June and jelly go together like blueberries and cream

Published 8:09 am Monday, June 10, 2013

June is a wonderful month for many enjoyable things — including Father’s Day and the beginning of summer — but for me June is also jelly-making month!

Keeping an eagle eye on the blueberry bushes this week I found a few berries turning that beautiful deep blue color and others not so far behind. I grazed for a few minutes at the bush and the berries tasted so sweet!

This early bush has only a handful of berries, as it was in full bloom when the late frost arrived and took them out. For a while, I was afraid we wouldn’t have any at all, although I cannot remember a year that we haven’t had berries.

Luckily, we have another bush that is always a little later blooming and was not affected by the late frost. It is full of green berries, but no ripe berries in sight just yet. I won’t have to start picking right away.

Blueberries are such good producers in our area that if you have too many bushes, most years it will keep you busy. I can’t bear to let them go to waste, so I pick as long as there are berries, canning and freezing them.

Originally we had five bushes and it nearly worked us to death. When Katrina came through, three of the bushes hit the ground. Rob told me he was going to see if he could save them and get them back in the ground.

 “Don’t you dare,” I told him. “Throw them away! We have two bushes left and that’s about all we can handle!”

We have found that to be very true. Although I love picking berries, it does get tiresome after so long as blueberries bear for several weeks! The berries are so beautiful and so handy to have canned and frozen for the rest of the year.

Very soon my frozen berries from last year will be used to make jelly, making room for the berries now coming on. Many people like blueberry jam, but I find the seeds not to my liking so I prefer the jelly.

My 10-year-old great-grandson, Talyn, loves jelly (particularly blueberry) and since I have been providing him with homemade jelly for several years, he refuses to eat “store-bought” jelly. He likes eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with his Papaw Mike Byrd.

Some years my family will get together and bring all our frozen berries to one location and we put up jelly all day! We have a great time together and usually the result will be all the blueberry jelly we need for awhile.

I am running low on my stash of jelly as I didn’t make much last year because with my back problems I couldn’t stand long enough to do much jelly making. Since the surgery, I am so much better and I am looking forward to making jelly this year. Right now I have many more empty jelly jars than filled ones.

Unfortunately, all our peach trees have ceased producing and most have died. At our age they take much too much care for us to start over with new trees. Peaches are high maintenance, but if one has the time and the patience, the fruit of their labor is indescribable! Nothing tastes as good as a fresh ripe peach right off the tree.

The fig trees seem to have survived the late frost although for a while the brown new growth didn’t look too promising. However, I can see baby figs coming on the trees, so that will be another canning experience before long.

At some point every year somebody will call and ask for a recipe for blueberry jelly. So while you watch your blueberries grow and ripen, I’m sharing my recipe. It always works well for me. Making any kind of jelly is easy if you can follow directions and most are pretty similar.

Making jelly is not inexpensive by the time you figure in the price of sugar and Sure-Jel, but it is so satisfying and homemade jelly is just the best! It is also much easier if you will purchase one of the inexpensive canning kits containing all the utensils you need for jelly making.

Blueberry Jelly

4 cups blueberry juice (directions below)

5 cups sugar

1 pkg. Sure-Jel (or other powdered pectin)

Put juice and Sure-Jel in large pot and bring to a rolling boil; add sugar all at once. Stir to dissolve and bring back to rolling boil – a boil you can’t stir down. Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and skim. Pour into prepared hot jars, add lids and tighten.

Process in boiling water 5 to 10 minutes (Cover jars with water 1 to 2 inches.) This hot water bath processing particularly needs to be done in the south to prevent mold. Remove jars from water and let cool. It may take a while for it to gel as it cools.

To make juice: just barely cover washed berries with water and bring to a boil, cooking long enough to extract a deep colored strong juice for the jelly. Strain and measure. It’s ready to make jelly.  The strength of the juice affects the taste of the jelly. You don’t want too much water! 

Retired Lifestyle Editor Bob Ann Breland, a resident of Pine, writes a weekly column and may be contacted at bobann_b@ yahoo. com.