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Wild bilberry preserves recipe


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The bilberry season is traditionally August and September but you can make this homemade whole bilberry jam so you can enjoy them in the winter months. Add the juice to black tea or use the fruit as a filling for sponge cakes, cobblers or meringues.

18 people made this

IngredientsMakes: 6 200ml jars

  • 1kg bilberries
  • 250g granulated sugar, or more to suit your taste

MethodPrep:15min ›Cook:10min ›Extra time:12hr › Ready in:12hr25min

  1. Remove leaves and stems from bilberries.
  2. Rinse, transfer into a bowl and cover with sugar. Refrigerate overnight.
  3. Sterilize 6 small (200ml) jars and lids. Transfer berries into the jars. Seal and transfer into a large pan. Add water to 3/4 height of the jars and bring to the boil. Boil for 10 minutes, then take jars out carefully and place upside-down on a clean cloth. Leave to cool.
  4. Store in a cool, dark place. Store in fridge once opened.

How to sterilise jars

Learn how to sterilise jars two ways with our handy step-by-step guide and video.

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The Wild Cooks' Blog

This recipe for bilberry pie is simple and quite quick to make and the bitter sweet berries make a fantastic pie!

Pastry serves four – you will need a pie tin big enough to serve four

400g bilberries
480g plain flour
240g unsalted butter
120g caster sugar
Zest of one lemon
1-2 eggs cracked and mixed together. I usually use 2 depending on the size of the egg. Try and use free range if you can.

Simply place the flour, lemon zest and butter together in a bowl. Rub the butter and zest into the flour until sand like grains have formed. Next add the egg mix and 20g of caster sugar and mix into a ball.

Rest this pastry in the fridge for ½ hour before rolling.

Wash the bilberries well and remove any unwanted stalks

Mix the raw bilberries (approximately 400g) with 100g caster sugar (you may need more sugar if you like your pie a little sweeter)

Cut the ball of pastry in half and roll half ready to line the pie dish with pastry. Make sure you have rubbed the pie dish with a little butter to stop it sticking, then add a dusting of flour and bash the side of the pie dish before you line the pastry inside it. Push the pastry up the sides of the pie dish.

After you have lined the dish, place the bilberries in the pastry and dust a little extra sugar over the top. If you like a sweet pie, egg wash around the base of the pie before you add the berries. Finally drape the thinly rolled out lid on the top of the pie.

Once again egg wash the top of the pie and if you have a star shaped cutter, cut out some stars for decoration. Bake in a hot oven at 180oc for approximately 25 mins.

Remove the pie from the oven, allowing to cool slightly, and serve with vanilla ice cream or clotted cream.

As with all wild berries, make sure that you choose a patch which is unlikely to have been sprayed with any pesticides preferably away from the road. You should also take care to only pick berries which you know are edible, as some wild fruits can be poisonous. If you are unsure it is best to take a guidebook with you for identification.


Wild Blueberry Jam with Berries from Maine

A few weeks ago, I did a slightly crazy thing. On Friday morning, I packed up my car, did some quick grocery shopping, and spent eight hours driving to Maine to teach a class at Frinklepod Farm. I got there around 10:30 pm, tumbled into a cozy bed tucked into stone room in a majestic barn, and woke up to a gorgeous morning, ready to teach.

I spent seven hours setting up, teaching (such a delightful group of students!), and cleaning up (thankfully, I had plenty of help from Flora and MaryJo) and then hopped back in the car and drove myself home. All told, I was only there for about 16 hours. I wish I’d managed to spend a little more time in Maine, but the craziness of late summer didn’t allow for me to spend any more time away from home.

Despite the shortness of my visit, I did manage to bring a little bit of Maine back home with me. Three perfect pints of intensely flavorful wild Maine blueberries.

Now, we get plenty of cultivated blueberries here in Philly, but these tiny wild berries are a different beast. Sturdy, tart, and intensely flavorful, they make gorgeous jam. They are also a little fiddly to separate from their stems (which is why, if you look closely, you’ll see a few stems. I lost my patience with trying to remove them all).

I used a ratio of three parts fruit to one part sugar for this batch (calculating by weight). This means, if you have access to wild blueberries and don’t have the exact amount that I used, you can still proceed with what you’ve got.

I might need to drive to Maine again next summer, so that I can make more of this tasty jam. (The jar labels pictured above are from site sponsor CanningCrafts and the jars are from site sponsor Fillmore Container).


Step 1 Pre-heat oven to 190C/375F/Gas mark 5 and butter an enamel pie plate, or an oven proof plate with a little butter.
Step 2 Combine the bilberries with the caster sugar, leaving a little sugar back to dust over the finished pie, and allow to macerate for 10 to 15 minutes whilst you make the pastry.
Step 3 Make the shortcrust pastry according to the recipe, or use ready-made and ready-rolled shortcrust pastry.
Step 4 When you are ready to assemble the pie, cut the pastry in half and roll one half out to fit the bottom of the pie plate. Trim any overhanging pastry.
Step 5 Spoon the bilberry and sugar mixture into the line pie case and then roll out the remaining half of the shortcrust pastry, with the help of the rolling pin, ease it over the top of the billberries, press together around the pie edges and trim of any overhanging pastry, which can be used for decoration or for jam tarts etc.
Step 6 Seal and crimp the edges of the pie together, make a slit in the middle of the pie to allow the steam to escape and bake it for 45 to 50 minutes in the pre-heated oven until the pastry is crispy and golden brown.
Step 7 Remove from the oven, and sprinkle some caster sugar over the top, allow to cool slightly before serving warm cut into wedges. Serve with clotted cream, double cream, single cream, creme fraiche or ice cream.
Step 8 NB: Can be frozen at step 6, when unbaked bake from frozen and allow an extra 5 minutes when baking from frozen.


Wild bilberry preserves recipe - Recipes

Preserving the flavours of the seasons is a thing I love to do. Jams, syrups, pickles have a go it’s not hard.

Lime Blossom syrup

I made this syrup about a week ago. It’s got a really unusual, melony, flavour – I’d say a bit like fruit salad. If you can still find some lime blossom with a good scent have a go. It’s much better if you dry the lime blossom first. Pick the blossoms including the wing shaped bract and lay them on a tray. It only takes 2 or 3 days for them to dry in a warm room.

Lime Blossom syrup

makes 1 bottle keeps for 6 weeks in the fridge.

zest of a small lemon and a small orange

strained juice of half a lemon

Sterilise a 75cl bottle. Put Lime blossoms and zests in a heatproof jug, pour over half a litre of boiling water. Cover and leave to infuse for 15 mins. Strain into a pan and add the sugar, citric acid, and lemon juice. Heat until the sugar is dissolved and then pour into the bottle.

Corn Mint Jelly

I’ve just made this today and it’s a tangy little number!

We’ve got cornmint in our woods but you can find it in lots of damp woods and wet field edges. its just about to flower and the leaves are at there best now. You can use garden mint if you want, but I’d go for a medium sized bunch as the flavour is much stronger.

Cornmint and apple jelly – makes approx 500g

1 large bunch of corn mint (3/4 needs to be chopped small just before adding)

750g windfall cooking apples

Jam thermometer or meat thermometer helps when judging if it will set

Wash and roughly chop the apples. put them into a large pan with the water and about a quarter of the mint, simmer, covered, until really soft and pulpy. Add the vinegar and boil for 5 minutes.

Strain through a jelly bag. Measure the liquid you should have 1 pint. Put you jars in the oven to sterilise. Put the liquid in a clean pan and for every pint of liquid add 450g sugar. Heat it until the sugar has dissolved and then boil until setting point is reached. I found that it didn’t take very long and when the temperature reached 104oC it set. Test for a set on a cold plate. Skim the scum off the top of the boiling jelly and add the chopped corn mint, boil for another minute then turn off the heat and leave to cool for a little while. Stir the mix to distribute the mint and pour into sterilised jars.

Wild Raspberry Gin

Raspberry Gin I’ve just bottled this 9.8.2010

Wow this is nice. I think it will be good to add to puddings or maybe as a long drink with soda or lemonade.

Two weeks ago I picked wild raspberrys from our wood and came up with this gin idea. I wanted to make a really summery drink, quite different from the warming wintery Sloe Gin. Wild raspberrys are sweeter and sharper than the ones that are commercially grown, much smaller too.

I picked over the fruit getting rid of any bits that didn’t look nice and put the berries into an empty bottle. They did get a bit mushy! I filled the bottle to half way up with raspberries and added about a tablespoon of sugar. Then I filled it up to the top with gin. I used Gordons gin, I wanted to taste the floral notes of the gin through the raspberry flavour I think it’s very summery. – you know I like my flowers

I gave the bottle a shake to dissolve the sugar and every few days I shook it again to get the flavour out of the raspberries. It was left it in a cupboard for two weeks until today when I strained the gin through a jelly bag into a big jug and poured it into a sterile bottle. Yum……..I might have a go at making a fuit punch with the gin and orange slices and lemonade………..I think definately theres a trifle that I can make with the alcoholic raspberries that I’ve got left over…

Cherry Plums

Cherry Plums can be yellow or red. I think quite often they’re planted as an ornamental small tree. These are growing in Boroughbridge just by a childrens playground. The pink blossom comes early in the spring and the fruit is ripe now.

The fruit look like a small plum but are the size of a big cherry. They dangle on stalk like a cherry and have a groove like a plum.

I picked both colours and after halving and stoning them I stewed them gently with sugar and cinnamon for about 20 minutes. They were very tart but had a good flavour. I put 100g sugar to 200g cherry plums and a tsp cinnamon. If you find some you can make all the things that you can make with ordinary plums. We think that the cold compote will go very well with meat as a chutney Chris is serving it with pigeon on tomorrows wildfood weekend.

Blackberries or Brambles?

Whatever you call them they’re lovely. This year they’re better than ever in our wood. I’m having a go at a new recipe -Blackberry Whisky. Chris and I had some last year at a shoot and it was delicious. I’ve washed the berries and put them into a large bottle with the Whisky and some sugar. I’ll leave it for a few months………probably ’til Christmas and then strain off the fruit and bottle the Whisky. BEWARE This is an untried recipe so it might be horrible ! … I shouldn’t think it will be though.

The quantitiies I’ve used are:-

If blackberries are what youv’e got loads of then I would definately recommend making blackberry and apple jam. Some people prefer to make a jelly because of the pips but if you put apples in too it is great. It has a heartyness about it that is so good on hot buttered toast!

Blackberry and apple jam

  • 900g Blackberries, washed and picked over
  • 350g Sour apples peeled and cored
  • 1350g sugar
  • 150ml water

Put the blackberries and half of the water in a big heavy bottomed pan and cook gently until soft. In another pan cook the apples with the other half of the water. When the apples are soft mash them with a spoon or potato masher. Put the apples, and sugar into the big pan with the blackberries and bring to the boil. Stir the mix until it reaches setting point and pour into sterilized jars. – your jam will set at around 104oC, check it by putting a bit onto a very cold plate and seeing if it wrinkles when you push your finger through it.

Pontack sauce

Pontack sauce is an old traditional recipe. It has a good strong flavour, I think it’s a little bit like HP Sauce. Ideally keep it for a few months before using as the flavours mellow. It goes especially well with cold meats and game but you can also use it to add a flavour to gravy or sauces. this is my version of it.

  • 500g Elderberries (washed and stalks removed)
  • 250ml White wine vinegar
  • 250ml Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Red onion chopped
  • 15g fresh root ginger bruised
  • 1tsp ground Allspice
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 170g Demarara sugar

Put all the ingredients, apart from the sugar, into a heavy based saucepan and cook on a low heat for 2 hours. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh seive into a clean pan, squashing as much through as possible. Add the sugar and bring to the boil. Cook for 10 minutes and pour into sterilised bottles or jars.

Foraging at Brimham Rocks

Over the weekend we had a free afternoon and made our way up to Yorkshire gritstone country. Brimham Rocks in Nidderdale is high moorland dotted with huge rock formations. We weren’t rock climbing………those days are long gone. but there are lots of Bilberries there and Cowberries too.

This Bilberry picker makes the job very fast. You comb it through the plants and berries fall into the back of the box. My advice if you get one though, is to use it when there are lots of fruit on the bushes otherwise you end up with lots of loose leaves mixed in with the bilberries and then you spend ages sorting it all out. It is quite late in the season now but we got cowberries as well as they ripen later.

Cowberries are known as Lingenberries in Finland and are served with salmon or reindeer. The great thing about them is that they have natural preservatives in them and can be stored in a jar just covered with water. There were lots at Brimham as most people don’t realise that they are edible.

We decided to have an experiment and picked some heather to try to preserve the delicate flavour of the flowers. We have layered them in sugar and hope that the flavour will be in the sugar ready to make into syrup at this weekend’s wild food course.

Hedgerow Ketchup

Try this ketchup with rabbit and apple burgers…! If you don’t have any of those to hand it’s good with eggs, cheese or meat.

I collected mostly Hawthorn Haws for this sauce, but for variety I added some rosehips, blackberries, sloes, and elderberries. This pan full of berries is actually the one I used.

  • 1kg mixed hedge berries, (mainly haws)
  • 500ml cider vinegar
  • 100ml malt vinegar
  • 600ml water
  • 300g sugar
  • salt and pepper

Put the berries, vinegars, and water in a pan and simmer for 40 mins until the colour comes out of the berries, squash through a seive into a clean pan and add the sugar. Bring gently to the boil, add salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes. Bottle in sterilised bottles or jars.

I’m sorry this looks so complicated but I’ve tried to explain everything. If you haven’t made wine before hopefully you won’t go wrong.

This wine is lovely but as with all country wine making you have to have a bit of time and quite a lot of patience!

You will need a wine making bucket with a 1 gallon mark on it and a lid, 2 x 1 gallon demijohns, a large funnel, a jelly bag or sheet of muslin, a bung and airlock to fit the demijohn, syphon tubing and 6 wine bottles – either with good lids or buy corks and a corking device. You will also need chemical sterilizer available at wine making supplier.

  • 1.5lb mixed hedgerow fruits (eg. Haws, blackberries, sloes, rose hips, elderberries)
  • 6oz raisins – chopped
  • 2.5lb sugar
  • Pectin destroying enzyme (pectolase)as per packet instructions
  • 2tsp citric acid
  • 2 campden tablets
  • 1tsp yeast
  • 1tsp yeast nutrient
  • 1tsp potassium sorbate
  • Finings (as per packet instructions)

Day 1.Pick over the fruit, taking out any leaves stalks etc. Put them into the wine bucket with the chopped raisins and sugar. Pour boiling water into the bucket to just above the 1 gallon mark. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Cover loosely and leave until just luke warm.

Add the pectin destroying enzyme, citric acid and a crushed campden tablet, and stir well, cover the bucket but not tightly. Leave for 12 hrs

Day 1.Pick over the fruit, taking out any leaves stalks etc. Put them into the wine bucket with the chopped raisins and sugar. Pour boiling water into the bucket to just above the 1 gallon mark. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Cover loosely and leave until just luke warm.

Add the pectin destroying enzyme, citric acid and a crushed campden tablet, and stir well, cover the bucket but not tightly. Leave for 12 hrs

Day 2. Add yeast and Yeast nutrient and stir. Always put the lid back on but not tightly.

Days 3.4.5.6. Every day for the next 4 days you need to stir the wine with a sterile spoon, cover as before. Try to keep the wine at about 20oC

Day 7. Sterilise your demijohn, jelly bag, funnel, bung and airlock and spoon if using. Strain the wine through the jelly bag into the demijohn using the funnel. Fit the bung and airlock. (put boiled water in the airlock) Again keep the temperature as close to 20oC as poss. Leave for approx 15 days until the wine stops fermenting.

Day 22. Sterilise your other demijohn, airlock and bung, and the siphon tubing. Syphon the wine into the clean demijohn leaving the sediment behind. Add 1 crushed campden tablet and 1 tsp Potassium sorbate. (this stops fermentation)

Day 23. Swish the wine around in the demijohn to remove gas.

Day 24. Sterilise the 1 st demijohn again and it’s bung and airlock and the siphon tubing. Syphon the wine into the clean demijohn leaving any sediment behind. Put the wine in a place now where it can settle out and won’t get knocked or moved – you will need to be able to get to it later to siphon it out.

Day 42. Your wine should be clear as a bell. Now sterilize your bottles and siphon tubing and carefully fill the bottles without disturbing the sediment in the bottom of the demijohn. This is best done by 2 people one filling bottles and one making sure the tube doesn’t pick up sediment. Cork or cap your bottles I sterilise mine by putting them in boiling water for a few minutes

…You can drink it straight away but it improves for keeping, I would keep it for at least 3 months or a year if you can.

Hedge Chutney

By popular demand, my best recipe from last Autumn – so said lots of people on courses during the year.

Hedge Chutney

This is an adaptation of an old chutney recipe but uses hedgerow fruits to flavour the vinegar.


2lb mixed hedgerow fruits – e.g Hawthorn haws, Rose hips, Elderberries, Blackberries, Rowan berries, Sloes,
1pt Malt vinegar
2 lbs Onions chopped
2 lbs Apples peeled and chopped (a mixture of eaters and cookers is good)
4 oz Sultanas
4 oz Raisins
1lb Dark brown sugar
1 tsp Ground cloves
1 pinch Cayenne pepper
1 tsp Nutmeg

Place the chopped apples and onions in a bowl, cover and leave overnight.
To make the fruit vinegar, remove any large stalks and leaves from the berries, rinse and dry them and put them into a large pan. Cover with the malt vinegar, heat and simmer for 30 minutes until the berries are losing their colour.
Strain off the liquid and discard the fruit. You should have about a pint of gorgeous fruity vinegar.

Next day put all the ingredients (including your vinegar) into a large pan and boil together for 2 hours, stirring frequently.
Put in sterilised jars and cover. The chutney is best left for a month or so to mellow before eating. But it’s worth the wait!!

Easiest Jam

Haw and Crab apple jelly

I made this yesterday as an experiment and it was really easy. The taste is quite fruity but tart and almost smoky. Excellent on hot buttered toast. We agree that the tastes will go well with cheese or cold meat and Chris says he could put it in a sauce to go with game.

  • 1lb Hawthorn haws,
  • 1lb Crab apples roughly chopped – cores and all
  • juice of a lemon,
  • 1lb sugar,

Pick off the leaves and stalks from the haws and put them into a large pan with the crab apples. Cover the fruit with water and bring to a simmer, cook for 30 mins or until the colour has gone from the haws to the liquid. Strain through a fine mesh seive into a measuring jug. You should have 1 pint of liquid. (Adjust if necessary)

Now put your jam jars and lids, on a tray, in the oven at 120oC. Put the liquid into a clean pan with the strained lemon juice and sugar. Bring slowly to the boil stirring. Keep an eye on the boiling jam, mine reached a setting point in just a few minutes. This is because there is so much pectin in the apples, It set at 100oC. Test for setting by putting a bit onto a cold saucer and then after a few seconds seeing if it wrinkles when you push your finger through it. When setting point is reached pour it into your sterilised jars. put the lids on while it’s still warm.

Rosehip Syrup

Rosehip syrup made mid October when the rose hips are as red as possible before they start to rot.

This recipe makes about 1.75 ltr

Mince, chop,or blitz the rosehips in a food processor. Boil 800ml water in a large pan and add the rosehips. Bring back to the boil, cover and remove from the heat. Leave to infuse for 15 minutes – covered. Strain through a jelly bag or muslin into a large jug. – Leave to drip for an hour or so and save the pulp.

Put the strained juice in the fridge and boil another 800ml of water in the large pan. Add the rosehip pulp to the pan and bring it back to the boil, take off the heat and cover. Leave the pan for 15 minutes and then strain through the jelly bag as before. This time leave it to drip for a good few hours overnight if it’s still dripping.

All together you will have about 1 litre of juice. Put this in a large pan with the sugar and citric acid. Bring to the boil stirring to dissolve the sugar, then boil for 2-3 minutes and bottle in warm

I pick the sloes usually before there is a frost and put them into the freezer for a few days.

These quantities are dictated by the size of my big glass jar. But you don’t need to worry too much about the exact measurements. We prefer our Sloe Gin not too sweet, so this is my recipe-

  • 1.25kg sloes (either pricked with a darning needle or stored in the freezer for a few days)
  • 250g sugar
  • half tsp almond extract (the type that’s in alcohol, not oil)
  • 1.65 ltr Gin

Put all the ingredients in a large jar and shake it every hour until the sugar has dissolved. Then shake the jar every day for a week and then every week untill the gin is ready. ..Probably just before Chrismas. Taste it to see if it has enough fruit flavour. If not leave it longer, if it’s good strain it through the finest mesh possible into sterile bottles. Yum

Gooseberry and Elderflower

May in North Yorkshire and the Elderflowers are out. There are wild gooseberries in the woods too and I have been preserving the flavours.

Under ripe gooseberries are best for jam as they have plenty of pectin in and the jam sets well. We didn’t have enough gooseberries so my kind neighbour gave me some from her garden. (they were under ripe …hard and green – perfect)

Gooseberry and Elderflower Jam Makes 1 x 454g (1lb) jar

This was an experiment so I only made a small quantity if you want more scale it up… I will make more next time The elderflower scent comes through well and it really is nice and unusual.

  • 250g under ripe gooseberries washed
  • 3 heads of Elderflowers
  • 250 g sugar
  • 200ml water

Top and tail the gooseberries and cut them in half. Put them in a pan with the Elderflowers on top and add the water. Cover and cook gently until the fruit is soft then remove the flowers and stir. Add the sugar and bring to the boil. Meanwhile put your jar/s in the oven at 120oC to sterilize. Boil the jam until it reaches a setting point (mine was 102oC) and then pour into jar/s and cover when cool enough to handle.

Gooseberry and Elderflower vodka Makes approx 750ml

This is a revalation… If you like Gin and tonic try this as a delicious summery alternative.

  • 250g under ripe Gooseberries washed
  • 5 large Elderflower heads
  • 5 desertspoons caster sugar
  • 1 bottle vodka
  • 125g sugar
  • 125ml water

Top and tail the gooseberries and cut them in half. Put them in a large bottle or jar with the elderflowers, add 5 desertspoons of caster sugar and enough vodka to cover. give it a good shake to dissolve the sugar and put it in a dark cupboard for 4 days shaking occasionally. After this the vodka will have taken on a good flavour. Strain off the fruit and flowers and all you have to do now is sweeten it. Put the remaining 125g sugar and 125ml water in to a pan, dissolve it to make a syrup and add it to the flavoured vodka.


Wild Blueberry Preserves

Made with natural ingredients, no high fructose corn syrup, no additives or preservatives.

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Blueberry Jam Recipe


We’re “Saving Summer In A Jar” with this recipe for Blueberry Jam. Talk about easy to make…how about only 3 ingredients to make this quick and easy jam that is just bursting with flavor. Seriously, home canning and food preservation just doesn’t get much easier than this.

Blueberry Jam Recipe

This is another quick and easy recipe to use for getting started in your home food preservation projects. Seriously, all you really need are just Blueberries and Granulated Sugar. No pectin is needed, nothing else, zip..zap…zadda….just TWO ingredients. Of course, we did manage to complicate the recipe just a little by adding one more ingredient. It’s just our way it seems. I added a Tablespoon of freshly squeezed Lemon Juice to the batch. It’s not needed at all but, its like adding a little Lemon zest to your other recipes….it just knocks it all up a punch.

Blueberries are so good for your health. They come in numerous varieties from tart to sweet and are available from late May until late July or early August here in the South. The only real problem is that it’s just usually so hot when it’s time to pick them. We’ve seen some really hot days this year and have broken several records for the hottest days ever in our area. Ouch.

Growing up as a kid, we often would find Blueberries growing in the wild along the edge of a dirt road or out in the edge of the woods. They were so delicious to just stand there and pick them off the bushes and pop them into your mouth, eating them fresh off the bush. Then, you’d run home to grab a bucket and go pick some more for mama. You just knew that if you could gather enough of them, she would make a Blueberry Pie or Blueberry Cobbler.

It didn’t even matter…at the time…that you were probably going to be scratching little bumps for the next several days. Somehow, we always seemed to forget that little part from one summer to the next. Red-bugs…or chiggers, must love Blueberries as well. In the wild, you almost always got “eat up” with red-bugs when picking fresh Blueberries. They are very irritating and we’d scratch them for days trying to dig them…or whatever it was…out of our skin. It makes me itch just thinking about.

These days however, you can find numerous Blueberry Farms with neat rows of bushes that make picking a lot more easier…and….pretty much red-bug free. Gotta love that. I get mine at a place not too far from home called Blueberry Hill U-Pick. They are open from sun-up to sun-down Monday – Saturday and “after church” on Sundays from 1:00pm to 8:00pm. That way, you can pick them late in the evening when the day begins to cool down.

Blueberry Hill U-Pick has 9 different varieties of berries and, they had their first small crop of Strawberries this year. They also have a small retail center on-site that sells about anything Blueberry. From Jams to Jellies, Salsa to 100% Blueberry Juice…you’ll find it available during the growing season. I picked about 2 pints this past Friday and bought a few more to make this Blueberry Jam. I also picked up my first loaf of Blueberry Bread that is made fresh for the retail store. I couldn’t wait to spread on some of my homemade Blueberry Jam. Talk about something good for breakfast, toast up a slice of bread and then spread it all over with a heavy layer of fresh Blueberry Jam. You’ll start scratching right away……your head that is….wondering why you’ve waited so long to make your own Blueberry Jam. Ready to give it a try? Let’s Get Cooking.


Blueberry Jam Recipe: You’ll need these ingredients.

This recipe is adapted from the Ball Blue Book Guide To Preserving.


We’ll begin by washing our canning jars and the jar bands in some hot soapy water. You can reuse canning jars and the bands for the tops but, you can NOT reuse the lids. Just place the jars and bands in your sink and give them a good scrubbing to make sure there aren’t any leftover food particles inside. Also, be sure to check each jar…even new ones…for any cracks or chips. Carefully inspect the top of the jars to be sure they haven’t been chipped anywhere. After washing, rinse the jars and set them aside.


Setup your stove for the canning process. We’ll start at the back left burner. It’s hard to tell it from the photo but, that smaller sauce pan on the back left is where I place my bands and lids. The larger sauce pan on the back right burner is where I keep extra water heating to add to the canning pot as needed. The left FRONT burner is the pot where I’ll actually be cooking the blueberries for the jam..and…the large pot on the right FRONT burner is my enameled canning pot. It’s already about 3/4ths of the way filled with water that is heating up to sterilize the jars.


The lids and bands are placed in warm water in a smaller sauce pan. I keep this on my lowest heat setting for the stove top. The lids only need to warm up a bit and should never be placed in very hot or boiling water. I always set this up at the beginning and just leave them in water until I’m ready to place them on the filled jars.


As the water begins to heat up in the canner, carefully add the jars to the water. I just lay the jars on their sides as I place them into the water.


The jars must be totally submerged at all times through the sterilization process. Once the jars are under water, let the pot come on up to a boil and boil the jars for at least 15 minutes to sterilize them. Just leave them in the canner until you’re ready to begin filling them with the jam mixture. Keep a check on them throughout the next steps. Add more of the water you’re keeping heated on the back burner as it’s needed.


Prepare the Blueberries:

You’ll need to sort through your Blueberries and remove any bad berries, leaves, little stems or other objects. I’d suggest you stop up your sink, place a bowl and a colander inside and just sort through them a handful at a time. Or, you might place them on a cookie sheet that has a lip all around…otherwise….you’ll be playing pickup as berries roll off your counter top. These little things can be amazing once they get in motion. It may be weeks later before you find that one that got away. Trust me on that one.


Now, you’ll need to lightly wash them. I ran some cold water in the sink and just used my hands to swirl them around a bit. Maybe I just like to play in water….I don’t know. Of course, the fun part is collecting them and placing them back in the colander after you’ve washed them. Not only can they roll across the counter top and across the floor…they can swim AWAY…just as easily. Just have fun with them. They like it too I think.


Once I’d “caught” them all and had them in the colander….I rinsed them again under cool running water.


Transfer the drained berries over to the pot you’re planning to cook them in. Then, I used this potato masher to mash them up a bit. You could run them through a food processor for just a second or two if you wanted. It’s entirely up to you. You just want to break up the berries to let the juice out. A food processor will chop them up a little finer but, we want to retain some texture of the berries for our jam…so…don’t over process them.


Mash them up to the desired consistency.


Next, you’ll want to measure your crushed berries. I scooped them out of the cooking pot into a 2 cup measuring cup and then poured them into another bowl. My 5 one pint baskets of Blueberries yielded 6 cups of crushed berries.


Pour the berries back into the pot you want to cook them in and place it over medium heat on your stove top.


To the 6 cups of crushed berries, I’m going to add 4 cups of sugar. You may need to adjust this a bit based on the final amount of crushed Blueberries you end up with. Jam needs to be made in small batches for best results.


WOW…that’s a lot of sugar in that pot. 4 cups of sugar completely covered my berries when I added it all in. But, just go ahead and add it all at one time. The berries beneath the sugar are already starting to heat up and the sugar has started to dissolve around the back edge as you can see.


While the sugar is starting to melt, squeeze the lemon. I’m adding 2 Tablespoons of fresh squeezed lemon juice to my recipe. While it’s NOT required, I think it just gives a little “punch” to the flavor of the berries.


Add the lemon juice to the sauce pan. Keep a close watch on the mixture and keep stirring down the sugar as it dissolves.


Prepare the area you’ll be using to fill the jars.

You just need a little space on your table or counter top to set everything up. Once the berries have cooked, you’ll want to move as quickly as possible to fill the jars, add the lids and bands and get them ready for the water bath process. The proper tools will also help make the job go a bit smoother. I’ve got my jar lifter on the left, then my funnel, bubble remover and magnetic lid lifter all ready to go. I also have found that placing my empty jar in a plate next to the cooked jam aides in clean up after I’m finished. After canning a few items, you’ll find your own little way of doing things that will work best for you. If you’re like me however, a little more SPACE in the kitchen would be very nice.


Once the sugar is fully dissolved, RAISE the heat on the sauce pan and cook them as quickly as possible. You’ll need to be able to stay with them pretty much all the time at this point. You’ll want to stir them often as they cook to prevent any sticking to the bottom and scorching. They would also boil over the edge if you let them. That’s one MESS you don’t want so, avoid the possibility of that ever happening and just stay with them from here on out.

We’re going to cook the syrup of the juice and sugar down to a “gel” point. The time needed to do this will vary based on the amount of juice that came out of your berries and the temperature at which you’re cooking. While a thermometer isn’t necessary, I clipped one onto the pot just to watch the process. They only got up to about 205º on the candy thermometer.


Here they are at a pretty good rolling boil, one that can’t be stirred down. You may need to adjust the heat back a bit to keep them from boiling over the top of the pan.


There are several ways to test the jam for proper “gel.” I hope to do a more in-depth article on that one day that you can use for reference. Here, I’m using a saucer that I had placed in the freezer of my refrigerator earlier so it could get cold. I’m constantly lifting juice up with my stirring spoon to watch how it drips off the spoon. As it begins to thicken, you can tell the difference and will learn to SEE that difference the more you make jams and jellies. The purpose of the cold saucer is to drip a few drops of the hot liquid onto the cold surface. Watch how it reacts after a few seconds as the jam begins to quickly cool down on the cold saucer. After about 20 seconds or so, pull your finger through the juice. If it leaves a trail and doesn’t quickly run back together….your jam is ready. If it does run back together, you need to continue to let it cook.

I highly suggest that you search out some more information on this process of the making of any jam and jellies for now so that you’ll have a better understanding of what to watch for.


When the jam has reached the “gel point,” remove the pan from the stove and get ready to fill the jars. I didn’t have any foam on my jam at this point. Any foam should be removed though if you see it. It will just make for a better presentation of the finished product. Just use a spoon to scoop it off and discard it.


Just before I removed the jam from the stove, I removed my jars from the boiling water in the canner. I set them on a clean towel and have them easily accessible for the filling process. Here, I’ve placed one jar on a plate next to the pot of jam and, I’ve inserted my funnel. Let’s fill some jars OK?


Stir the jam in the pot one more time. Then, use a ladle or large spoon and begin filling the jar. Careful….it’s HOT.


HEADSPACE: As we’ve mentioned in our other posts about canning, headspace is the amount of space between the top of the product IN the jar and the TOP of the jar. This neat little tool, that hard to see blue thing up there….has sections measured off to check the headspace. For the Blueberry Jam, the recommended amount of headspace is 1/4 of an inch. The headspace needed will vary from one canning project to the next so always check for the proper amount needed. I was a bit short on this one and just took a Tablespoon and added a bit more until I had the proper amount in the jar.


The other end of that notched tool can be used to remove any air bubbles from your jars. I prefer to use these wooden skewers for that task. You can buy them in packs of about 100 for just about a dollar. They make great testers for cakes and I find them also very well suited for removing bubbles from my jars. Just insert the skewer in the jar, run it around the edges and around through the middle a couple of times. Any bubbles at the bottom of the jar, will follow the skewer up to the top and burst. Work out as many bubbles as you can see. It’s one of the things the judges look for at fairs and competitions so I try a little harder to eliminate them than most folks do I’m sure.


You’ll need a damp cloth for this part. Use the cloth to carefully wipe around the top outside edges of the jars and the very top rim itself. Any jam on the outside could affect the proper seal. Any jam on the top rim could cause the rubber part of the lid to not make good contact and could also prevent a proper seal. Make sure it’s good and clean.


Use your magnetic wand to lift one of the lids out of the warm water. Gently shake off the water but, don’t try to wipe the lid clean. Just place the lid on top of the jar and center it into position on the jar rim.


Use the magnetic wand again to retrieve one of the jar bands. Gently lower it over the lid and make sure that it screws on without resistance. Just use a gentle finger tight pressure to secure the band. Don’t force it down tight. Repeat these steps until all the jars are filled.


When the jars are filled, place them in the rack of your canner. The racks are made so their handles will hang onto the top lip of the canner itself. Place it in this position first and fill the rack with your jars. Use the jar lifter to add them to the hot water and to keep them sitting up straight. Try not to let them fall over as you do this but…don’t fret if it does. It happens to me all the time it seems. I think it’s the quality of the rack I’m using. It only has one wire under the jar and they just don’t want to sit up correctly on that rack. I’ve looked for a new one locally but haven’t found it. Guess I’ll be ordering one off the Internet…about the time I’m finished needing one this season. Wait…wasn’t I going to do that LAST year? Yeah…I think I had intended to do so.

WATER BATH: The process we’re using to make our Blueberry Jam is called the Water Bath Method. It’s fine for most jams and jellies. Another process uses a Pressure Canner to can the jars under pressure. For safety reasons, some produce and meats being canned require the Pressure Canner Method. We could go into a lot more detail about it but, I suggest you seek more info from your local Cooperative Extension Service or your local library…or hey…maybe here on the Internet using some reliable sources.


Carefully lift the handles and the rack and lower the jars into the canner. The jars need to be covered by about 2 inches of water at all times. That’s why I keep another pot of water heating on the back burner. It only takes a few seconds to get back up to a rolling boil after adding more hot water. I just keep filling up the smaller pot as I use up the hot water. It boils away kind of quickly so keep a watch on it.


Once the water is back to a rolling boil, place the lid on the canner and start counting the time needed to process the jam.

This time will vary based on the Altitude of where you live. I need 15 minutes for the water bath process and this jam. You’ll need to adjust accordingly based on your location.


After the correct amount of time, remove the lid. Use some oven mitts or tongs and CAREFULLY lift the rack up and hook the handles back onto the top lip of the canner. It’s recommended that you let the jars REST here for about 5 minutes before removing them. You may even hear one or two of them PING at this point as they seal.


Using the jar lifter again, remove the jars from the canner. Set the jars on a towel spread over your counter top and in a location away from drafts. You certainly wouldn’t want to set one of those hot jars on your bare Granite or Marble counter top. The jar might burst open if you did so, make sure you have a towel handy to set them on.

NOTE: The jars need to remain undisturbed in this location for 24 hours. Do not pick them up or move them if at all possible during this time. And, DO NOT press down on the top of the jar to see if it has sealed until 24 hours have passed. When the time is up, you can press the middle top portion of the jar to make sure it’s properly sealed. The top should already be down and not make any movement or noise when you press the center of the lid. If it springs back up, the jar didn’t seal. The product inside is still good but the jar will need to be refrigerated and used first.

Properly sealed jars may be wiped clean and moved to a dark cool area for storage of up to 12 months or possibly longer.


After I started my adventure into home food preservation, I quickly realized that any time someone shared a jar of their labors…they must really think a good deal about me. It’s fun and rewarding to make your own products like this…not to mention that you know exactly what goes INSIDE each jar. Still, it does take some time and effort to complete the process so, next time someone hands you a jar from their home pantry….give them a BIG HUG and say Thank You Very Much.

You can “Save Summer In A Jar” by making your own homemade Blueberry Jam. These little jars make great gifts for any time of the year. Decorate them with cloth or paper jar toppers, labels, etc. and show someone just how much you appreciate them.


Bilberry

From early August onwards any of my work in the mountains of England, Wales and Scotland is often accompanied by the action of grazing on these tiny purple blobs as I work my way through the heather and scrub. Bilberries (the most-used common name, but lots of regional variations exist – see above) are easy to find and identify, and can be eaten straight from the bush with no problems and few misidentification worries.

The fruits can be picked easily by hand and turned into a variety of jams, pies and other fruit preserves.

Where do Bilberries grow?

Within the UK you will find Bilberry bushes growing amongst heather and gorse plants on upland acidic soils. I’ve found them on pretty much every UK mountain I have climbed or visited, even if the species was only represented by a few straggly bushes clinging on between some rocks, away from the relentless grazing of sheep or deer.

You may also find them growing in clearings and glades under conifers on uplands – either as a holdfast from the previous cultivation of that piece of land (i.e. they were there before the trees were planted in the last 150yrs or so) or transplanted in some form from neighbouring hillsides.

Not far from our offices is an open hill sticking out above Clocaenog forest, known as Pincyn Llys. The prominent feature is a tall stone obelisk/monument erected by Lord Bagot in 1830 to commemorate the planting of the first trees of what became the commercial plantations of Clocaenog Forest. A later inscription on the side of the monument marks the re-planting and extension of the forest by the Forestry Commission following intensive felling for pit props and trench materials during the First World War.
“Llys” in Welsh means “court” – but there are many who think that the name Pincyn Llys is a modern mistranslation/misnaming of this hilltop. The open clearing on the summit is absolutely COVERED in Bilberry bushes, and there is a lot to suggest that there have been Bilberries growing here for a long time. So given that the Welsh for Bilberry is “Llus” – should the 413m high hill overlooking Bontuchel and Clocaenog actually be called ‘Pincyn Llus’?

Are Bilberries edible?

Bilberries are edible straight from the bush (assuming you’ve made a good and positive identification) and can be safely eaten raw in most cases.

Some care is needed when picking them as they have a tendency to pop easily. Stained fingers and clothing often result from a Bilberry foraging session.

I use a berry comb or Peigne to gather them (see the video below). There are two potential issues with using this device for harvesting berries though – they can strip leaves from the branches if not used carefully, and they are almost TOO efficient at harvesting berries. I managed to harvest about 4kg in less than an hour this month, although that was probably less than 1% of what was in that immediate area. I would recommend that they are only used sparingly in areas where Bilberries are abundant, and your foraging activity has minimal impact.

How to identify Bilberries

Bilberries look like smaller, less substantial blueberries (it’s no coincidence, they’re closely related). The berries are obvious and prominent from August until early October for most of the UK, but can often be found earlier in some places. The stringy, woody stems of Bilberry are quite distinctive too – they’re often the bush on the side of a UK mountain that isn’t heather or gorse.

The flowers are small and pale purple/pink.

The leaves are slightly oval, and have tiny serrations around the edge.

Potential dangers and misidentification

Bilberries are a fairly safe foraging target as they grow in places where few other fruit bushes do (in the UK at least) and the only fruit you are possibly likely to come across in the same area are Blackberries.

If you discount the rest of the plant and look only at the fruit itself then it’s conceivable that you may confuse them with the fruits of White Bryony (Bryonia alba) – but it’s probably quite unlikely.


The Wild Cooks' Blog

We have chosen a selection of our favourite ‘wild’ recipes, full of tasty ingredients from the hedgerows.

Use our month by month guide to cook your way through the seasons and enjoy freshly harvested fruit and vegetables whilst they’re at their very best.

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6 Responses

enjoy the blog Steph keep up the good work.

Many thanks Gordon,
Always good to know you are a reader of the Blog.
How about a blog on the making of a pork pie in your shop?
What do you think?
Steph x

Just got back from the Acorn demonstration at Fodder and really enjoyed watching and tasting your recipes. Thank you for an excellent evening.

Dear Ann
Really great to hear from you and many thanks for your kind words.
It was an amazing evening and we managed to raise £2,380 for Acorn which is brillaint such a superb charity.
You ladies and gents did me proud.
Steph x

Hi Steph, I really enjoyed the evening in Settle on Thursday, and your Soda Bread was very good.! Is it possible to give the recipe on your blog as this one wasn’t included in the info pack.I’m looking forward to trying some of the recipes. Thanks to the 3 great chefs for a fab evening.

Hi Christine
It is called Whey Scone and on the web recipes just substitute Whey juicew for whole milk instead.
I hope you enjoy remember the wet tea towel is a great way to keep the bread moist whilst cooking.
Steph


Wild Blueberry Muffins Recipe

It has been such a beautiful day on the Isle of Man today – these are the days that make the dreary days of winter well worth it! So with the sun on my back I headed off to hunt down some of the islands most delicious wild bounty – wild Bilberries. If you’ve never heard of them before, Bilberries are the smaller, and slightly tarter, cousins of blueberries.

You might not find them in the supermarket but if you spot them in the fields and hedgerows in your area, make sure to pick some while they’re still around. They grow in the higher elevations of the island and I found a great place to pick them without having to do too much stooping.

Because they’re so small I decided to invest in a purpose-made Berry Picker. An hour picking berries with the Berry Picker results in the equivalent of a full day’s worth of berries if picking by hand. Needless to say, I’m well pleased with the purchase.

After getting them home, then washing and sorting them, I had over 700 grams of bilberry goodness just waiting to be scarfed. They’re just too good to use in preserves though and since I’d like to extend them as far as possible, most of them will be frozen for use in future pancakes and other goodies. But for today I’ve made Bilberry Muffins…SOOO much better than the blueberry sort. Don’t get me wrong – I love blueberries too. But the combination of sweet muffin bread with tart little bombs of berry juice are just divine!

1. Preheat your oven to 160°C for convection ovens and for ordinary ovens, 180°C

2. Line muffin tins with paper OR grease the bottoms only with a little with vegetable oil.

3. Beat milk, oil, vanilla and egg until well mixed

4. Stir in flour, sugar, baking powder and salt all at once and just until the dry ingredients are fully moist – the batter will be lumpy.

5. Place the berries in a bowl and sprinkle about a teaspoon of flour over them. Stir well so that flour coats each berry and then fold them into the batter. Coating berries with flour ensures that they wont fall to the bottom of your muffins while baking.

6. Divide batter between the 12 muffin cups and bake for 25 minutes. Let cool before tucking in.