(The Best) Mixed Berry Preserves

June 19, 2013

Grandma Verna would make mixed berry preserves every summer and Matt (her grandson, my husband) would speak of them fondly and often – they were one of his most favorite things about visiting Grandma Verna and Grandpa Bill’s ranch when he was a boy. Grandma Verna always kept big jars of summer berry jam in the fridge and Matt was crazy about them.

After we were married, I asked Grandma Verna for the recipe and she told me there really was no recipe it was only this: “Clean up a bunch of fresh berries, throw in some sugar and pectin, boil it up in a pot and put it in a jar”.  Boom, simple, done.

About six years ago I started making a version of this, and it’s a family favorite. (I originally wrote about this recipe four years ago, but sadly the pictures went “poof!” so I recreated it for y’all again.) These mixed berry preserves are a simple concoction that yields the very best mixed berry preserves I’ve ever tasted, and validates that age old culinary philosophy, “simple is best!”

I start with Verna’s “recipe” but add some citrus zest, and then can it so we can enjoy it in the coldest winter months. This recipe and assembly are so simple, you can’t mess it up, you can’t!  It’s much lower in sugar so that the fruit really steals the show.

simple mixed berry preserves

 

Ingredients:

6 baskets of strawberries (6 oz. each)

6 baskets of raspberries (4 oz each)

6 baskets of blackberries (4 oz each)

Juice from 2 lemons

Zest from 1 large orange

2 cups sugar

Low or No sugar Pectin

8 wide mouth 16 ounce canning jars + lids

First, start with good fruit. Find it at your local grocery store, or at the farmer’s market but get a bunch of seasonal berries that are perfectly ripe and you’re in business. You can mix in other berries too, whatever you like, go crazy, add blueberries or boysenberries or Logan berries, etc.

mixed berries

You’ll also need two lemons, an orange, some sugar, and low sugar pectin.

citrus pectin sugar

 

Begin by trimming your strawberries and rinsing all of your fruit.  You should end up with 2 large pots of fruit, but set them aside for now.

rinsed raspberries

 

You’ll need to first sterilize your canning jars first in a large pot to avoid any bacteria issues. I use my enamel canning pot to do so.

One time Matt found my giant canning pot in the pantry when he was in a purging mood and said, “Can we get rid of this, what is this for anyway?” and I screamed “Neeeevvvverrrrrrr” just like Luke Skywalker in the final duel in Return of the Jedi when Vader says “If you will not turn to the Dark Side, then perhaps she will.”

canning pot

That was an exaggeration, but truly I could never part with my giant enamel pot.

You can buy a similar pot with helpful canning utensils on Amazon here. Use the pot to submerge clean jars with a jar lifter in boiling water for 5 minutes to sterilize them, and set aside on a kitchen towel.

jar tool

 

After your jars are sanitized, mix your fruit together, and place in 2 large pots on your stove. If you have only 1 pot, you can cut the recipe in half, or just repeat after the first batch is done.

equal parts fruit

 

Add the lemon juice, orange zest, sugar, and pectin. (I used 3 tablespoons of low sugar pectin, but if you’re not sure how much to use, refer to the label or this pectin calculator.)

zest juice pectin sugar

 

Turn the stove up to medium high, bring the mixture to a low boil, and continuously stir the fruit mixture for 15 minutes. You’ll see your fruit will begin to break down like this.

cooked fruit

 

Cook your fruit over medium heat for 12-15 minutes, stirring constantly. Turn the heat off, and ladle your chunky fruit mixture into your jars with a jar funnel. Leave 1/3 inch of headspace at the top and a clean rim, add the rim lid and cap, and return the jars to the canning pot filled with boiling water.

preserves in jars

preserves in jar

Process, or boil, your jars for 12 minutes. Remove your jars from the water and listen for the “pop” that occurs when your jars are sealed. Makes eight 16 oz. jars.

If you’re new to canning, these handy tips are helpful for getting you started. If you don’t can, you can still make a small batch and keep it refrigerated for up to two weeks for enjoying the flavors during the season.

These homemade preserves are absolutely divine on toast, especially all those chunky pieces of fruit.

berry preserves on toast

 

Enjoy!

*handy printable recipe available here (click on the second place it reads “Simple Summer Berry Preserves)

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38 Responses to “(The Best) Mixed Berry Preserves”

  1. Anu says:

    Hi,
    am going to try this one! do you think sanitizing the jars in the dishwasher cycle work or only this way is food safe ?

  2. Suzan says:

    I canned peaches last year and did not know that I needed to boil the jars with the fruit in them. No wonder they spoiled. Thanks for the great information.

  3. @Anu — when I can, I typically use the sanitize cycle on the dishwasher, and then just leave the dishwasher shut until I’m ready to take the jars out and fill them. I often am canning enough at one go that using the dishwasher is more worthwhile than dunking all those jars. A lot of canning books do use Kate’s method, but I actually got the “ok” own the dishwasher method from my husband who brews beer. Beer bottles are hard to sanitize by hand, so they do that in the dishwasher.

  4. meg says:

    All i can say is “YUM!”

  5. vel says:

    Ihave wanted to try making my own ever since a friend of mine gave me some super yummy strawberry preserves, but you make it look simpler Kate, thank you so much! will definitely do it this weekend!!!

  6. CentsationalGirl says:

    Great tip Cheryl, thanks so much for sharing!

  7. Deb says:

    These look yummy! I can recommend an even quicker/simpler version for delicious strawberry preserves (though I imagine it would work with other berries or a mix of berries). The downside is that they’re not preserved for the winter time, but they do keep well in the frig after they’re made. Just lightly crush one quart of strawberries, and add 1/2 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Place in a large skillet and cook over medium/medium-high heat for 15 minutes or so. The preserves should bubble lightly throughout the cooking process. Place in a container and store in the refrigerator. The results will seem a little runny when warm, but they’ll firm up nicely after refrigeration. (A more narrow, taller saucepan won’t yield the same results — I think the larger surface area provide space for evaporation of some of the liquid.) It makes delicious preserves that taste like biting into a ripe strawberry. I love to make these when I pick up a quart of local berries at the farmer’s market.

  8. Jeanna says:

    Thank you! The only thing I have ever done was freezer jam, so I am excited to try this one :)

  9. This looks delicious! I love homemade jam and jelly! My parents have a concord grape vine in their back yard and every fall we make the most delicious grape jelly – nothing compares! I’ve also made peach jam and strawberry jam in the past, but not yet this year…your post may have just lit a fire under me to go do it! :)

  10. Tori says:

    You make canning look so easy. I have always been intimidated by it. Maybe I will try it this year.

  11. The Star Wars reference makes this my new favorite DIY on the Internet. I’ve always been afraid of canning because it sounded like a long drawn-out process, and my grandma always talked about her whole house being hot when she canned, but you’ve made it sound simple!

  12. Karin says:

    Thanks for posting this! I started making it a few years ago when you first posted it and it has become a family favorite. On a cold winter morning, it tastes like summer sunshine. Thanks for all you share with us!

  13. Cathy says:

    Thank you so much for this recipe! I am going to try canning for the first time and this recipe looks divine! I plan to give my jam as gifts : )

  14. Return of the Jedi! Ahh!!! Favorite movie. And thanks for the tutorial on the preserves–they look divine!

  15. Oh YUM. Berries are my favorite and I think I could eat that whole bowl of them. Thanks for sharing!

  16. Denise says:

    My grandma had her own garden, grew her own starwberries and other berries and made homemade jam every year. She used canning jars just like this but she poured some kind of thick layer of wax on the top. Do people still do that? Her jam was all I ate in during my childhood. What a letdown when I first tasted store bought jams…yuck!

  17. Anna says:

    This looks so yummy! Thank you for the Recipe. I have fond memories of my mom growing her own raspberries and making jam.

  18. Looks divine! Those berries are making me crave summer as we are in the middle of a cold winter!

  19. Ms. Lizzy says:

    I miss my mommy :( …..We canned my entire childhood. Mom, some of my girlfriends and I canned ‘grapefruit/port wine jelly’ a couple of years before she passed away. It was fabulous. I still have 2 jars of Italian Cupalatini (sp?) that I cannot bring myself to open. It has eggplant, olives, tomatoes and green peppers in it! Yum. (They’re at least 12 years old) ;)
    Thanks for the inspiration Kate. Think I’ll get out my pot and get to boiling with my daughter and pass on the tradition.

  20. ErinY says:

    My favorite is strawberry rhubarb! We use my great-grandmother’s recipe. Growing up she always made it my job to help pick and cut the rhubarb. After she passed away, we made sure to take her rhubarb plant before we sold the house so her jam is still made with her rhubarb plant!

    Now my fiancé and I are going to make some in small jars and use it for favors at our wedding next fall :)

  21. Cindy says:

    Also, once the jars are sterilized, you can keep them hot in a 200 degree oven. It will save you a burner.

  22. Julie says:

    Thanks for this great recipe! I tried strawberry jam last year for the first time and nobody likes it. I think it was too sweet, but this looks much better with a lot less sugar.

  23. Yumm all of this good info makes me want to try this today. It would probably be fantastic on ice cream or baked brie toped with crushed nuts.

  24. Wow! This is a great recipe! I love strawberry jams but I’ve never tried a mixed berry preserves before. Thanks for sharing the recipe. :-D

  25. Susan says:

    This is a keeper. I will def make this preserve. On a cold winters morn with my cuppa and an English Muffin topped with the berry preserve I will be so happy! Pure comfort food!

  26. Ms. Lizzy says:

    @ ErinY ~ I LOVE that you took her rhubarb plant! What a special thing to do! (heart)! :)

  27. Richard says:

    Wow! Great pics! You made my mouth water. I am going to try to put this together myself. I hope it works out for me. I know you said simple is best so I shouldn’t have ay trouble at all. I love your blog. You always have great ideas and fantastic tips. Thanks for all that you do.

    Cheers :)

  28. tam says:

    Boy this looks good! Your big giant pot made me smile! I have a silver one I have named “big boy”!

  29. Lidia C says:

    Hello,

    Thank you so much for this post. I do have one question: I have a husband who does not like orange or lemon zest ( its the zest part) and can taste it a mile away. Do you have a recommendation for a substitute?

    Thank you,
    Lidia

  30. Renee says:

    Just an FYI for those of you with questions…. Most states have a University Extension where you can look up canning instructions. For example here is the one for Missouri:

    http://extension.missouri.edu/p/GH1452

    and California: http://ucanr.edu/News/?ds=191&uid=1338

    Another good resource is the Ball Book of Canning. Just Google University Canning Extension.

    They also have all sorts of other useful information.

  31. Kat says:

    Do you have to use sugar for this to come out right? I prefer sugar free or stevia in place of regular sugar.

  32. CentsationalGirl says:

    I have always used real sugar Kat, not sure how it would taste with a sugar substitute or how that might alter the pectin too.

  33. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Lidia, you can skip it and just use the lemon juice, but I love that it adds just a hint of citrus flavor!

  34. bj says:

    looks absolutely amazing….

  35. Peg says:

    Hi,

    It’s winter in my part of the world and I have a few packets of frozen berries that I need to use asap as I am moving house soon. Will I be successful if I use thawed berries to make your berry preserve? Thank you.

  36. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Peg, yes you can use thawed berries but you may end up with more liquid, perhaps drain a little of it before adding the pectin.
    Kate

  37. Leigh says:

    Looks delicious! I don’t can and I was wondering, if I make a small batch to keep in the fridge do I just cook for the 12-15 minutes and not worry about the additional 12 minutes in the jar? Thanks! Our farmer’s market is tomorrow and I can’t wait to try this recipe!

  38. CentsationalGirl says:

    Yes Leigh, you can skip that later boiling if you’re not canning it, just refrigerating.

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