Strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries and other berries are wonderful foods for making jams, jellies and preserves. Of course half of the fun of doing this was always going to the “patch” to pick the fruit and enjoying some sneak bites as we filled the buckets.
But here are four tips that go beyond the patch …
1. Pick ‘em right.
When picking berries, keep in mind that these fruits have a high water content and are very fragile. Therefore it is important that when picking them, smaller containers are used so the berries do not get crushed under their own weight.
2. Rinse, don’t soak.
Another thing to keep in mind is that since they are fragile, the berries should be lightly “rinsed” to remove surface dirt. Do not allow berries to sit in water for very long because they tend to take on more water and will become mushy.
3. Firm and ripe
When selecting berries for jellied products, ripe berries are best, but not overripe ones. Choose those that have good flavor and are still firm to the touch. For strawberries, I prefer the smaller juicier berries to the large Driscoll types that are available today – use those big berries for dipping in chocolate!
4. Mix flavors and add some heat
While some of you like your jams to be one flavor, I have found that mixing two or more different types of berries together produces great jams with good flavor. My favorite is to mix blackberry and red raspberry or strawberry with red raspberry. I also like to use pureed berries and peaches mixed together to make jam – red raspberry peach jam was a hit last year!
One of the downsides of mixing berries is that you have different jelling properties. I did mix strawberries and peaches together and the resulting spread was soft – but no one seemed to mind that mix either.
Currently, many are adding a little “heat” to their jams by adding finely chopped jalapeno peppers. If that is your taste, I am sure you can find recipes for great products.