blueberries.jpg

Truth be told, I didn’t make it to the market last week. Only an event such as the marriage of dear friends can keep me away this time of year, and I am thankful to the Common Ground Co-op and a steady supply of goat cheese for getting me through the week.

Broccoli, cauliflower, green beans and beets are some of my favorite vegetables — finally in season — and I cannot wait to start eating my fill. But really, right now it is all about the berries, and Market at the Square is due to have quite the supply this coming weekend.

Just in time for the Fourth of July: Cherries (both sweet and sour), raspberries, blueberries, gooseberries, strawberries and even some peaches. I’m picturing a berry tart decorated to look like an American flag. Anyone interested? For the Martha Stewart in you, Epicurious, has a wealth of recipes for sweet summer deserts and refreshing libations, putting all these great berries to good use.

For the more ambitious, now is the time to begin canning and preserving the summer bounty. Good planning is essential and you want to be prepared with recipes and equipment in store before you buy your fruits and vegetables. Making preserves of the summer’s fruit can be one of the most rewarding activities for the true gourmand, and your hard work now will pay off in dividends come the dead of winter. If you can boil water you can make preserves. Here is an easy recipe to get you started:

Blueberry Jam from the Joy of Cooking

About five half pint jars

Pick through, wash and stem:

2 pounds blueberries

Remove, then put them in a heavy stainless steel pan.

Crush the bottom layer.

If desired, add: 1/2 cup water

Cook over medium heat, simmering until the berries are almost tender. Add for each cup of blueberries:

3/4 to 1 cup sugar

Boil rapidly, stirring frequently, to the jelling point. (see note)

Remove from the heat and skim off any foam. Ladle into hot 1/2 pint jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling-water canner.

Note: Jam can be eaten right away or frozen as an alternative to canning. Canning is an easy yet important process that should be done properly.

Jelling point refers to the moment when everything comes together and when, once cooled, the preserves will jell. The jelling point is at 220-222 degrees Fahrenheit, and a candy thermometer is useful.

Market on the Square runs every Saturday from 7a.m.-noon, rain or shine now through Nov. 8. The farmer’s market is located in the parking lot of Urbana Square Mall on the corners of Vine and Illinois Streets.