Tuesday, January 11, 2011


     Okay, so a friend gave you a few berry crowns a couple of years ago, you stuck them in the ground behind the garage and forgot about them, and now you have a large unruly thicket of happy blackberry canes, all drooping with huge, luscious, glistening black berries the size of your thumb.
     When you dug the holes and dropped in the crowns, you were hoping for enough berries for a batch of muffins or maybe a cobbler. Oops.
     What to do with all the wealth bestowed upon the lucky by the generous blackberry? Not even the birds can make much of a dent on this kind of bountiful harvest. I suggest two easy methods for preserving blackberries for future use. And if you've ever priced fresh blackberries in the supermarket, I think you'll agree with me that preserving your own fruit is a darned good idea!

     1. Freeze them. Look up your favorite pie and cobbler recipes, note the number of cups of fruit needed, and freeze in those quantities. If you're planning to use some of your berries for a topping or garnish, you may want to go to the trouble of rolling them in sugar and carefully freezing them on a cookie sheet, then carefully storing them in a rigid container to prevent crushing. The sugar helps keep them from sticking together while stored, as long as they're hard frozen before they're containerized.
     2. Make Jelly or Jam. You will need a hot water bath canner, sterilized jelly jars with new lids, rings, a fresh box of pectin, fruit, and sugar. Now, let me say right now that freezer jams and jellies are becoming very popular, and they're not much work. I'll post separately on freezer jams later. Also, let me say that hot water bath canning is truly not necessary for jelly, as long as you boil your jars right before filling them with the scalding hot fruit mixture. But, I often use a hot water bath just to be on the safe side. To each their own, but better to be safe than sorry.

     3. Here's the part where I would normally post recipes. But I'm not going to, because with jellies and jams, good results depend on the pectin-fruit-sugar ratio, and you're best off using the recipe sheet that is included in every single box of pectin. Here's a link that explains all the different kinds of pectin available: http://www.pickyourown.org/pectin.htm
         I think I've probably used nearly all the popular boxed brands of powdered pectin over the years, and I've always had good results when I followed the recipes. Personally I prefer jelly to jam because it's pretty and I don't care for seeds in my spread, but again ,to each their own. The link I've posted above also talks about jellies and jams that don't require added sugar, or use an artificial sweetener along with the pectin.

     Now, if you just want to make an old-fashioned pot of preserves, then just keep stirring your fruit and sugar mixture (1:1) and let it bubble away until it reaches a desired consistency, then can it up.

     The bottom line is this: Do you want to pay nearly $5 for a half-pint of fresh blackberries at the supermarket in December, or do you want to pull out a frozen 2 quart bag from the freezer and make your own absolutely decadent blackberry cobbler?
     I know where I'm going for berries in the winter. I shop at home.

Welcome! About my blog:

Hi Friends! Welcome to "Grass Roots," a blog about preserving food. This is for folks who want to put up their own harvests and have more direct control over their family's food supply. Ironic that we're recreating a wheel that 100 years ago, nearly every American family had in play, but sometimes Grandma really did know best. In today's economy, with skyrocketing food costs, a direct result of the rising cost of fuel, which affects production and transport, it makes sense for all of us to preserve as much of our own food as we possibly can. Canning, freezing, dehydrating, meat curing, even home brewing, are clearly no longer quaint and antiquated practices or hobbies for the lunatic, earthy crunchy, homesteader fringe. These practices make sense for all of us, whether you're an apartment dweller with a small community garden plot, have a window box at work stuffed with herbs, or are a homeowner blessed with a large backyard garden.
I don't pretend to be an expert. But I am committed to sharing information about sensible and practical ways to preserve food for home use. I come from a long line of Kansas canners and freezers, so this lifestyle feels familiar and relevant to me. I will pass on good ideas about ways we can all easily reduce our grocery bills and eat better through our own efforts.
I hope you like my blog and visit often. I'd love to see recipe and idea-sharing happen here. Talk to you soon! My first blog will be about JELLY!!!