As much as my pseudo-Southern self wants to deny it, autumn is here in the Twin Cities.  And I’ll admit, I am a little bit excited for it.  Fall means cool, crisp mornings and lightweight sweaters.  It means an abundance of root vegetables and winter squash at the grocery store (butternut squash on my counter – I have some delicious plans for you later this week).  And it means stocking up the pantry for the long (and I mean long), cold (and I mean cold) winter ahead by preserving the tastes and smells of summer.

Now, I’ve never actually made preserves before.  Sure, as a kid I would watch my mother can just about anything she could get her hands on … peaches, pears, applesauce, green beans, zucchini relish … and to be perfectly honest, that pressure cooker scared the living daylights out of me and I have since avoided all sorts of canning activity.  But, as I have just discovered, you don’t actually need a pressure cooker to make jams, jellies and preserves.  So I decided to try my hand at some spiced blueberry jam this cozy Sunday afternoon.  I think it was a great starting point into the world of canning – although, I do admit, to having made a couple of emergency calls to my mother…

I like how few ingredients can go into making a jam.  This particular recipe (found in the book aptly named Jams and Preserves by Gina Steer) called for 1 1/2 pounds of blueberries, 1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (about two small juice oranges), a cinnamon stick and vanilla bean and about 2 1/2 cups of sugar.  First, simmer the blueberries, orange juice, cinnamon stick and vanilla bean over low heat for about 20 minutes. It will turn your wooden spoon and pot a lovely shade of purple…

Next, add sugar until it dissolves.  Turn up the heat and bring to a boil for about 3 minutes.  Take off the heat and stir in 3/4 cup of pectin (aka Sure-Jell or Certo and good luck finding it in your grocery store – it may be hiding in the baking aisle, the kitchen gadget aisle or with the tupperware and lunch bags).  Let cool slightly before pouring into sterilized glass canning jars (place right-side up in a 285 degree oven for 15 min).  To ease the pouring process, I first put the jam into a large batter bowl with a handle and a spout and that worked really well.  My batch made about 5 1/2 cups.  Cover with lids and screw on the caps.  After a few minutes you should a hear a “pop” indicating that the lid has sealed.  Hopefully the jam will set in a day or so and you will be good to go.

I think I might try mine with some baked brie and walnuts…

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