Manataka American Indian Council









How to Can Berries


Making and canning your own blueberries is easy.  These directions may also be used with raspberries, blackberries, currants, dewberries, elderberries, gooseberries, huckleberries, tayberries, loganberries and mulberries.


Here's how to can in 12 illustrated easy steps. These directions work equally well for regular sugar, low sugar, fruit juice-sweetened and sugar-free jam.


Fruit - fresh blueberries - any quantity  - the crunch down some, so you'll need about 1 and 1/4 pints raw per pint jar finished.

Lemon juice - either fresh squeezed or bottled. Alternatively, Citric acid (brand name, fruit fresh).

Sugar - About 3 cups of dry, granulated (table) sugar. See step 6. It is possible to make low-sugar,  fruit juice-sweetened, or

Splenda-sweetened fig jam; I'll point out the differences below.

Jar grabber (to pick up the hot jars)- WalMart carries it sometimes - or order it here. It's a tremendously useful to put cars in the canner and take the hot jars out (without scalding yourself!). The kit sold below has everything you need, and at a pretty good price:



1 large pot; I prefer 16 to 20 quart Teflon lined pots for easy cleanup.

Large spoons and ladles

1 Canner (a huge pot to sterilize the jars after filling (about $30 to $35 at mall kitchen stores, sometimes at WalMart (seasonal item).

Ball jars (Publix, WalMart carry then - about $7.50 per dozen pint ounce jars including the lids and rings)

Jar funnel ($2 at WalMart, Target, and sometimes at grocery stores) or order it as part of the kit with the jar grabber.

Lids - thin, flat, round metal lids with a gum binder that seals them against the top of the jar. They may only be used once.

Rings - metal bands that secure the lids to the jars. They may be reused many times.


Optional stuff:

Lid lifter (has a magnet to pick the lids out of the boiling water where you sterilize them. ($2 at WalMart or it comes in the kit at left)


Canning Directions

This example shows you how to make canned (or bottled) jam; regular or with added seasoning. The yield from this recipe is about 7 pint jars per 9 pints of raw berries.


Step 1 - Pick the blueberries! (or buy them already picked)

It's fun to go pick your own and you can obviously get better quality ones!

I prefer to grow my own; which is really easy, don't require pesticides and they make beautiful landscaping plants with red/gold leaves in the Autumn - but that does take some space and time.


As mentioned in the Ingredients section; you may use frozen blueberries (those without syrup or added sugar); which is especially useful if you want to make some jam in December to give away at Christmas!


Choose ripe, sweet berries with uniform color. At left are blueberries almost ripe!


Step 2 - How much fruit?

Canned blueberries can be made in large or small batches - you can can one jar at a time if that's all you have.



Step 3 - Wash the jars and lids

Now's a good time to get the jars ready, so you won't be rushed later. The dishwasher is fine for the jars; especially if it has a "sterilze" cycle, the water bath processing will sterilize them as well as the contents! If you don't have a dishwasher, you can wash the containers in hot, soapy water and rinse, then sterilize the jars by boiling them 10 minutes, and keep the jars in hot water until they are used.


NOTE: If unsterilized jars are used, the product should be processed for 5 more minutes.


Leave the jars in the dishwasher on "heated dry" until you are ready to use them. Keeping them hot will prevent the jars from breaking when you fill them with the hot jam. Some newer dishwashers even have a "sterilize" setting.


Step 4 - Get the lids sterilizing

Lids: put the lids into a pan of boiling water (or on the stove in a pot of water on low heat) for at least several minutes; to soften up the gummed surface and clean and sterilize  the lids.



Step 5 - Wash the berries and sort!

I'm sure you can figure out how to wash the fruit in a colander of plain cold water.


Then you need to pick out and and remove any bits of stems, leaves and soft or mushy berries. It is easiest to do this in a large bowl of water and gently run your hands through the berries as they float.  With your fingers slightly apart, you will easily feel any soft or mushy berries get caught in your fingers.  Then just drain off the water!



Step 6 - Make and heat the syrup

Depending upon which type of sweetener you want to use (sugar, no-sugar, Splenda, mix of sugar and Splenda or fruit juice) you will need to use a different syrup from below. Adding syrup to canned fruit helps to retain its flavor, color, and shape. It does not prevent spoilage of these foods. Heat the syrup to near boiling in a pot.


Most people prefer the medium syrup (highlighted) or blueberry juice with added sugar!



Sugar syrup proportions for 7 to 9-pint jars of blueberries

(double for 9 quart jars)

  Type of syrup
(Choose ONE)
Splenda (tm)
1 Plain water 7 0 0 0
2 no calorie sweetener 7 0 0 1/4 cup
3 Fruit juice (white grape or peach juice works well) 0 7 0  
4 Reduce calorie / fruit juice 4 3 0  
5 Fruit juice and Splenda 0 7 0 1/2 cup
6 very low calorie 7 0 1/4 1/4 cup
7 very light (10% sugar) 7 0 1 0
8 light (20% sugar) 6 0 2 0
9 medium (30% sugar) 6 0 3 0


Nutrasweet (aspartame) will NOT work - it breaks down during heating).


Splenda (sucralose) substitutes exactly with sugar BUT even the manufacturers of Splenda will tell you that you get best results if you just use a 50-50 mix; half regular sugar and half Splenda.


Sugar not only affects the sweetness, but also the color and flavor.  It does not affect the preserving or spoilage properties - that has to do with acid and the processing method.


You can use "no sugar" pectin in place of "low sugar" pectin - you can still add sugar or other sweeteners.


Step 7 - Add the natural preservative to the jars

Add 2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice per quart jar or 1 tablespoon per pint jar to each of the jars.  Alternatively, you may add 1/2 teaspoon citric acid (also goes under the brand name "fruit fresh") per quart or 1/4 teaspoon per pint to the jars. This is to increase the acidity and help prevent discoloration and spoilage.


Step 8 - Fill the jars with blueberries

Fill jars with blueberries, gently tapping the bottom of the jar on the countertop to help pack the blueberries down gently (tapping does it without breaking the blueberries).


Note about "hot packing" vs. "raw packing".  You may have noticed that some recipes or canning directions call for the berries to be heated in a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds to several minutes before filling the jars.  That is the 'hot pack" method.  We're using the "raw pack" method (no preheating) because most berries are delicate and would be adversely affected by the preheating, and being small, it isn't needed to ensure uniform heating in the canner!




Step 9 - Fill the airspace in the jars with syrup

Add the hot syrup from step 6, leaving 1/4 to 1/2-inch headspace. Wipe any spills jam off the rim of the jar.  


Step 10 - Put the lid /rings on and put in the canner

Seat the lid and tighten the ring around them.  This is where the jar tongs and lid lifter come in really handy! Place them into the canner




Step 11 - Process the jars in the canner (either boiling water bath or pressure canner)


You can use either a boiling water bath canner or a pressure canner, since there is sufficient acidity in berries. In the water bath canner, keep the jars covered with at least 1 inch of water. Keep the water boiling.


The processing times are shown for each type of canner in the tables below!


To adjust, process according to the recommendations in the table below:


Recommended process time for raw pack Blueberries in a
Boiling-water Canner

 Process Time at Altitudes of
Jar Size 0 - 1,000 ft 1,001 - 3,000 ft 3,001 - 6,000 ft Above 6,000 ft
Pints 15 min 20 20 25
Quarts 20 min 25 30 35


Recommended process time for raw pack Blueberries in a
Pressure Canner

Canner pressure (pounds of pressure) at altitudes of
Jar Size Processing time 0 - 1,000 ft 1,001 and above
Pints 8 min 5 1b 10 1b
Quarts 10 min 5 1b 10 1b




Step 12 - Remove and cool the jars - Done!

Lift the jars out of the water in the water bath canner (wait till pressure is zero in a pressure canner) and let them cool without touching or bumping them in a draft-free place (usually takes overnight) You can then remove the rings if you like. Once the jars are cool, you can check that they are sealed verifying that the lid has been sucked down. Just press in the center, gently, with your finger. If it it pops up and down (often making a popping sound), it is not sealed. If you put the jar in the refrigerator right away, you can still use it. Some people replace the lid and reprocess the jar, the that's a bit iffy. If you heat the contents back up, re-jar them (with a new lid) and the full time in the canner, it's usually ok.


Once cooled, they're ready to store. I find they last about 18 months. After that, the get darker in color and start to get runny. They still seem safe to eat, but the flavor is bland. So eat them in the first 12 to 18 months after you prepare them!







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