On Escaping & Blueberries in Vanilla Bean Syrup + Lavender (How-To Can Blueberries)

July 9th, 2014 § 8 comments

The sun weaves in; the sun weaves out. The clouds are dancing with the sun today. It is less a salsa and more of a waltz. Slow and thoughtful the two glide and pass each other moving deliberately. It is quite amazing. Wish you were here.

Close-Up Blueberries & Lavendar in Vanilla Bean Syrup

Days like these make me wish for summer never to end. The perfect warming temperature couples with a touch of humidity to make you sweat  just enough to remind you it is in fact the season of warmth.

Delicious breezes caress the skin amid the comforting embrace of the sun. I cannot imagine a more perfect place to enjoy being. Getting lost in overgrown alleys and exploring woods unknown is the best part of summer. Escaping into the recesses of your mind and the bowels of your city is more than an option when faced with our fact driven standardized world. Escape is sometimes all that we have. It is often necessary to survive.

Charlston Alley

Yet while escape is necessary to sanity, a reality check is also good to have at times. Reality=blueberries are only here for a bit! Eat all you can, then we have to come together and preserve the bountiful produce for the deep of winter. As much as one does not want to think of the future, a blueberry saved is a blueberry earned.

If you are one of my foreign friends, blueberries  are a berry native to North America and though they grow wild, are often cultivated. They are a close kin t0 the wild Eurasian bilberry. They are now grown extensively in Chile and do prosper in certain areas in Europe, Asia and Africa as far as my knowledge goes. They are of the most beautiful indigo and their very presence in stores makes me shiver with joy.

First Step Canning Blueberries Many Jars of Lavendar & Blueberries

My friend P. & I took to the fields out at Paskorz Berry Farm. Sad to hear of their failed strawberry crop, we wanted to support them in their berry endeavors and lucky for us the blueberry was in the middle of their mid-summer boom.

The life of a berry farmer is quite humble and I was surprised to hear that many times they can barely make ends meet. A bit of money from the government is often what keeps us here in PA in our local berries. A discussion with one of the owners made me see how dependent the berry farmer is on the oft capricious mother nature and perhaps the government. You have to love the aspiration and drive it takes in preserving our plants…it is not for the weak of heart.

It was quite a humid day and from a summer researching in the oppressive heat of Nicaragua with P. I knew that for certain she was read to kick it in after a good hour. We picked and sampled until our fingers were stained purple and shoulders were rosy, then we bought a few more quarts to go.

We left with our bounty and I headed home to gorge.  It was hard not to eat them all right away.

Using what little self-restraint I had; I decided to preserve a nice amount “raw pack” style. I usually turn summer berries into jam which I then in turn use on plain yogurt throughout the year but wanted to try something different. This was the first time I canned blueberries in this manner and was pleasantly surprised.

This “how-to can blueberries” recipe was modeled after the guidelines at the National Council for Food Preservation. Blueberries are considered acidic enough (here is a really helpful master list) to can without any additional acid added which is subjectively validated by my aching stomach after eating a quart or so upon arriving home.

Lavendar sprig in jar

The syrup in these is really interesting. It really is more of a juice, which is not a bad thing at all. It encapsulates that true flavor of the berry but if you are expecting a sugary pancake syrup, that it is not. So, if you are wondering how sweet a syrup this makes in purely subjective terms, the thoughts going through my head when making this were:

{While still a warm syrup gently infused with vanilla}

“Mmmmm…vanilla. I could drink this. I will drink some.  (proceeds to drink too much straight vanilla syrup).  Ohhhh. Heaven in a jar. Must. Bottle. For. Tea.” (proceeds to make some black tea) “Ok, so it makes a good tea sweetener. Cool.”

{Tinnitus proceeds to get worse as sugar levels rise from eating too many blueberries and chugging syrup}

{After blueberries were canned and I opened one up to try. Syrup had metamorphasized into blueberry juice}

“Eh…this could be sweeter. Wait, let me put some on yogurt. Ok, ok, it needs more…um…I feel like such a good girl thwarting off diabetes with this. K. Yep, tastes like a blueberry. {Drinks juice} Perfect for juice. Man, I wish it had more sugar. No…no! Retrain taste buds, retrain taste buds!”

Welcome to my world. So, it is really your call here with the syrup sweetness levels. At this level, these are preserved safely and are perfectly spoonable and juicy. It is delicious and MUCH healthier than thick syrup. This recipe is considered fruit in a “light syrup” and is kind of like a vanilla kissed juice. If you crave a more syrupy consistency use a 1:1 simple syrup which in the canning world is called “very heavy syrup” or a medium syrup which is somewhere in the middle. If someone works out the ratios on this let me know in the comments, please!

If you have never canned before, I highly recommend this free PDF from the NCHFP on the “Principles of Home Canning” or purchasing the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving. These are critical in understanding the process and precautions.

Blueberries & Lavendar in Vanilla Bean Syrup

Blueberries in Vanilla Bean Syrup w/Lavender

Ingredients

  • 8 cups of blueberries
  • 1 1/2 cups of sugar (I use fair-trade organic can sugar)
  • 5 cups of water
  • 1 vanilla bean, split with its seeds scraped out, pod reserved
  • bunch of small lavender sprigs with lavender buds tied up in cheesecloth

Instructions

Begin by sterilize canning jars. Wash 9 (1/2 pint) canning jars in hot soapy water and rinse. Place the jars and in 180-degree F (near-boiling) water for at least 10 minutes. If you have a dishwasher, you can also sterilize using this function.

While this is happening, bring water, sugar, lavender sachet, vanilla bean seeds & pod to boil. Remove vanilla bean pod. Use it to make homemade vanilla extract if you wish. Reduce heat to and keep syrup at a simmer until ready to use.

We will be doing a raw pack. Remove jars from canner or dishwasher very carefully using a jar clamp. Fill jars with blueberries (raw or having been lightly heated for 30 seconds) leaving a half inch space or to the bottom ring of the jars.

You may or may not choose to heat jar lids. You may choose to heat them in simmering water for at least 30 seconds or until the rubber part begins to soften. If you place them in water, remove from water carefully.

Pour syrup into jars carefully or using a wide-mouth funnel. Place lids on jars and tighten rings around jar.

Process jars for allotted time. My altitude was 15 minutes.

Table 1. Recommended process time for Berries, whole in a boiling-water canner.
Process Time at Altitudes of
Style of Pack Jar Size 0 – 1,000 ft 1,001 – 3,000 ft 3,001 – 6,000 ft Above 6,000 ft
Hot Pints or Quarts 15 min 20 20 25
Raw Pints 15 20 20 25
Quarts 20 25 30 35

Remove jars from water and place in a location where they will be undisturbed. Jars are properly canned when the lids pop and/or look tight and concave. If the center pops up and down when pressed, the seal did not take. No worries. Eat them now or in the next few weeks or reprocess with a new lid. It happens.

The above chart was retrieved from the “Complete Guide to Home Canning,” Agriculture Information Bulletin No. 539, USDA, revised 2009.

Love,

S

P.S. Need canning supplies? I recommend these inexpensive yet durable options. Remember, if you purchase from these links a small portion goes to supporting the operating costs and time put into writing this blog. I thank you all for helping very, very much.

Water Bath Canner – Cheap and serves its purpose. A good friend gave me one just like this.

Jar Lifter – A necessity in my mind! This one is really east to use and feels stable.

Magnetic Lid Wand – Such a help.

Wide-Mouth Funnel – A staple in my kitchen, not just for canning but filling jars for any purpose.

 

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§ 8 Responses to On Escaping & Blueberries in Vanilla Bean Syrup + Lavender (How-To Can Blueberries)"

  • Maggie says:

    This is my first attempt at canning whole fruit. I made six jars and had a lot of siphoning. All but one jar popped but they made very dull popping noises, not the usual ping ping I get when canning jam. Do you think I made a mistake or is this just something that happens with whole fruit in syrup?

    • Sheila says:

      Well, let’s start at the beginning. Did you leave enough headspace? I did find that even when I was just a bit over it seeped through on those jars. It could be that liquid got trapped and it didn’t vaccuum seal. I have made that mistake. If it didn’t ping could you at least tell if the top is concave? I hope I can help you get to the bottom of this! I am learning too and yes, it seems as the more syrupy type foods have more of an issue with this. I defer to someone with more experience here:http://puttingupwiththeturnbulls.com/2010/10/13/canning-101-siphoning/ Great tips on the siphoning issue!!!

      • Maggie says:

        They did seal, the tops are concave. I am guessing more juice came out of the berries while they were being processed and I probably went a bit over on the headspace trying to make sure all the berries were covered in the syrup. I’ll check out your link and try again tomorrow with the rest of the syrup. Thanks for the tips!

      • Sheila says:

        From what I understand it is common when packing in syrup with a raw pack so it may not have been fully user error. ;)

  • Kim paskorz says:

    Can I repost this to the Paskorz Berry Farm facebook page? Kim

  • Becky K says:

    Just made 7 jars – the syrup is HEAVEN! I saved the last couple of spoonfuls for tomorrow’s coffee. :)

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