Time to make jelly before the new crop is ready

Published 8:57 am Monday, May 4, 2015

I’ve been busy making blueberry jelly this past week. I still have a lot of frozen berries, and it looks like the crop for this year isn’t too far off.

This is when I usually make blueberry jelly. I find after berries have been in the freezer for a year, the hulls of the berries are a little tough. It is time to get rid of the old to make room for the new. The best way to do that is to make blueberry jelly.

It apparently is a good year for blueberries as the late frost didn’t damage ours, which are planted out in the open, exposed to the elements. Not only are they delicious, but blueberries are very good for your health and are only 45 calories for one-half cup for those who are watching their figure. (Of course that is fresh picked — not blueberry jelly!)

I enjoy picking blueberries, as it takes me back to the days when we used to go into the woods to pick huckleberries. When we happened upon a wild blueberry bush, it was magic. The wild blueberries were so much bigger and easier to pick than the tiny huckleberries. We don’t go wild huckleberry picking anymore. I wonder if anybody does. The blueberries are so much easier to pick, and they aren’t in the woods.

The wild huckleberries have a little different taste than blueberries. Mama used to boil huckleberries with sugar and drop little dumplings in the hot syrup. That was a mighty good dessert with good thick fresh cream on top. That was before the days of Cool-Whip. If you want a simple dessert, you can do the same thing with blueberries. I don’t have a recipe, you just have to guess at the amounts. That’s what my mother did.

If you have blueberries still in the freezer and want to make jelly, it is pretty simple to do — but prepare yourself, you will have a lot of waste. There is no way you can get every little drop of juice out of those berries.

Empty frozen berries into a big pot and add just a little water (a couple of inches in the pot, but you may have to add a little more) to keep them from sticking. They will produce a good bit of juice on their own, but it will be thick. If you add too much water it dilutes the flavor of the blueberries. Cook until the berries are “falling apart,” and you can use a potato masher to speed the process.

I drain mine through a colander, and then I drain that through a sieve to get rid of most of the hulls and seeds. Some people use cheesecloth for straining the juice from the cooked berries. This is the biggest and messiest part of making any kind of jelly. (You can use this same method and recipe for blackberries, dewberries or mayhaws.)

Have jelly jars washed and hot. I put a little water in each jar and stick them in the microwave for 5 or so minutes, then drain. You want them hot when you add the hot jelly. Put lids and rings in a small pot; cover with water and keep hot on the stove.

This recipe makes approximately 3 pints or 6 half-pints. My great-grandson calls it mamaw jelly!

Using a large heavy pot, measure 4 cups blueberry juice and 1 package of Sure-Jel in pot. Bring to a rolling boil (a boil you can’t stir down) and then add 5 cups sugar all at once. Bring this to a rolling boil, and boil hard for 1 minute (time it please) stirring constantly.

Take from the heat and let set a few seconds, then skim off the foam from the top. Pour (or dip) the hot liquid into the hot jars. Wipe the tops of the jars with a damp cloth or damp paper towel, then add the hot lids and screw on the rings.

Since we live in the south, it is a good idea to put the jars of jelly into a pot, cover with water at least an inch and bring to a boil. Boil from 5 to 10 minutes. This sterilizes the jars, lids and jelly and you shouldn’t have any mold form on your hard-earned jelly.

You can cut down on the amount of foam if you add 1/2 teaspoon butter or margarine to the mixture as it cooks. I don’t personally do this, but many people do.

This can all be made easier if you will purchase a canning kit, which you can get at stores which carry canning supplies.

It is well worth the small expenditure, and you will use these for years.

I know some of you have your own method for making jelly, and you likely don’t need my recipe or advice, but there are always beginners out there who don’t know what to do with those frozen berries. I have even heard of some who (gasp) throw them away!

When our berries ripen and I start picking, I make blueberry jam or I can berries in jars to use for cobblers. This cuts down on freezer space, but I still freeze some.

It is also strawberry time, and I have enjoyed making strawberry pies. This recipe is pretty simple. You can also use this recipe to make blueberry pies, using another flavor of Jell-O if you choose.

Strawberry Pie

1 graham cracker pie shell or 1 baked pie shell

1 quart fresh strawberries

glaze (recipe follows)

whipped cream or Cool Whip


1 1/2 cups water

3/4 cup sugar

2 Tbs. cornstarch

3 oz. pkg. Strawberry Jell-O (regular or sugar free)

Slice the berries into the pie shell. Cook water, sugar and cornstarch over medium heat, stirring constantly until boiling. Lower heat and cook until thick, about 2 minutes. Add strawberry Jell-O, and stir until dissolved. Pour over strawberries and cool. Top with whipped cream or Cool Whip to serve. Makes one pie — 8 servings. Yum, yum!

It is definitely berry time. I’ve already picked nearly a gallon of blackberries, and they are currently residing in the refrigerator waiting to be made into jelly.

Spring brings us so many good things.

So get busy and make jelly!