Blueberry and black cherry conserves

Blueberry and cherry preservesI think I can say “I can can” now. I’ve done a couple small batches of jams so far, but I think I finally have the hang of it. And I did two full canner loads of pints today – a total of 15 pints and 2 half-pints. And this after helping a friend do something like 15 quarts of pickles this morning.

I’ve got a nice rhythm down: Prepare all the fruit. Fill the canner with water, load with clean jars, and start bringing it up to heat. Put the lids and bands into the electric hot pot (there’s only so much room on the stove) and turn it on. Put the fruit, sugar, and lemon juice into my 2 biggest pots to cook. At this point, I find it makes little difference if the pots have the same fruit or two different kinds. Once the jars and lids boil, turn those burners off.

Simmer the fruit as long as is necessary – I find blueberries will gel if you simmer them 10 minutes after they come to a rolling boil. Strawberries and cherries need more like 15-20 and are often still a bit runny – which is fine by me. I stir constantly and never really leave the stove. When they are about gel, I turn the canner full of jars back on to a boil and plug the hot pot back in.

Canning setup - dramatic recreation(Click the pic for a larger, annotated version.) I fill jars one at a time. I place a silicone hot pad on the counter next to the stove and use the jar lifter to get one jar out of the simmering canner. I dump the hot water out of it, place it on the hot pad, and fill it with jam using a big spoon and a canning funnel. Place the funnel aside on a plate, wipe the rim of the jar, place the lid and band on it, and settle it back into the water bath. By the time I’ve done all 9 jars, the water bath is almost boiling again. If it needs more water to cover the jars, I dump in the water I used to sterilize the lids, which is very hot. I pop the lid on the canner, bring it back to a rolling boil, and process the jars for 12-15 minutes.

Any cold, clean-ish water (e.g., from washing the fruit) gets caught in a dishpan and dumped on the garden or fruit trees. Any scalding-hot water gets dumped on the thistles trying to grow in the mulch near the foundation of the house.

Now that I know how it all goes, I don’t feel rushed or hurried. I’m not very worried about gelling, as these preserves will go into yogurt, so it’s pretty no-muss, no-fuss.

And now it’s dinner time. What’s your favorite dinner to eat after an afternoon of canning? I’m tempted to go out, but that seems…wrong somehow.

Yields and recipes:

  • 10 lb blueberries = 3 batches of 8c. blueberries + 3.5 c. sugar + 2 Tbl lemon juice = 3.5-4 pints per batch (3 cents per 1 Tbl serving)
  • 3 quarts black cherries + 4.5 c sugar + 7.5 Tbl lemon juice = 4.5 pints (7 cents per serving)


  1. Mom said,

    August 2, 2008 at 7:06 pm

    Outstanding! Love to see another person canning. Over the years, I figured out a couple more streamlining tips i) I put the lids in the canner water after I have sterilized the jars in it. The bands don’t have to be sterilized. The second thing is I’ve ditch the jar lifter, and I just wear really thick rubber gloves. If you can’t find kitchen ones that are thick – I got mine at Kitchen Port years ago – you can get some at the hardware store. I dropped too many jars with a jar lifter, with thick rubber gloves, I can put my hand right in the boiling water for at least 30 seconds before it gets too toasty. Also, they’re great for plucking tomatoes and peaches out of boiling water when I am removing their peels.

  2. Matriarchy said,

    August 3, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    Wow, I LOVE that rubber glove tip! I have some carpal tunnel syndrome and I am always afraid I will lose my grip on the jars when my hands get tired. I bet the heavy lined “chemical resistant” gloves at Home Depot will work.

  3. Jen in MI said,

    August 3, 2008 at 3:57 pm

    I’m so impressed, Emily – I still haven’t learned canning. With you and Mom around, I just might!

  4. trevor said,

    August 3, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    So far strawberry jam, saskatoon berry jelly, apricot preserves and pickled jalapenos/carrots/onions. Still to go…raspberry jam, zucchini relish, b&b pickles, and dill pickles. Plum jam, chokecherry jelly, and canned pears in the fall.

    Favorite post preserving “meal” – thick slices of hot, buttered, toasted multi-grain bread, and still warm jam.

  5. Daisy said,

    August 4, 2008 at 1:08 am

    Excellent post! I can’t wait to come back here when I finally get up the nerve to take on a little bit of canning.

  6. August 4, 2008 at 6:28 am

    Good job, Emily! Sounds like a tasty job well-done! Definitely celebrate as Trevor said, with the hot buttered bread and jam (though I always use up the “scum” skimmed off the top first). Other than that, go with easy dishes or something like your fried green tomatoes. 🙂

    And thank you thank you thank you for sharing the kim chi recipe a few months back… that tastes so incredibly good!

  7. Derrick said,

    August 13, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    That reminds me, I have some plum juice/pulp in the fridge I need to make into something.

  8. Joel said,

    August 14, 2009 at 10:05 am

    Great work and cool stuff – I have been canning for years and love the idea of using an electric hot pot – haven’t heard that one before so thanks! I, like you, am not afraid of jam that is somewhet runny (I actually prefer it). Reddish blueberriers (just before rippening) contain more pectin and will add flavour and thickness to blueberry jam. According to Joy of Cooking, one can replace half of the sugar with honey to be a bit more local. Great work and thanks for sharing!

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