lemon juice, and sugar in large stock pot.

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  • Cook on medium-high until mixture begins to boil and blueberries begin to soften and burst.

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  • Using a potato masher, crush berries and cherries.
  • Add Clear Jel slurry and boil for 1 minute.

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  • Remove from heat, cool 5 minutes and ladle into hot jars leaving a 1“ head space.
  • Process 15 minutes in water bath canner.

This preserve was very thick. When I make it again I will decrease the Clear Jel to 3 Tbsp.

The second recipe Zeb and I worked on was one using some of the strawberry juice I froze from our strawberry picking a few weeks ago. The recipe that inspired this jam called for crushed berries, but I thought the strawberries would be too dominant a flavor if left whole. Also, I decreased the sugar by more than half, leaving this jam more on the tart side , but still more than sweet enough.

Red-On-Red Jam (Grace named this one)

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1 Pound Tart Cherries, pitted
1 Cup Strawberry Juice, strained
3 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
2 Cups Sugar
3 Tbsp. Clear Jel mixed with 1/4 Cup Water

  • Place pitted cherries in large stock pot.

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  • Cook over medium heat, crushing with spoon as they heat.

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  • Add strawberry juice, lemon juice, sugar, and Clear Jel slurry.

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  • Bring to boil. Boil 1 minute.
  • Remove from heat, let stand 5 minutes, ladle into hot jars.
  • Process in water bath 10 minutes.

This jam was very tasty but next time I might try using 2 pounds of cherries, as the strawberry flavor was still dominant.

Zeb and I also worked on two other jams that need to sit overnight. When he tired of helping out in the kitchen, I set to work on cutting some rhubarb and made another batch of rhubarb pie filling. This will be wonderful to add to cherry, blueberry, or apple pies this winter.

Rhubarb Pie Filling

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10 Cups Chopped Rhubarb
3 Cups Sugar
2 Cups Water
1/4 Cup Lemon Juice
3/4 Cup Clear Jel dissolved in 1 Cup Water

  • Blanch chopped rhubarb in boiling water 1 minute.
  • Drain, reserving 3 cups liquid to use in filling. Keep rhubarb warm in a covered bowl.
  • Combine sugar, 2 cups of reserved liquid, lemon juice, and Clear Jel slurry (using the remaining 1 cup of reserved liquid) in large stock pot.
  • Slowly bring to boil over medium heat. Boil 1 minute.
  • Remove from heat and stir in rhubarb.
  • Ladle into hot jars, leaving a 1“ head space.
  • Process 30 minutes in water bath canner at full boil.

It gives me such a sense of completion and security knowing that the pantry is filling up with lots of different home-canned goods. I cannot wait to start harvesting vegetables and the pantry to overflow (not that it isn’t already). Tomorrow it’s back to tart and sweet cherries, more rhubarb, and new recipes, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.