Haskap berries are tart treats in the early summer, and homemade haskap berry jam is one of the first jams I make each year in my canning kitchen.
Haskap berries, also known as honeyberries by those who know a thing or two about marketing, grow on a perennial berry bush that’s similar to blueberries. They get big, sometimes 8 feet tall at maturity, and the produce ample crops of oblong berries that taste like a cross between a blueberry and a grape.
The best part? They’re the very first crop to ripen up here in the north country. In central Vermont (zone 4), our last frost usually happens around Memorial Day. That’s also when the haskaps ripen, about 2-3 weeks before the first strawberries.
We grow mostly tart varieties, but that doesn’t stop the little ones from stripping the bushes bare to enjoy the first fruit of the season. It takes a bit of convincing, but I managed to bribe my 4-year-old to save me a small bowl of honeyberries for jam.
Our berry bushes are 4 years old, and they’re already about 5 feet tall, so even if she wasn’t willing to share I’ll still get those top berries far out of her reach. The siren’s song of jam is sweet music to her ears….bowl in hand she went to work collecting fruit for honeyberry jam.
Honeyberries are naturally high in pectin, and you can make a simple honeyberry jam with just fruit and a bit of sugar. I say “a bit” of sugar, really I mean quite a bit. They can be very tart, and a few of our bushes are some of the tartest varieties. All that tart actually makes for a much better jam in the end, and there’s no need to add lemon juice.
Start by bringing equal parts of honeyberries and sugar (by volume) to a boil in a small saucepan. It’ll take a few minutes for the fruit to release their juices, but once it gets going the mixture will foam up. Be careful, and stir it down at the beginning to avoid overflows.
Towards the end, the bubbles will take on a glossy look and the texture will change. That’s the jam reaching “gel stage.” You can test for gel stage on a plate placed in the freezer, or watch to see if it sheets off a spoon (also from the freezer). The simplest method is to use a cooking thermometer though, and simmer the honeyberry jam until it reaches 220 degrees.
If you’re an experienced jam maker though, you’ll know what gel stage looks like and there’s no need to test it. Once the bubbles make their characteristic change and the jam suddenly thickens up, it’s time to get it into jars.
This happens relatively quickly, even though the berries themselves are quite soft. My haskap jam reached gel stage in about 8-10 minutes of cooking.
Jam Canning Recipes
Looking for more easy canning recipes? Try any of these tasty jams this summer!
- Peach Jam
- Cornelian Cherry Jam
- Blackberry Jam without Pectin
- Low Sugar Strawberry Jam
- Old Fashioned Grape Jam
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