Canning blackberries allows you to take a short season fruit and preserves it for year-round use, no freezer required. Blackberries hold up remarkably well to canning and emerge for the jars firm and flavorful, perfect for use anywhere you’d use them fresh.
We eat a lot of blackberries in the winter time. There’s just something warming about these soft forest fruits, perhaps it’s because they ripen during the hottest part of summer here in Vermont. Or maybe it’s that they’re dark, like a deep red wine that you’d drink with a winter comfort food meal. Until I learned to can blackberries, my family used to buy them by the case for winter baking.
While you’d think a soft fruit would fall apart during canning, blackberries hold up remarkably well. I’ve found that canned blackberries work a lot better in baked goods than frozen, and they’re also perfect for topping breakfast cereal, oatmeal or yogurt.
The thing about canning blackberries at home is you get to choose how much sugar you use, and season them however you choose. The Ball Book of Canning and Preserving has a recipe for canned blackberries seasoned with blackberry brandy. Talk about making a warming winter preserve!
Personally, I think drinks like blackberry brandy or Chambord tastes a bit artificial, and I love adding regular brandy, along with nutmeg. Start by extracting a bit of juice from a small portion of your blackberries. A small amount of sacrificial syrup blackberries means that the remaining fruit will be canned in flavorful blackberry juice, and they won’t lose flavor to the canning liquid. Take 1/3 of your blackberries, crush slightly and simmer them with a small amount of water for about 2 minutes until they release their juices. Then strain out the juice through a fine mesh strainer.
The “sacrificial” juice blackberries still have plenty of flavor, but if you cook them longer than 2 minutes they’ll release too much pectin into the juice. That means they can be reused in other cooking.
The remaining strained blackberries can be reused to make blackberry jam, or saved for topping ice cream or yogurt later. For each pint of canned blackberries, you need a total of 3 cups of blackberries, two to fill the jar and one to make blackberry juice for the canning syrup.
My recipe uses part homemade blackberry juice and part brandy for canning liquid. The resulting berries end up a tiny bit alcoholic, even after cooking in a syrup and canning. In my house, they’re then cooked yet again into some type of baked good. At that point, there’s very little alcohol left, but if you want to to make them alcohol-free that’s perfectly fine too.
The brandy isn’t necessary for preservation. Either add more blackberry juice in place of the brandy, some other fruit juice (like apple) or water.
Whole canned blackberries are perfect for baking and they keep their shape and flavor through the canning process. Add brandy and spices for extra warmth, or leave them out for plain canned blackberries.
- 2 cups blackberries divided
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg preferably freshly grated
- 4 cups blackberries
- 1/2 cup brandy
- Blackberry juice prepared above
Prepare canning jars (2 one pint jars or 4 half-pint jars) and a water bath canner.
Place 2 cups of blackberries in a small saucepan, mashing the berries slightly with a potato masher. Add a 1/4 cup of water and simmer for about 2 minutes until they release their juices. Strain the berries through a fine mesh strainer, reserving the fruit pulp for another use.
In another saucepan, bring 2 cups water, sugar and spices to a boil and cook 5 minutes. Add in 4 cups blackberries, brandy, and blackberry juice.
Return the pan to a boil, stirring constantly to distribute the heat on the berries and blanch all sides. Be gentle so that the fruit are not damaged.
Using a slotted spoon, fill canning jars with blackberries, leaving a generous 1/2 inch headspace.
Use a ladle to spoon boiling blackberry syrup over the fruits, retaining a 1/2 inch headspace.
Wipe rim, center 2 part canning lids on jars and close to finger tight.
Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes and then turn off the heat. Allow the jars to rest 5 minutes with the heat off before removing them to cool on a towel on the counter. After 24 hours check seals and store any unsealed jars in the refrigerator for immediate use.
This recipe requires 6 cups of blackberries, two cups to make the syrup and 4 cups to fill the canning jars. The syrup berries can be reused for another purpose.