I bought everything necessary for making preserves - jars, pectin, fruit, sugar & a huge pot (for a water bath). But after I got home (and had started making the jam) is when I realized that the pot said "not for glass cooktop stoves". Oops. Well, rather than let the beautiful fruit go to waste, I decided to just modify the recipe a bit, and buy a different pot the following day. And it still turned out oh-so-delicious! (After I finished filling my jars, my hubby rushed to the pot, and started scraping - and licking! So, I knew I had to share the recipe with you!)
So ........ without much further ado - CG's Mixed Berry Summer Preserves (with my modifications thrown in).
6 baskets of strawberries (or 3 lbs.)
4 baskets of blueberries (24 oz.)
6 baskets of raspberries (36 oz.)
6 baskets of blackberries (36 oz.)
Juice from 2 lemons
Zest from 2 oranges
4 cups of sugar
Low or no sugar pectin (a thickening agent - NOT a preservative!)
12 pint sized canning jars
(this recipe makes 12 pint sized jars)
CG recommends splitting the ingredients into 2 pots for cooking them down. I only own one that's large enough, so I split the recipe in half, and made 2 batches 2 consecutive evenings. (Generally, when canning it's ok to cut a recipe in half, or to make several batches - but NEVER just double a recipe.) So, all directions from this point on are for a HALF-BATCH.
Wash your fruit, and take off any stems. You will end up with a large bowl / colander full of gorgeousness. Put it to the side.
Sterilize your jars. This can be done in the dishwasher (as long as they're still hot when you're ready to put the preserves into them), or by boiling them for 5 minutes. It can be helpful to use canning tongs to remove them from the water - they can be found at any store that sells canning supplies.
After all the jars are sterilized, mix ALL ingredients together (except the pectin) in a pot. Side note here: jam is made from mushed up fruit, and preserves is made from whole fruit. CG cooked her fruit whole (hence "preserves"). But, Aaron and I both prefer large chunks of fruit, but for most of it to be mushed up. So, I cut my fruit a bit before adding to the pot. The raspberries and blackberries broke down very well on their own, but I was glad that I cut the blueberries in half, and quartered the huge strawberries. But be careful doing this when changing a recipe - mashing fruit can release the natural pectin that's in it, and can interfere with the thickening process.
Bring your fruit to a boil (on high) and stir every minute. You'll see it begin to beak down like this. Now - here's where I modified the recipe (since I wasn't able to put the jars in a water bath to seal them the way CG recomments). I'll add that I DID speak with a former amish-lady (who's made hundreds of jars of jam in her life) about my predicament, and this is how she suggested I finish the canning sans-water bath. For the "correct" way to do this - please check out CG's post HERE.
It took my fruit only about 2 minutes to boil, and once it began to boil I started a timer.
Six minutes after the fruit started to boil, I added HALF of a box of No, or Low Sugar Pectin.
Boil for another FOUR minutes, and then turn the heat off. Ladle into your jars, leaving 1/3 inch headspace. Wipe the rim off with a damp cloth or paper towel (to ensure a good seal).
And add your lid and rim. (The lids should have been "simmering" but not boiling in a pot of hot water.) Tighten it as tight as your hands can get it, and then put it on the counter upside-down. You'll probably need to hold the hot jars with a towel so you don't burn your hands. The heat of the cooked fruit will be enough to seal the jars.
After all lids seal ("pop-down"), you can invert them the correct way. I generally make my jam / preserves after the boys are in bed at night, and just leave the jars upside-down until morning. All of my jars have sealed using this method. If one of yours doesn't, you can just use that one right away - it should be good in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.
Allow your jars to cool for 24 hours before storing. They should keep for up to one year.
If your lids don't seal, or if your preserves don't jell, follow directions on either package to remedy the problem. CG says that the recipe makes 12 pint sized (8 oz) jars - and the 1/2 recipe makes 6 jars. However, each time I've made it it makes 9 (or just over), so I guess my fruit's larger than hers? To make up for this, I added 3/4 box of pectin to my second batch rather than just 1/2 box. Both ways seemed to turn out well for me - one was just a bit firmer than the other. Both were totally yummy and very acceptable.
I'll add a little disclaimer here. Of course it's best to use fruit that was just picked! Nothing says "I love you" quite like a homemade (possibly even home-grown!) jar of jam with fruit you picked yourself. However ... I'll admit that this fruit came from the store (to my credit, it was marked "organic"). And it tastes SPECTACULARLY AMAZING! So, I really think that ANY fruit is fine for making this jam. It's just THAT good of a recipe!
All that's left is for me to make cute labels, and they're ready to go in a gift basket with some freshly baked bread as Christmas gifts. YUMMY! ... So far I've made Strawberry Freezer Jam (I'll post those directions later), and Mixed Berry Preserves. Next up is Strawberry (non-freezer) Jam, and Blueberry-Lime Jam! ... Then later this fall I'll attempt apple butter. ... Hmmm, I'm getting hungry after all this typing. I think it's time to go start making dinner. ENJOY!