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Thursday, July 2, 2015
July marks National Blueberry Month! Native to North America, celebrate Independence Day with this nutritionally beneficial fruit! Blueberries are an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese, and a good source of fiber. Manganese assists in converting proteins, carbohydrates, and fat into energy; as well as, helping in bone development. One cup of blueberries contains 4 grams of fiber, almost 20% of the fiber needed per day. Blueberries are a great snacking fruit and can help with feeling full longer. Blueberries contain low amounts of fat and sodium and only 80 calories per cup. A phytochemical, anthocyanin, what gives blueberries their vibrant blue-red color are antioxidants which fight oxidative stress in the body. Blueberries also contain over ten additional phytonutrients to fight free-radicals and work as an anti-inflammatory in the body. Research on the phytochemicals in blueberries continues to show potential in protecting the body from cell and DNA damage that causes life-threatening illnesses such as cancer, neurodegenerative and cardiovascular disease. Blueberries contain 38% more antioxidants than red wine and one of the richest sources of phytonutrients in fruits and vegetables. Scientific research on blueberries is on-going and continues to show the beneficial properties of this antioxidant rich fruit!
Blueberries flourish in Illinois from late June until late August. Blueberries should be refrigerated for up to 10 days and frozen up to a year. An excellent way to enjoy blueberries all year round is safely preserving them through drying, freezing, or canning. There are two safe methods for canning including: boiling water-bath and pressure canning. Because blueberries are a high-acid food they can be safely canned through the boiling water bath method. Low acid foods such as meat, poultry, seafood, and vegetables need to be pressure canned to prevent the growth of harmful microorganisms such as C. botulinum.
Prior to canning ensure the selected berries are free from blemishes, mold, or discoloration. When picking or selecting blueberries search for fruit that is firm, dry, plump and smooth. Below is a step-by-step recipe for water bath canning blueberry-spice jam.
Always use a scientifically tested recipe when canning. See additional website links below for recipes and always feel free to call a local Extension office for additional resources. The Blueberry-Spice Jam recipe used below comes from the National Center for Home Food Preservation and adapted from the "Complete Guide to Home Canning," Agriculture Information Bulletin No. 539, USDA, revised 2009.
- Step 1. Read through the recipe at least once before beginning.
2 ½ pints ripe blueberries
5 ½ cups sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¾ cup water
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg or cinnamon
1 box (1 ¾ oz.) powdered pectin
Yields: 5 half-pints
Recommended process time for Blueberry-Spice Jam in a boiling-water canner
Processing time at Altitude of
0-1,000 ft.= 5 minutes
1,001-6,000 ft.=10 minutes
Above 6,000 ft.=15 minutes
- Step 2. Wash blueberries. Consider using a strainer. One layer at a time, crush blueberries. An easy way to crush blueberries is using a potato masher. Blueberries can be crushed in a saucepan or in a baking pan to allow for more blueberries. Once blueberries are crushed in a baking pan transfer to a saucepan.
- Step 3. Add lemon juice, cinnamon or nutmeg, and water to saucepan. Stir in pectin and bring to a rolling boil over high heat, stirring frequently. A rolling boil means even when stirred, the mixture continuously boils.
- Step 4. Add sugar and boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, skim off any foam that has formed on the top, and fill sterile ½ pint jars using a funnel. Leave ¼ inch of headspace on the top of the jars.
- IF processing time is under 10 minutes, jars must be sterilized. The recipe used for the blueberry-spice jam required only 5 minutes of processing thus jars must be sterilized.
- To sterilize jars, put jars in water with at least 1 inch of water above jars. Bring water to boil and boil for at least 10 minutes.
- For more information on sterilizing jars visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation: http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_01/sterile_jars.html
- Step 5. Once jars are filled use a cloth or wet paper towel to wipe the rim of each jar. This ensures there is nothing between the rim and lid and helps warrant a tight seal. Place lids on each jar.
- Follow the manufacturer's instructions on preparing the lids for canning. For the lids used in this recipe, they were simmered in hot water (not boiling) prior to canning. This warms up the latex on the edges of the lids for a tight seal between the lid and the jar.
- Step 6. Screw the lids on the jars until resistance or until fingertip tight. Place the jars on a rack in the canner making sure the jars are not touching the sides of the canner or each other.
- Step 7. Carefully lower the jars into the water ensuring there is at least 1-2 inches of water above the jars. Cover the canner. Once the water is boiling, begin timer. This recipe calls for 5 minutes of processing. Processing time will change depending on altitude.
- Step 8. Once timing is complete, one by one, pull the jars straight up and out of the canner onto a cooling rack or towel. Let cool at room temperature for 12-24 hours.
- Do not tilt the jars when removing jars from canner as this could affect sealing. Do not tilt jars to remove water from the top of jars.
- Do not retighten lid as this could affect sealing.
- Step 9. Once sealed, jars should be stored in a cool, dry place for up to one year for best quality.
A few ideas for serving Blueberry-Spice Jam include: spread on whole wheat toast, a marinade, mixed in a summer salsa, mixed with non-fat Greek yogurt, with crackers, or as a topping for waffles or pancakes.
Looking for additional information on canning or recipes?
Check out the University of Illinois Food Preservation Resource Website: http://web.extension.illinois.edu/foodpreservation/
The National Center for Home Food Preservation:
Check out the University of Illinois Youtube page on "What's Cooking? with Mary Liz Wright" for easy "How-to" videos
National Center for Home Food Preservation
U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council
American Institute of Cancer Research: Blueberries
"Blueberries" Food Sense: Utah State University