The Simplest Blueberry Jam
For a while the blueberry tap flowed freely and gloriously. Combining those snatched from the mockingbirds’ clutches at home with the buckets of monster u-pick berries gave me twenty or so pounds to kick around in the kitchen.
They provided juicy sweet additions to green salads and smoothies with ginger. Others lightly warmed in multi-grain breakfast porridge, or bathed in yogurt for a cool afternoon snack. To preserve the taste of summer for chilly winter months ahead the final few found homes in the freezer (see my tips on successfully freezing fruit), and in the simplest two-ingredient blueberry jam (see recipe below).
I can’t imagine anything better at this moment than ripe blueberries, and already began compiling ideas for next season.
On the savory end, add to homemade barbecue sauces or glazes grilled meats, pizza with chevre and prosciutto, or whole grain pilaf with toasted nuts or seeds to serve as a light vegetarian main or alongside pork, poultry, game or fish.
For entertaining, toss together a variety of colorful berries with lemon or orange zest for a lovely brunch side, create a salsa with jicama, red onion and cilantro, or use frozen berries to replace ice in water, iced sun tea, cocktails, or glasses of white or sparkling wines.
Blueberries topped with freshly whipped cream and fresh mint leaves, or a light sprinkling of aged balsamic vinegar, a squidge of flavorful honey or a drizzle of your best-quality maple syrup to eat as is or atop Greek yogurt, frozen yogurt or vanilla ice cream would do well to round out a long hot day.
What’s so good about them?
Blueberries are one of the few fruits indigenous to North America, and approximately 90% of their cultivation is done here. With only 40 calories per 1/2-cup serving, blueberries are an excellent source of vitamins C and K, manganese, and provide a fair amount of dietary fiber. Composed of more than 80% water, they are also very hydrating.
Blueberries are among the most antioxidant-rich fruits. Included on its list are anthocyanins and resveratrol. These and a variety of other phytochemicals offer protection to your brain as you age, improving memory and cognitive function; inhibit inflammation and tumor cell growth, fight against damaging effects of oxidation, and reduce risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease, as well as several types of cancer, including stomach and lung.
Limes are high in vitamin C (roughly 30% of the daily recommended value is found in one fruit) and potassium for immunity and skin health, further antioxidant protection of brain and nervous system functions, and help in the control of blood pressure. Limes also provide a small amount of folate (about 3%), which is known for decreasing risk of serious birth defects like spina bifida. Soluble pectin fiber found in the zest may help lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and decrease risk of heart disease and diabetes.
When I named my jam the simplest, it was for good reason. Made with only two ingredients — blueberries and lime (which probably means it can’t be claimed as jam, but I’m doing it anyway), my jam is lightly sweet, deeply flavorful, and nutrient-dense for only a handful of calories.
Tell me… What’s your favorite way to enjoy fresh blueberries?
- 1 pound blueberries (just over 1 pint OR a heaping 3 cups), washed and drained, stems removed
- 1 lime, juice from 1 or both halves (to your taste) + 1 Tbsp zest
- Place the blueberries and the juice of 1/2 of your lime in a medium tall-sided saucepan, and set over medium-high heat. (A non-stick pan helps to avoid sticking.) Bring to a boil, and let it sputter about, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
- Reduce heat to medium-low or low to maintain a gentle simmer, partially covered. I won't provide a specific length of time here, as I let them simmer away, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, for however long it takes the berries to cook down to jam-like consistency. (*See HGN Notes for more detail.)
- When the desired consistency is achieved, remove the pan from the heat and set aside 1 to 2 minutes to cool. Give it a taste, and if you feel it needs more lime-y flavor, squeeze in the juice from the remaining 1/2 lime.
- Transfer the jam to a clean lidded pint jar or a couple smaller jars, seal tightly, and invert on the counter; set aside 60 minutes. Once jam has fully cooled, move to the refrigerator and use within 1 to 2 weeks, or freeze for several months.
+ Swap in lemon or orange juice and zest for the lime.
+ Add a sprig or two of well-washed lavender or a fresh herb that sounds good.
+ Try blueberry vanilla jam! Add 1 tsp pure vanilla extract, or 1/2 vanilla bean pod with the seeds scraped in.
+ Fresh blueberries are plenty sweet on their own, especially when you cook them down. If you need more sweetness, start with 2 Tbsp pure honey or pure maple syrup. Taste, and adjust as needed.
+ Boozy jam! Try adding 1 Tbsp of either Chambord (red and black raspberry liqueur), Crème de Cassis (black currant), or Crème de Cerise (dark and sour cherries) to up the fruity flavor; OR perhaps 1 Tbsp good-quality Bourbon.
+ If you don't care for blueberries, any fresh summer berry or fruit will do. Strawberries, wild raspberries and blackberries, mulberries, peaches, apricots, figs -- all are welcome here.