Blueberry-Basil Preserves

July 10, 2012 · 12 comments

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I love using descriptors like “old-fashioned.” They are completely undefinable (from the time of yore?), and conjure images of everything on the shelves at your local Cracker Barrel.

(In case you’re wondering, other adjectives falling into this category include old-timey, prairie-style, country — oftentimes spelled with a “k” — and grandma’s.)

But I’m coming up empty on finding another name for these preserves. Honey-sweetened, commercial-pectin-free, and lacto-fermented. Seems like the way our great-great-grandmothers likely had to make jam, yes? On the prairie or in the country, no doubt.

My motivations for making them this way should come as no surprise: I’m still not eating sugar, which leaves most jam recipes out of reach — and I’m totally into fermenting things these days. Give me a jar of just about anything, and I’ll stir a little whey into it, let it sit on the counter for a day, and let those good lactic acid bugs multiply (granted, the honey in this recipe probably halts that growth a bit, but they do still grow, according to what I’ve read in Sandor Katz’s The Art of Fermentation — ahem, many thanks to Suzanne for the weekend book loaner! It’s now on my to-acquire list!).

Oh how I heart this jam. The high salt content helps with fermentation but also lends a delightful surprise flavor component to what we’ve come to expect from jam (read: candy-sweet). Simmering the berries with honey helps bring out their natural pectin — so once chilled, the jam really does jelly up (though some liquid does remain). I’ve recently been allowed one slice of Ezekial bread each day on my diet, and don’t think every one of those precious slices hasn’t included this jam, since the day it was ready.

Old-fashioned, somewhat near a prairie. I think I’ve found my kountry urban calling.

Old-fashioned Blueberry-Basil Preserves (lacto-fermented, honey-sweetened)

Yield: about 2 1/2 pints

The basil flavor in this recipe is extremely subtle -- almost undetectable; it simply adds a freshness and complexity to the jam. Feel free to omit or experiment with another fresh herb.

Liquid whey is the liquid leftover from strained yogurt or cheesemaking. To make whey, strain whole-milk plain yogurt in a cheesecloth (or tea towel)-lined colander set over a bowl. Let sit for 4-6 hours (or overnight, on the counter or in the refrigerator). The liquid can be stored in a closed jar in your refrigerator for 6 weeks. The thick strained yogurt can be used as yogurt "cream" cheese (add salt) or a sweet yogurt dip (add honey & vanilla).


  • 5 cups blueberries, divided
  • 1 cup honey
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, rough-chopped (see note)
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 7 Tbsp liquid whey (see note)


  1. In a medium, non-reactive saucepan, stir together 4 cups blueberries with the honey and salt. Bring to a simmer. Mash occasionally with a potato masher, and cook for five minutes. Let cool to room temperature.
  2. In a blender or food processor, puree together the remaining 1 cup blueberries, basil leaves, and lemon juice.
  3. Pour the blueberry/basil puree and whey into the cooled cooked berries. Stir well and pour into clean jelly jars.
  4. Cover the jars tightly, and leave at room temperature for 2 days to allow for fermentation. Transfer to the refrigerator (keeps for about a month) or freezer for long-term storage.

Blueberry-Basil Preserves (lacto-fermented) on Punk Domestics
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