This year I am really focusing on filling up our pantry and freezer with local produce and canned goods. I’ve always done a lot of tomato based products like salsa, tomato sauce and more salsa 😉 but this year I wanted to expand my offerings and try out some new things. Home canning is one of those semi-lost arts that I really really really love. Being able to save food from the peak of its freshness and then eat it in the middle of winter is incredible. The stuff you get in the store, that’s been on a truck for a week and pick before it’s peak so it can ripen in the store, is awful. Bland, bad for the environment and supports big agri-business rather than local farmers.
So this year my goal is to make the most of our CSA, local u-picks and our own garden to preserve as much as possible. Blueberries are a big thing locally. Really it wasn’t until I went into banking that I had any idea how many blueberry farms we had locally so I knew this year I wanted to go out into the fields and pick a bunch! But I was left with the cereal aisle conundrum (to many choices leaving you paralyzed with indecision) so I was quite happy to get the recommendation from my aunt to go out to S. Kamphuis farms!
Just north of town they had a great offering of u-pick fields, locally made products and a very friendly environment. So I set off with my berry picking hat, basket and plenty of podcasts. I was really very lucky weather-wise as well, I know everyone around here is sick of the cool summer we’ve been having but I love it! My old craftsman house doesn’t have a/c and my cucumbers are absolutely loving not getting scorched. When I hit the fields it was a lovely mid-70’s day with plenty of clouds and enough of a breeze I didn’t need my hat or bug spray!! I went out and started picking really having no idea what to expect. When I was a kid we spent a lot of time picking raspberries so I was thrilled to learn that picking blueberries was a similar experience. Pick the ones that come off easily, grab a spot and pick it clean before moving on and don’t forget to look in the middle/near the bottom for the really lovely ripe berries everyone passed over to get the easy to spot ones!
Two hours later I had just over 23 pounds of blueberries and the ladies were so wonderful and helpful with checkout. I even got into a conversation with one of them about what I was going to be doing with all these berries! The whole experience was really fun and easy and I definitely recommend heading out to their farm if you are in the West Michigan area and looking for a great local source of blueberries.
Earlier this month I picked strawberries to make jam with, ended up looking like we had killed something after we got done cutting them up and taking out the stems. So I was very happy to deal with the blueberries with relative ease!
I used this great recipe for a produce wash from The Easy Homestead and then laid the blueberries out on a pans with paper towels to dry. That’s when I realize, holy cow I have 23 pounds of blueberries!
I knew I wanted to make jam, pie filling, muffins and lots of bread (since that’s Dustin’s favorite) but it was just a little overwhelming to realize exactly how much I had to make with those numbers! I started with jam since I wanted a lot of that and it turned out awesome! I use a more precise recipe for the blueberry jam than I did with the strawberry jam since I was hoping to use this for more presents. I also had to make a quick run to the store to get more pectin and sugar! Really need to stock up on those when the season ends. Luckily I had some good coupons that netted me some free sugar with my pectin purchase.
18 cups of sugar
1/3 cup lime juice
30 cups whole berries
6 boxes of pectin
That’s it! I used my immersion blender to break up the blueberries really smooth (I’m not usually a fan of jam because of the texture with the seeds. Because blueberries have such small seeds it’s really easy to make a nice smooth jam!) and let it simmer on medium heat until bubbly.
I added the sugar, pectin and lemon juice and brought it back to a mild boil. Stir stir stir stir! My arm was SORE the next day, but it was so worth it. Use a large spoon to test the jam. Once it doesn’t run off the spoon easily you’re ready. As the jam is cooking you should have prepped your jars and had the lids boiling.
(I try and wrangle the mess with cookie sheets)
Fill, top, an then process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes (processing time starts once the water is boiling again). I ended up with a lot of jam, and it will be making some great presents for family and friends this year.
Next up was a nice easy pie filling recipe. I used this recipe as a base and just tweeked it a little bit.
Blueberry Pie Filling
10 cups blueberries
½ cup water (I ended up adding an additional cup of water)
1 ½ cup Sugar
6 Tbsp cornstarch (I added an additional Tbsp)
5 Tbsp lemon juice (I added an additional Tbsp)
In a stockpot bring the sugar, water, lemon juice and cornstarch to a boil. Add your cleaned blueberries and stir continuously. This is the point where I added the additional ingredients so that my blueberries would be more covered in juice. The blueberries will turn a lovely shade of dark blue/purple and get glossy. Stir for about 5 minutes until the mixture starts to thicken. I put my pie filling in pint jars, mostly because that’s what I have the most of and also because I like the flexibility of that size for different uses. This recipe yielded 6 pints! Leave 1’’ of headspace and process for 10-15 minutes.
My last recipe was for Blueberry Buckle (a coffeecake) and it turned out awesome! We had a potluck get together with friends and I knew I wanted to bring something blueberry related. At first I thought angel food cake with a blueberry sauce, but my pantry rejected that idea since I was ridiculously low on cream of tartar.
So I went to my handy dandy Betty Crocker cookbook and found this awesome recipe! Seriously, if you don’t have a Betty Crocker cookbook you’re missing out, even better if you can find an older one! I have so many fond memories of looking through my grandpa’s old, beaten up red Betty Crocker cookbook and finding just the right recipe for anything we could imagine. I got my copy in high school, pretty sure it was a Christmas present, and it is always my first go-to for anything kitchen related.
It was a hit, everyone was quite impressed, and our hosts were SO happy I left them with the few pieces left because the next morning it made a perfect breakfast.
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup butter
Mix together flour, baking powder, and salt set aside. Blend butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat well. Alternately add flour mixture and milk. This is where having a stand mixture is so fantastic. Once you have added all the flour and milk pour the batter into a greased 8x8x2 baking pan. Sprinkle the blueberries on top, take the remaining flour, sugar, cinnamon (I threw in a little nutmeg as well) and butter and combine with a pastry blender. Dustin broke mine 😦 so I use a potato masher. It works pretty good. Once it’s combined sprinkle on top of the blueberries. Bake for 50-60 minutes at 350 degrees until golden brown! It smells divine!
I ended up with about 12 cups left after these projects so I decided to just throw those in the freezer and once they are nicely frozen I will use my amazing food saver to vacuum seal them. Perfect for when the mood to make muffins or bread strikes! I also want to go back out to the fields and pick some more berries! I am hoping to make some more goodies and have lots of blueberries frozen to hopefully last us the whole winter. Interested in other ideas for what to do with your blueberry haul? Check out these posts from some of my favorite blogs.