Even more satisfying to me than making jam (my form of meditation) is to make jam from my own berry bushes, and my own grown herbs. Right now I am picking blueberries, and I have an outdoor pot planted with lemon verbena, one of my favorite herbs. I make this jam every year. It's simple to make, and the end result is a delicious, sweet tart jam that is excellent with toast, muffins, and on crackers with a nice cheese. NB: If you cannot find lemon verbena, substitute fresh mint - it's a different taste, but good and goes well with both chicken and lamb.
Note: The Prep time includes macerating the berries with sugar and lemon juice. The cook times includes cooking the jam and submerging the filled jars in a boiling water bath. —Bevi
6 half pints, approx.
scant 3 cups
fresh squeezed lemon juice
zest of one lemon
fresh lemon verbena, about 1 foot long - use tender side shoots
Put the washed blueberries into a very large glass bowl. Add the sugar and lemon juice. Stir well. To help along the maceration, use a potato masher to squash about half of the blueberries. Cover the berry mixture with plastic wrap and let sit for at least a few hours.
in a large jam pot or Dutch oven pour in the blueberry mixture. Bring to a boil on high heat, stirring constantly. Use a long wooden spoon to alleviate the chance of getting spitting hot jam on your arms, AND wear an apron. Stay with the jam - you cannot take a phone call, leave the stove, or be distracted. The consequences can be messy. If you sense that the jam is going to boil over the rim of the Dutch oven, adjust the heat downward, but keep stirring. Allow to boil hard for 3 minutes. The bubbles will be frothy and constant.
Take the heat down to medium, and keep on stirring. If you have a bubbly scum form, stir in a small pat of butter. You will notice that the jam has changed color, and is shinier. Keep stirring, again lowering the heat, until you reach the desired consistency - the entire cooking process will probably amount to a total of 10 to 12 minutes. When ready, you will be able to hear the jam crackle when you stir, and you can also make a clean streak with your spoon that will expose the bottom of the pot. Err on the side of underdone jam. If you want, use the freezer and spoon method that you can research in many books on making preserves.
Turn off the heat. Add the lemon zest and the lemon verbena sprig. Allow to steep for a minute or 2, and then remove the lemon verbena sprig.
Ladle the jam into sterilized half pint jars. Clean the inside and outside of the jar headspace with a clean towel dipped in hot water. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes, and wait for the PING sound after you remove the jars from the water bath. This sound indicates that the lid has sealed. You will also notice a round depression in the center of the lid if the seal is successful. Any jars that do not PING should go into the refrigerator for immediate use. Allow the jam to sit undisturbed for a day. Enjoy!