This month's notes: March 2014: Spring is just around the corner. Strawberries are here in Florida, Texas and California, next in late March and April for much of the South, then in May for most of the country and June in cooler northern areas. See how easy it is to make strawberry jam or strawberry-rhubarb jam! See this page for hundreds of easy canning and freezing instructions/recipes, canning equipment guide! Also make your own ice cream - see How to make ice cream and ice cream making equipment and manuals. Then see each state's crop availability calendar for more specific dates of upcoming crops. Organic farms are identified in green! See our guide to local fruit and vegetable festivals!. Please tell the farms you found them here - and ask them to update their information!!
How to Make Blueberry Syrup - Easily! With Step-by-step Photos, Recipe, Directions, Ingredients and Costs
How to Make Homemade Blueberry Syrup - Easily!
(NOTE: This recipe works equally well with other types of berries, such as strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, etc.)
For more information about blueberries, see Blueberry Picking Tips
For blueberry jam, click here, and for easy applesauce or apple butter directions, click on these links. And here are simple directions to make blueberry deserts: cobbler, coffee cakes / buckles and pie!
- Blueberries - 6½ to 7 cups of fresh or frozen blueberries OR other berries of your choice (examples: strawberries, raspberries, blackberries).
- Lemon juice - either fresh squeezed or bottled. 2 tablespoons.
- Sugar - 7 cups of dry, granulated (table) sugar. It is possible to make low-sugar, fruit juice-sweetened, or Stevia (or if you prefer, Splenda)-sweetened syrup; I'll point out the differences below.
- At least 1 large pot; I prefer 16 to 20 quart Teflon lined pots for easy cleanup.
- Large spoons and ladles
- 1 Canner (a huge pot to sanitize the jars after filling (about $30 to $35 at mall kitchen stores, sometimes at big box stores and grocery stores.). Note: we sell canners and supplies here, too - at excellent prices - and it helps support this web site!
- Ball jars (Grocery stores, like Publix, Kroger, Safeway carry them, as do some big box stores - about $7 per dozen 8 ounce jars including the lids and rings)
- Lids - thin, flat, round metal lids with a gum binder that seals them against the top of the jar. They may only be used once.
- Rings - metal bands that secure the lids to the jars. They may be reused many times.
- Jar funnel ($2 at Target, other big box stores, and often grocery stores; and available online - see this page) or order it as part of the kit with the jar grabber.
- Jar grabber (to pick up the hot jars)- Big box stores and grocery stores sometimes carry them; and it is available online - see this page. It's a tremendously useful to put jars in the canner and take the hot jars out (without scalding yourself!). The kit sold below has everything you need, and at a pretty good price
Blueberry Syrup-making Directions
This example shows you how to make blueberry (or any berry) syrup! The yield from this recipe is about 9 or 10 eight-ounce jars (which is the same as 5 pints).
Step 1 - Pick the blueberries! (or buy them already picked)
It's fun to go pick your own and you can obviously get better quality ones!
I prefer to grow my own; which is really easy - but that does take some space and time.
As mentioned in the Ingredients section; you may use frozen blueberries (those without syrup or added sugar); which is especially useful if you want to make some syrup in December to give away at Christmas!
At left are blueberries (in my yard, actually; they make a great hedge or landscaping bush) almost ripe! If you want to pick your own, here is a list and links to the pick your own farms.
Step 2 - How much fruit?
Syrup can be made in any size batch, but the 6 ½ cups of fresh or frozen berries at a time is normal and manageable - it is difficult to get even heating on larger batches) You can scale the recipe down, if desired, to make any smaller amount.
Step 3 - Wash the jars and lids
Now's a good time to get the jars ready, so you won't be rushed later. The dishwasher is fine for the jars; especially if it has a "sanitize" cycle, the water bath processing will sanitize them as well as the contents! If you don't have a dishwasher with a sanitize cycle, you can wash the containers in hot, soapy water and rinse, then sanitize the jars by boiling them 10 minutes, and keep the jars in hot water until they are used.
NOTE: If unsanitized jars are used, the product should be processed for 5 more minutes. However, since this additional processing can result in a poor set (runny syrup), it’s better to sanitize the jars.
Put the lids into a pan of hot, but not quite boiling water (that's what the manufacturer's recommend) for 5 minutes, and use the magnetic "lid lifter wand" to pull them out.
Leave the jars in the dishwasher on "heated dry" until you are ready to use them. Keeping them hot will prevent the jars from breaking when you fill them with the hot syrup.
Need lids, rings and replacement jars?
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Lids: put the very hot (but not quite boiling; around 180 F, steaming water is fine)
water for at least several minutes; to soften up the gummed surface and clean the lids. I just leave them in there, with the heat on very low, until I need them!
Step 4 -Wash the berries and sort!
I'm sure you can figure out how to wash the fruit in a colander of plain cold water.
Then you need to pick out and remove any bits of stems, leaves and soft or mushy berries. It is easiest to do this in a large bowl of water and gently run your hands through the berries as they float. With your fingers slightly apart, you will easily feel any soft or mushy berries get caught in your fingers.
Then just drain off the water!
Step 5 - Crush the berries
You can go wild, be a conquering Genghis Khan crushing the peasants.. watch them flee. Well, if they're not fleeing, the berries sure do manage to roll everywhere. You won't find them until the next time you clean behind your refrigerator!
Anyway, to crush them, you can either do one layer at a time in a pan or bowl, using a potato masher..
OR you can be lazy like me and use the slice mode on your food processor. If you have a juicer, you can use that instead!
Step 6 - Measure out the sweetener
You can make syrup with sugar, fruit juice or artificial sweetener, depending upon your needs.
|Type of syrup||Sweetener|
|regular||7 cups of sugar|
|low sugar||4.5 cups of sugar|
|lower sugar||2 cups sugar and 2 cups Splenda (or about 1/3 that if you use Stevia, which is my preference)|
|no sugar||4 cups Splenda (or about 1/3 that if you use Stevia, which is my preference)|
|natural||3 cups frozen concentrated fruit juice (grape, peach, apple or mixed)|
Step 7 - Mix the blueberries with the lemon juice and cook to a full boil
Add the 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and heat the blueberries in a big pot to boiling and simmer until soft (5 to 10 minutes).
Step 8 - Strain the cooked berries
Strain the hot berries through a colander (I use a sieve that fits just inside a large pot, or for more pulp bits, use a Foley Food Mill) and let them drain until they are cool enough to handle.
Step 9 - Strain again through cheesecloth
If you want a more clarified (clear) syrup, strain the collected juice through a double layer of cheesecloth OR a jelly bag. Discard the dry pulp. The yield of the pressed juice should be about 4 ½ to 5 cups. You tend to get a better yield when you use a juicer; they are more efficient.
Step 10 - Add the sweetener
Combine the juice with 7 cups of sugar (or your other choice and quantity of sweetener) in a large saucepan, bring it to boiling, and simmer for 1 minute. Remove from heat and skim off any foam.
NOTE: To make a syrup with whole fruit pieces, save 1 or 2 cups of the fresh or frozen fruit, combine these with the sugar, and simmer as in making syrup without fruit pieces.
Step 11 - Fill the jars and put the lid and rings on
Fill them to within ¼ to ½ inch of the top, wipe any spilled syrup off the top, seat the lid and tighten the ring around them. Then put them into the boiling water canner!
This is where the jar tongs and lid lifter come in really handy!
Step 12 - Process the jars in the boiling water bath
Keep the jars covered with at least 2 inches of water. Keep the water boiling. In general, boil them for 10 to 15 minutes. I say "in general" because it depends upon the jar size and altitude. You have to process (boil) them longer at higher altitudes than sea level, or if you use larger jars, or if you did not sanitize the jars and lids right before using them. See the table below:
|Recommended Process Times in a Boiling-Water Canner for Hot Pack Berry Syrups|
Process times (in minutes) for altitudes of
|Jar size||0-1,000 ft.||1,001 -6,000 ft.||Over 6,000 ft|
|Half-pints||10 min||15 min||20 min|
|Pints||10 min||15 min||20 min|
Step 13 - Remove and cool the jars - Done!
Lift the jars out of the water and let them cool without touching or bumping them in a draft-free place (usually takes overnight) You can then remove the rings if you like, but if you leave them on, at least loosen them quite a bit, so they don't rust in place due to trapped moisture. Once the jars are cool, you can check that they are sealed verifying that the lid has been sucked down. Just press in the center, gently, with your finger. If it pops up and down (often making a popping sound), it is not sealed. If you put the jar in the refrigerator right away, you can still use it. Some people replace the lid and reprocess the jar, then that's a bit iffy. If you heat the contents back up, re-jar them (with a new lid) and the full time in the canner, it's usually ok.
Once cooled, they're ready to store. I find they last up to 12 months. But after about 6 to 8 months, they get darker in color and start to get runny. They still are safe to eat, but the flavor and texture aren't as good. So eat them in the first 6 months after you prepare them!
From left to right:
You can get all of the tools in a kit here:
Home Canning Kits
This is the same type of standard canner that my grandmother used to make everything from applesauce to syrups and jellies to tomato and spaghetti sauce. This complete kit includes everything you need and lasts for years: the canner, jar rack, jar grabber tongs, lid lifting wand, a plastic funnel, labels, bubble freer, and the bible of canning, the Ball Blue Book. It's much cheaper than buying the items separately. You'll never need anything else except jars and lids (and the jars are reusable). To see more canners, of different styles, makes and prices, click here!
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Canning & Preserving for Dummies
The Ball Blue Book of Preserving
This is THE book on canning! My grandmother used this book when I was a child. It tells you in simple instructions how to can almost anything; complete with recipes for syrup, jellies, pickles, sauces, canning vegetables, meats, etc. If it can be canned, this book likely tells you how! Click on the link below for more information and / or to buy (no obligation to buy)
Summary - Cost of Making Homemade Blueberry Syrup - makes 10 jars, 8 oz each**
|Item||Quantity||Cost in 2008||Source||Subtotal|
|Blueberries||1 gallon||$10.00/gallon||Pick your own||$10.00|
|Canning jars (8 oz size), includes lids and rings||10 jars||$6.80/dozen||Grocery stores, like Public, Kroger, Safeway and sometimes, Big Lots, local hardware stores and big box stores||$5.60|
|Sugar||5 cups||$2.50||Grocery stores, like Public, Kroger, Safeway and sometimes, Big Lots, local hardware stores and big box stores||$2.50|
or about $1.81 per 8 oz jar
* - This assumes you already have the pots, pans, ladles, and reusable equipment. Note that you can reuse the jars, and that reduces the cost! Just buy new lids (the rings are reusable, but the flat lids are not)!
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