Thursday, July 22, 2010

Show us yer Bluebs!

I've got the berry blues for blueberries. These days, I am knee deep in gleaned blueberries, and there are so many ways to use them, how do I decide? If I bake a pie tonight, that is one less batch of turnovers I can make. If I make scones, then what would it have been like if I had made a pie? When I am president, I promise to add one day to the week, devoted solely to turning raw berries into tasty baked goods. One of the best methods I have experimented with this year is simply juicing the berries, and canning the juice. This makes a thick, rich, not overly-sweet, deep purple juice.

This process is a heck of a lot easier if your housemate happens to come across a steam juicer at goodwill. If you have no such luck, you could always order one online, or pick one up at your local supplier of canning goods. The steam juicer is very efficient at removing juice from fruits and vegetables,and it works like a double boiler, or like a giant coffee percolator for berries. There is a water basin in the bottom, the steam from which passes through a hole in the second layer and up to the basket of fruit. The fruit swells, bursts, and the juice falls down to the second layer, not mixing with the boiling water below. A rubber hose with a clamp make it easy to fill mason jars.

Wash your blueberries, and load em' up in the basket. Fill the water basin 3/4 full, and set that business to a-boiling. It should take about one or two hours to steam all of the juice out, and you are left with a great bit of pulp which you can use to bake all sorts of blueberry treats, or you may can it. You will want to pour one of the first glasses of juice back over the fruit, this helps the berries break down and release more juice. Make sure your water basin does not run dry during the juicing process, or else maybe you will burn a bit of escaped juice and your fire alarm will go off at 11:00 PM.

Steamed juice does not need to go in a water bath to be canned, but you still want to sterilize the jars. I needed four quart jars and one pint jar. After washing jars, place in the oven at about 240 F, and boil your lids. When juice is ready, fill jars up to about 1/2 inch from the top. A pair of channel locks helps if you find the hose clamp is a bit too much for your fingers to handle. Make sure the rim of the jar is free of juice and debris, place the lid on, and gently secure with a screw top. The heat from the hot juice will seal the jars if you set them aside overnight.

Done! If you wish to use the pulp, which you should, you can freeze it in smaller packages, or make blueberry applesauce, or scones, or muffins, or cake, or pie, etc., etc. Your canned blueberry goods will be in some fat stacks in no time!

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