I was invited to the Coventry Regional Farmers’ Market this past Sunday. The weekend’s theme was Blueberries and Bluegrass. After a decent strawberry yield (does anyone else remember last year’s strawberries going on forever?), a quick summer raspberry season and a blink-and-you-miss it cherry season, Connecticut was due for some beautiful and plentiful fruit.
At the beginning of the growing season, I overdose on strawberries. I mean WAY too much. Like six varieties of strawberry jams and two more preserves too much. That said – after I crack open my last jar of strawb something in the bleak midwinter, the anticipation of REAL local taste-like-nothing-else strawberries in June makes them that much sweeter. You can absolutely make blueberry jam, with these very same spices (if, unlike me, you need another jam), but at this point I am in the mood for something different.
I made this preserve for the first time last summer, and in a very double duty kind of way ended up with whole berries and almost another jar of blueberry vinegar. Perfect for vinaigrette, a blueberry soda, or one heckuva blueberry martini.
Hot Pack Pickled Blueberries
Adapted from Hungry Tigress’ Whole Pickled Blueberries
2-3 quarts of blueberries
2 cups 5% apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon fenugreek
Tigress does this recipe over two days. While I love the idea, I never have that kind of time or fridge space this time of year. So I heat blueberries, spices and vinegar until just simmering, and then immediately turn off the heat. While you can put the spices in any way you like, I like to put them in a cloth bag or tea ball for easy removal. You can leave them in, but spices have a way of intensifying (for better or worse) in the jar. While the spices infuse in the vinegar (and the vinegar infuses in the blueberries for that matter), heat up your canner. (New to canning? The National Center for Home Preservation is a great resource for boiling waterbath instructions.) When the jars are thoroughly boiled, add the sugar, bring the blues back to a simmer. Simmer for just a minute or two to keep the fruit intact. With a slotted spoon, put the fruit in your jar of choice (I like wide mouth half pints) and top with hot vinegar syrup, leaving 1/4″ headspace. Process for 15 minutes.
Like most pickles, this needs a few weeks to really come into its own. While you can store this pickle with a good seal for up to a year in a cool dark space, I would wait at least two weeks before cracking open your first jar.
This recipe can easily be adapted to stone fruit – plums, peaches, or cherries would be lovely. I dont think other delicate berries would stand up to the process.
You could turn this into a fridge pickle by combining the ingredients and then stopping before the waterbath step. Ladle into a jar of choice, let cool, and refrigerate.
Use vinegar of your choice, but if you intend on canning the recipe, make sure the bottle says 5% acidity. If you want it to be a fridge pickle only, any vinegar is your pleasure.
I love fenugreek in my sweet pickles. Cloves, allspice or bay would also be good additions here.