What does one do with 30 pounds of blueberries?
That is not necessarily a common dilema, but one I found myself facing just the other day.
Because, apparently, I have a problem with self control + berries.
Or rather, there's no problem...there's just no self control.
With half the fridge filled with 3 giant cardboard boxes of blueberries, a decision had to be reached - those boxes take up a lot of space.
Eating as many as possible was the first course of action, obviously.
Stockpiling vast quantities in the freezer was next, but even with all that it still left a good 10 pounds. Preserving in some form or other seemed to be called for.
I made blueberry jam a few years ago, and I just didn't like the texture all that much. Jelly seemed too much like hard work.
Some kind of sweet-savory pickle sounded intriguing, and The Preservation Kitchen had just the thing: blueberry aigre-doux. The original recipe is here.
I experienced some technical issues with implementing the canning instructions, mostly because the recipe calls for 4 1/2 cups (680 grams) of blueberries and 5, half-pint jars. Cram 136 grams of blueberries in each of 5 jars (680/5) and you can't even fit a lid on without seriously smashing them down, which seems like a bit of an issue. Plus the whole headspace thing.
So, I improvised.
I put 100 grams of blueberries into a half-pint jar and filled it up the rest of the way with the sweet-sour wine liquid, leaving the required 1/2 inch space. That way, the blueberries were fully covered by liquid (as called for in the recipe), no berries were crushed, and there was enough space. When I reached the 5th jar, I had used 500 grams of berries and had loads of liquid left, so I kept going. When I reached the 7th jar and 700 grams of berries, more blueberries than the recipe called for, I still had loads of liquid left, so I kept going some more. I wound up filling 8 jars completely, and only missed that 9th jar by a tablespoon or two of liquid, which you can see below.
After a water-bath canning, the blueberries reduced dramatically in volume. You can see below the lighter purple at the top of the jars on the left is the volume of berries, and is only about 1/2 of the total jar, whereas the fresh blueberries in the jar on the right are pretty much the entire volume of the jar. All the jars started out looking like the one on the right.
Now, it is possible that by smashing all the berries into just 5 jars, and only filling the liquid up 1/2 inch below the rim, that the water bath process would make it magically turn out right. Whether it would or not, I didn't want to risk a canning fail, and I would still have loads of wine liquid left over.
There's absolutely no reason why the improv version shouldn't store just fine, but it does change the ratio of liquid to berries in each jar. When I use one of these jars to make a sauce, I add a cup or two of frozen blueberries to bulk it out a little more.
So, that was my improv version.
You know, I have a fair number of advanced degrees, and I've spent a significant amount of time in science laboratories, so I am pretty good at recipes (chemical or otherwise) and I know how to follow directions (when I choose to). I am, also, the kind of person who usually can't find the orange juice in the refrigerator when it's in a clear glass pitcher, all orangey and highly visible, front-and-center, so I could just be missing something completely obvious. If you've made this and squeezed all those blueberries into just 5 jars, please let us know how it worked out.
I am always a little miffed when things don't work out just the way I am expecting. I view it as a personal shortcoming. With recipes, though, there's so much room for interpretation, so much to know between the directions, it is sometimes hard to identify where it went off course. It's a good lesson in acceptance, I am beginning to realize.
And really, in the end, it's almost always all good anyway. Almost.
based on The Preservation Kitchen by Paul Virant.
Makes 8-9, 1/2 pint jars.
1, 750 ml bottle of wine
140 grams of sugar (2/3 cup)
85 grams red wine vinegar (1/3 cup)
1 lemon, juiced (28 grams of juice)
2 grams kosher salt (1/2 taspoon) (I used Morten's, because I had that, but it does make a difference, apparently)
900 grams blueberries (about 6 cups): firm berries, no mushy ones
This link gives you the original quantities in cups - everything's the same except the blueberries.
You will also need about 9 sterilized half-pint jars to do it my way, a ladel, and a large canning pot.
Mix the wine, sugar, vinegar and lemon juice together and heat in a pot until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside.
Divide the blueberries equally among your jars. I used a scale to measure 100 grams into each jar. They should come to 1/2 inch below the rim of the jar.
Ladel or pour the wine mixture into each jar, filling up to within 1/2 inch of the rim and covering all the berries.
Wipe the rims with a clean towel, screw on the canning lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Boiling water bath procedures explained step-by-step here.
These can be stored in a dark, cool place for up to a year.