Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Preserving Fruits: Berries in Light Honey Sauce

Six Jars of Assorted Berries
Assorted Raspberries and Blackberries

Recipe adapted from Happy Girl Kitchen

A most intriguing idea for preserving berries came to me in a jam-making class by Happy Girl Kitchen, and it’s not a jam. It’s berries in a light honey sauce. Honey preserves and intensifies the berries' flavor. These berries are particularly delicious over lemon bread, chocolate cake, or ice cream in the middle of winter. You can experiment with the amount of honey that you like. Happy Girl uses 1 part honey to 10 parts water, and warns that using more honey can overpower the fruit. But you might like extra honey flavor!

I thought that 10% honey left the fruit a bit sour, so added 1 part evaporated cane juice (unrefined sugar) to the mix. The syrup is still light and tastes like natural berries, but oddly the light honey flavor is diminished. For more honey flavor I’ve used 1½ parts honey and ½ - 1 part cane juice. If you prefer heavy syrup, try using a “simple sugar solution” of 1 part water to 1 part sweetener. Or choose any point in between!

Raspberries (both golden and red) and blackberries of all kinds can be preserved. Feel free to mix the types of berries in a jar. I've also made blackberries in ollalieberry wine (in place of honey syrup), as the sweet fruit wines also have enough sugar to preserve the berries. With wine, the boiling point is lower, so don't fill the jars as much; keep fruit and liquid 1/2 inch from the top. For another option, check out my Cherries in Light Honey Sauce post.

Jar of Berries Viewed from Top
Berries Packed Firmly into Jar
I use the squat 8 oz. (half pint) canning jars because they are easiest to pack the fruit into than tall narrow jars. The tighter that you can pack the fruit without squishing it too much, the better. The fruit will cook down during processing. Because the fruit tends to float to the top, using more berries generally looks better, and most people like eating more berries with less syrup.

If you haven’t canned anything before, you might want to take a class to learn the cold-packing method, which requires processing in a boiling water bath. Or check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation website for canning information and tips.

Anna Brones graciously included this post in her article "20 Unusual Uses for Honey" for the Huffington Post. Readers can check out the other 19 unusual uses here. Berries used in my demo are from Vasquez Farm in Moss Landing and Live Earth Farm in Corralitos. For fabulous berries, check out these organic farms at Santa Cruz and Bay Area Farmers Markets. Yum!

Three Jars of Assorted Berries
Golden Raspberry, Golden/Red Raspberry, Raspberry-Blackberry
Berries in Light Honey Syrup
Makes about 10 half-pint jars

8 baskets raspberries
4 baskets blackberries
5 cups water
½ cup honey
½ cup evaporated cane juice (or other sugar)
10 - 12 squat half-pint canning jars, with caps and rings

Note: Quantities are approximate, and you might want to have more canning jars on hand just in case you need them. I pack my berries extremely tightly, and use about ½ cup or less honey syrup per jar. Happy Girl uses fewer berries and ½ - ¾ cup of syrup. You will probably end up with either extra syrup or extra berries.

Sterilize the jars by boiling in hot water, then inverting on a kitchen towel until dry. Wash the berries. It’s not necessary that they be completely dry, but less water is better. Pack the jars with berries with a firm touch, filling all the gaps that you can with appropriate-size berries. Discard (eat!) older berries that seem soft, squishy, or discolored. Fit as many berries as you can into the jar without crushing them too much. Fill to the bottom of the neck, pressing berries down gently.

Meanwhile, combine water, honey, and sugar, and heat to 200 degrees F, stirring occasionally and being careful not to boil. The honey solution will boil at just over 200 degrees. A two-piece digital thermometer helps prevent overheating.

Hands Pouring Hot Syrup into Jar of Blackberries with Measuring Cup
Use Cup with Spout to Pour Hot Honey Sauce
Pour hot honey sauce into jars, filling to about ¼ inch from the top. Wipe the jar top and threads with a damp paper towel. Top with dry cap (use a new one, don’t recycle used caps).  Screw the ring on till just barely finger-tight. Air needs to escape from the cap during processing, so give it room.

Process in hot water bath canner (or large pot of boiled water that will cover jars by at least 2 inches) at 200 degrees for 10 minutes. To avoid the sauce (or wine) from boiling out, use a two-piece digital thermometer and monitor the pot continuously during processing.

Remove from hot water and let cool. When cool, be sure that each cap has “snapped” down, sealing the contents (if you can push the lid and make a snapping noise, it is not sealed). Tighten the rings.

If a jar did not seal, remove the ring and cap and wipe the top of the jar and threads dry with a damp cloth. Check the cap to see if it looks bent—if so replace it. If not, rinse off syrup and dry it completely. Re-cap and ring the jar, and process again in the hot water bath.

Happy Girl says that these will keep for up to 1 year. I say they will make great Christmas surprises, if they last that long.

Pan of Heated Honey Sauce with Jars of Berries
Honey Sauce Ready for Berry Jars


  1. Yum!! I will have to try this! Thanks! And love your site!

  2. Thanks, that's inspiring. Welcome to Seasonal Eating!

  3. Ok as a beekeeper with plenty of honey I was just discussing using honey in canning and other preservative means. I am new to preserving so I wasn't sure about it. Thanks for this. I have plenty of honey!

  4. Louise, I know that this will work for strawberries and cherries as well. My understanding is that the acidity of berries is part of what makes this work. Have you tried poaching pears in honey sauce? I'm not sure (because of low acidity) that it would work to can it, but it would be a good fall dessert to have in the fridge! Thanks for your comment!

  5. Master Food Preserver here (No, really, studied and officially earned the title) When you are canning fruits that may not have enough acid to preserve safely (and that may be all fruit unless you know they are not genetically modified varieties) you will should add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice per pint to increase the acidity to a safe level.

  6. Thanks for commenting and good point about the acid level. According to Happy Girl Kitchens, the commercial food preservationists that supplied this recipe, some fruits, particularly berries, have enough acid to be safely canned as is. Vegetables are more problematic, that's why they're often pickled.

  7. Honey is antibiotic by nature and does not spoil.

    So it seems a natural choice for preserving fruits and such, even with low acid fruit, though a straight honey solution might be a better idea in that case.

  8. Wesley, I had forgotten about the antibiotic properties of honey.

    While the antibacterial properties of honey have recently been attributed to a protein that the bees put into it (, this has been mostly tested in hospital situations on staphylococcus, a gram-negative bacteria, where it is effective at up to 20% dilution. ( This is huge, since staph is such a problem in hospitals.

    Clostridium botulinum, which causes botulism, is by contrast gram positive, which in simplistic terms means that there is an extra "shell" that needs to be penetrated to kill the bacteria. So we can't assume that what works on staph works on botulins.

    If anyone knows about such research, please post a link to it, or any related scientific dialog.

    Finally my biology degree is coming in handy. :-) Thanks for the thought-provoking comment!

    1. Soory, but I must correct you here. Staphylococcus is a gram-positive round bacteria. Not gram negative. Clostridia are grm positive too, but they belong to a different family and are elongated in shape. main problem with clostriidia is that they create spores, which are fairly element-resistant. The point of acidity is to prevent these spores from germinating.

    2. Thanks, Marijan, for the letting us know that spore germination is the problem to avoid in canning. And I stand corrected on staph's gram-positive character. It's been a long time since Microbiology class, and memory doesn't always serve. Appreciate the correction!

  9. Great recipe and idea. I think these may be my Christmas gifts this year!

    1. Give it a try, Ms. Dolly. It's a fun wintertime treat! Not many raspberries here this year, but blackberries are starting to come in.

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