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.
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.
You’ll also need two lemons, an orange, some sugar, and low sugar pectin.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
*handy printable recipe available here (click on the second place it reads “Simple Summer Berry Preserves)