Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Picking Blackberries For Jelly

The blackberries this year held out turning ripe until the last bit of summer. Then it's a race to pick them and preserve them. I'm on the second round of picking blackberries, and I may get one more round in before the misty mornings make them moldy.  Each time, my mom and I pick about 8 quarts of blackberries, which makes 7 cups of juice. I smash those in a wire strainer to take out the seeds. It seems like there is a lot of seed and pulp left over, but it doesn't go to waste. The goats fall over themselves to clean out the bowl. They look like zombies when they are done.

To make the jelly, I start by heating the water in the canner, so it will be ready when the jelly jars are. I put the juice in a medium stockpot, add the juice of two lemons, which is about a half cup of lemon juice, and two boxes of pectin. Once this comes to a boil and the pectin is all dissolved, I add 9 cups of sugar. That sounds like a lot of sugar, but it helps create an acid environment to preserve the fruit.

Once all the sugar dissolves and the jelly returns to a boil, I turn off the heat for a few minutes for the foam to come to the top. I skim off the foam and put the hot jelly into hot clean canning jars with a small ladle. I wipe off the top of each jar to clean of  any drips, otherwise the lid won't completely seal. I dip each metal lid in the boiling hot water in the canner for a few seconds and place on top of the jars, followed by the bands. I put each jar on the rack in the canner which is 2/3 full of boiling hot water. I let the jars boil for 15 minutes, and then lift them out with special tongs made for canning jars.

This recipe makes 6 pint jars of jelly, so after three rounds of picking blackberries, I'll have 18 pint jars of jelly to either sell at the farmers market, or give as gifts. I think this is a pretty good yield starting from six canes this year.

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