Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Beautyberry Jelly

More canning!  Tonight I finally got to canning my beautyberry jelly.  I was able to buy about 2 quarts of beautyberry from The Green Marketplace at Adamson Road picked fresh.  Literally, like the farmer sent me an email (we're so 21st century) and said "Come pick up your beautyberries. They were just picked!" 

A couple people have asked me about canning so I thought I'd do an in depth post on how to do it.  It seems overwhelming at first, but really it's not.  There's just a lot of wrangling to do with pots and whatnot.

So... here goes:

The Lovely Ladies.  Isn't the color just gorgeous?  They are a butterfly attractant and it was recently discovered that the crushed berries are AS EFFECTIVE as Deet for mosquito repellent!  It smelled very "herbal" as Matt described
This is how they grow - in clusters

5 cups of sugar.  You heard me.  These little suckers are tart

Step 1: Boil the beautyberries.  I got sad to see them losing their beautiful purple color

Boil boil toil and trouble - for 20 minutes

Strain out the berries and plant material to get this "infusion" is what the farmer called it

Add in 1/2 cup of lemon juice - preferably fresh picked from your backyard like mine.  Yay!  Beautiful color is back

This frog thought the smells were just too good to pass up

Add in a packet of Surejell and stir stir stir.  This was interesting to me because I've canned 3 times before and never used Surejell.  Personally, I like my jam a little on the runny side, but this is a whole different beast.  This is jelly.  Jelly is supposed to be jelled - DUH!  The farmer told me that a friend of hers made this exact recipe and it turned into Beautyberry syrup.  It never set.  You could also boil apple peals in the initial boil because apple is a natural pectin which is exactly what Surejell is.  I forgot to, but I think mine is going to do just fine.

This is me stirring the liquid after I put in the Surejell.  You can actually see it getting thicker right before your eyes
See how it's starting to run off the spoon in a long thin line?  That means it's jelling.

Okay, here's my hardware.  On the left is my "processing" pot with boiling water.  I start this before I start cooking the jam/jelly/what have you.  It takes a long time to get that much water boiling.  You need about 1 inch to cover to top of the jars.  In the little pot are my lids.  I boiled it for 5 minutes to sanitize and then turned it off and let them sit in warm water until I need them.  On the right is my jelly cooking.  

In there are my jelly jars sanitizing.  I just run a load on a regular setting with dish soap but nothing else in there. I don't want any food particles landing on my sanitized jars.

Back to the jelly:  After you add the Surejell, bring it to a boil for 2 minutes.  It is starting to foam

Eww, foam.  Ohh, pretty color!

Skim the foam off.  I lost about 1/2 cup from skimming.  I wanted to make sure it was really clear.

All clear!  And ready to start the actual canning procedure:

Ladle the mixture into the jars.  That blue funnel was purchased with a canning kit for about $5.  You need it.

6 jars worth made from 3 cups of infusion and 5 cups of sugar.  Holy diabetic coma, Batman!

Hello my pretties

Wipe off the top of the jars in case you dribbled some liquid. That will affect it sealing.

Another little tool from the kit.  A magnet picker-upper.  So you don't burn your finger-wingers.

Use your finger to pop the top off the magnet.  Don't touch the sides so you don't contaminate the jar with your dirty disgusting bacteria. Just kidding, you're not disgusting. Seriously, though.  Don't touch it.

Screw on the screw part of the lid.  This is just to hold the lid in place while processing in the hot water.  You can and should remove them after you're sure they are sealed.  They may rust.

Tighten the screw lid ... but not too tight.  Not too tight, not too loose.  But JUST right.  Let the Schwartz guide you, my son

Another doohickie from the canning kit.  Pick up the jars and carefully place them in the boiling water.  

See?  You don't need a special canning pot if you don't want it.  It makes clanging noises while boiling and the jars move around while processing so you may be fishing for jars afterwards... but still.  Hardly any new equipment for a whole new cooking activity!

Cover and process.  That just means boil.  I set my timer for 10 minutes.  I completely pulled that time out of my ass.  I figured we needed 5 minutes for the fig jam... heck add another 5!  If they don't vacuum seal you can always reprocess.  You're just making sure you killing off the bacteria.

I saved a little for myself to try it out.  It was sweet and tart and berry-y.  Here you can see the jelly falling off the spoon in "sheets."  That means it jelled!  Hooray!

nyah nyah nyah.

Here's a video showing how awesome I am:


  1. I made apple / beauty berry jelly today. Put up 12 pints. I may make some more tomorrow. I have enough berries to feed the Navy :)

  2. I've made this twice and have yet to get it to jell. :(

  3. You are delightfully funny!! Thanks for the recipe!!

  4. It's the LEAVES, not the berries, that have been used as a bug repellent.

  5. Oh, and your blog post is great! Excellent instructions and pics!

  6. Little tid bit....In the "Ball canning" cookbook, it suggests to put a small thin sliver of butter into the juice before boiling and it prevents the foam.. I've tried and it actually works. You don't even taste it.

  7. I really have been searching for a recipe that works, becuase I ended up just getting a ton of syrup. And I tried the remake sure-jell recipe too, and it set, but something went wrong and it went back to a liquid. I think this recipe will really work, but nowhere does it say how much water to use. Did you just use enough to cover the berries? The last recipe I found was 1 1/2 quarts of water for 2 quarts of berries, I just wanted to make sure.

  8. I'm making two runs of jelly from some frozen berries I had in my freezer from last summer. Can't wait to get into it when it's done. Little know good stuff grows in the wilds! Thanks so much for the recipe. Following it as best as I can. Hate to try a double batch, but really need to try it. Nah. Small batches work better as it's a mess to try to rebatch soft jelly and I don't want syrup this go round.