We take blueberry season extremely seriously in our family. Specifically, wild blueberries. The adventure usually begins in early August when wild blueberries first start appearing in stores and markets. My husband Josh begins by getting base price for an 11-quart wood basket. The prices start out higher when the berries first come out and over the course of the month, gradually come down. It's a tricky game to play. You want to get the optimal value, but if you wait too long, you miss out completely and you're out of luck until the following year - which means you'll have fewer berries with which to make this homemade blueberry jam.
Josh takes his wild blueberry game very seriously. In 2017, he went so far as to drive over to the food terminal with our one-month-old son to get his annual bulk buy (while I got an hour of sleep).
We love our wild blueberries.
Now to be clear, I love all blueberries. They are powerhouses of antioxidants, protecting us from free radical damage, whether it be from the sunshine or from the stress we create in our own minds. There is, however, some extra power in the wild variety.
Wild foods, like wild blueberries, need to be able to sustain themselves in the wild, without the help of farmers or person-made fertilizers. Compared to their cultivated counterpart, wild blueberries have a higher concentration of the antioxidant anthocyanin and therefore have a greater antioxidant capacity per serving than the cultivated variety. These antioxidants, as part of the diet, possess anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties, and they're also noted for their benefit in preventing cardiovascular disease. My favourite benefit of antioxidants is its natural sun-protection abilities – eating wild blueberries in the summer can be protective against the damaging rays of the sun.
Don’t be fooled by labels on frozen berries in stores. You’d be hard-pressed to find true wild blueberries for sale in mass quantities. Recently, a Canadian food store changed their misleading labelling on frozen blueberries from wild to “cultivated high bush”.
True wild blueberries are the berries you’ll find at your local market for a short time each summer, often selling from anywhere from eight dollars to 12 dollars per quart. They grow in the wild, usually on rocky outcrops, are labour-intensive, and time-consuming to harvest. They are also worth every penny when we consider the nutrients and flavour punch of each little gem of goodness.
Again, I will take blueberries in any chemical-free form. This summer I have even begun my blueberry growing adventure. As I write this, my family of three has indulged in a generous harvest of two berries.
The best way to eat blueberries is, of course, by the handful. Second, I'll take them in a smoothie, a muffin, topping some homemade ice cream, in a raw cheesecake, a crumble, and these dehydrated blueberry 'pancakes' are a winner all around.
And for the sake of today, and for the sake of the two boys I share my house with, I will add jam to the list of favourites. There's a small part of me that dislikes taking something so fresh and nutrient powered and cooking it down, as you do with a jam. But there's a bigger part of me that just can't buy sugar-laden jam, a sweetener with sugar and fruit concentrate in the store. So, even though I'm still on my pause from added sweetener in my life, I did make this jam for the boys to enjoy.
I love this recipe because it's so easy to make, is free of refined ingredients and you get to control the consistency.
Let's Make Some Jam!
Pectin is part of what gives jam that jelly/jammy sticky texture. It's what holds jam together. Commercial store-bought packets of pectin are actually dextrose, a sugar derived from corn, one of the most genetically modified crops on the planet. So, I prefer to use an original whole source in my jam – apples. Blueberries also happen to be quite high in pectin as well, so that makes this a super jam-friendly berry.
My blueberry jam recipe below is not shelf-stable. It's what I'd call a freezer jam. You can make loads, but your best bet is to store it in the freezer. In order to make a jam truly shelf-stable, you do require a lot more sugar than I want to use to ensure a specific pH level to make sure it won't start growing fur and what not. I am happy to make this in small batches and freeze the jars, or just freeze the berries whole and defrost some when it's time to make a new batch of jam.
Yield: 2½ cups of jam
- 4–5 cups wild blueberries or regular blueberries
- 1 cup of apple sauce (organic + unsweetened, or make your own)
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice
- ½ cup (or more to taste) sucanat or coconut sugar
- In a pot, combine berries, apple sauce, lemon juice and sugar of choice.
- Bring to a boil while stirring (uncovered).
- Reduce to a simmer, uncovered, and continue to stir occasionally.
- Leave it to cook down to about ⅓–1/4 of its original volume (around 45 minutes). It will thicken as it cools.
- Once you are close to desired consistency, have a taste and add more sweetener if needed.
- Transfer to a glass jar and store in the fridge once cooled.
- Will keep in the fridge unopened for two weeks, once open, consume within 8–10 days. Keeps in the freezer for months!