Blueberries are one of my favourite summer fruits. I love to eat them fresh, and frozen blueberries can’t be beat! I usually buy a bunch in summer and freeze pounds of them to use throughout the year on top of cereal, in smoothies, in oatmeal, on ice cream and yogurt, or just to eat by the handful. But I’ve never actually canned them because they just always seem to end up in the freezer and get used from there.
This year I doubled my order and bought 20 lbs. of blueberries from one of our local farms. We do have three of our own blueberry plants but that barely gives us enough to eat fresh at the moment, plus the birds ate the lion’s share of our blueberries this year. We have deer fencing around our plants but we will be putting up bird netting next year!
*Just a note on that: if you’re growing your own blueberries and need to put bird netting up, make sure you do so AFTER the bees have pollinated the flowers. My mom put her netting up too early this year and didn’t get any blueberries because the flowers didn’t get pollinated:(
Anyway, back to our 20 lbs. of blueberries… Last year I bought 10 lbs. and that gave us enough to eat some fresh and freeze the rest. It almost got us through the year, but I think we ran out around April or May. This year I want enough to see us through all the way until next blueberry season because I hate having to buy my fruit from overseas where it has probably been sprayed with all sorts of pesticides and preservatives. Yuck!
So I bought 20 lbs. But I also wanted to can some, so I figured I would freeze 10 to 12 lbs. and can the rest. The question was, how was I going to can them?
I got out my “canning bible,” the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, and I began to look up blueberry recipes. The options seemed endless!
There was blueberry jam, blueberry sauce, blueberry syrup, blueberry vinaigrette, blueberry jelly, blueberries in alcohol… I was beginning to think that perhaps I hadn’t bought enough after all!
I finally settled on an old classic: Blueberry pie filling. Now, as much as I love fresh and frozen blueberries, I’ll admit I’m not a huge blueberry pie fan. It’s just a matter of personal taste, but I prefer cherry pie and apple pie to blueberry pie. But when I mentioned making pie filling, my husband’s eyes lit up and he practically began to salivate as he told me how much he LOVES blueberry pie. That settled it for me!
I ended up following the directions in the book but made a couple minor changes to the recipe. Now, if you’ve read any of my canning recipes before, you know I always stress that you should follow a tried and tested recipe and don’t alter it as it could make your recipe unsafe. However, once you understand how canning works, you can actually tweak recipes a bit here and there.
Basically the most important thing when water-bath canning fruits like blueberries is that you maintain the acidity levels as this is what prevents botulism spores from growing. Typically when canning most fruits you are able to use the water-bath method because fruits are already high in acidity. The addition of lemon juice helps to make sure that acidity is maintained.
From there, it’s recommended that you don’t change a recipe too much as adding different ingredients can affect the acidity level. However all I did with this recipe was swap plain water for blueberry water (for extra flavour), and add nutmeg (which is quite common in similar canning recipes). I much preferred the flavour once I added the nutmeg. Of course, nutmeg is completely optional, and you could even make your pie filling without nutmeg and then add it later. But I personally think it really brings out the flavour of the blueberries in this pie filling, so much so that I’ve actually become somewhat of a fan of blueberry pie now!
Canning pie filling in general is also super easy even if you’re a total canning newbie. You don’t need much in the way of special equipment, but one thing that is highly recommended is using Clear-Jel, which is basically a thickener that takes the place of flour or cornstarch in pie filling.
Clear-Jel is recommended for canning, however, because flour and cornstarch can end up clumping together and really affecting the quality of your canned pie filling. Clear-Jel is a corn derivative just like cornstarch, but is is made to withstand the heat of canning and maintains its consistency. It is widely recommended for use in canning pie filling and is even considered to be the safer method. But mostly it is a quality issue. Using Clear-Jel will ensure your pie filling comes out of the jar just as good as when it went in!
Aside from Clear-Jel, there are a few canning tools you might want to consider investing in. I go over the full list in this post where I share my recipe for canning cherry pie filling (also a must!).
Once you have everything you need, you’re ready to get canning! As for what to do with your canned pie filling afterward? Well, of course you can pop a jar open and dump your filling into some yummy homemade pie crust to make a traditional pie. But you could also eat it over cheesecake, mixed with yogurt or for a really quick and easy dessert, dump pie filling into a baking dish and cover with a mixture of rolled oats, butter and sugar to make a crumble. And of course, you could always just crack a jar and eat it with a spoon. There is absolutely no shame in that;)
- 14 cups blueberries (washed and de-stemmed)
- 3 1/3 cups Sugar
- 1 1/3 cups Clear-Jel
- 1/4 cup Lemon Juice
- 1 tsp Nutmeg
- Prepare your jars and lids for canning (wash and sterilize).
- Fill a large stainless steel pot halfway with water and boil over high heat. Add blueberries and cook for one minute.
- Drain blueberries, allowing blueberry water to drain into a bowl. Cover blueberries to keep them warm. Reserve 4 cups of the blueberry liquid. *Note: If you accidentally forget to reserve the blueberry liquid, just measure out 4 cups of regular water.
- In a large stainless steel pot, mix sugar and Clear-Jel. Whisk in 4 cups of reserved blueberry liquid and bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat.
- Stirring constantly, reduce heat and boil lightly until mixture begins to bubble and thicken (it will get quite thick and you will feel resistance so you'll know when it's thick enough).
- Stir in lemon juice and nutmeg and cook for one minute, stirring constantly.
- Remove from heat and gently mix in the warm blueberries.
- Remove hot jars from canner one at a time and ladle hot pie filling into each one, leaving just a bit more than one inch of headspace.Remove any air bubbles with a knife and adjust headspace if needed.
- Wipe rim, place lid on jar and screw band down to fingertip tightness (until you feel resistance with your fingers... Not too loose, not too tight, but just right:)
- Place jars upright in canner and make sure they're complexly submerged in water before placing the lid on. Bring water to a boil and process jars for 30 minutes beginning when the water starts boiling. After 30 minutes is up, remove lid and allow jars to rest in pot for 5 minutes.
- Remove jars and let cool on a towel on the kitchen counter. Store in a cool, dark place for optimum shelf life.
- *If there were any instructions that you feel I didn't explain well or that you didn't understand, you can find full instructions for canning pie filling under our recipe for cherry pie filling .