Blackberries

Blackberries

It’s that time of year when I can go a few steps out my front door and pick a bowlful of blackberries for breakfast.  Our yard is pretty much a wild mess, and I vow to someday cut back or get rid of the blackberry brambles, but now is when my procrastination pays off.   Every day there are a few more berries ripe for the picking.  A free serving of fruit!

Blackberries growing in my yard

Blackberries growing in my yard

This morning's breakfast

This morning’s breakfast

One morning this week I even gathered sufficient berries to make a small batch of jam.  I’ve written about my friend Shirley’s jam before (see link here) but I’ve never provided her recipe.  She was generous enough to give it to me before she retired.

Small batch of Shirley's blackberry jam

Small batch of Shirley’s blackberry jam

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Shirley’s Blackberry Jam

In a large kettle mix together:
5 c mashed blackberries (no need to remove seeds)
1 box Sure-Jell
a little dab of margarine (I used butter)

Cook on high until the mixture is really boiling and then add about 5-1/2 c sugar.  Continue to cook on high until it comes to a full rolling boil that you can’t stir down.  Then cook for one minute more.  Remove from heat and ladle into jars.

I don’t worry about sealing my jars properly because I put my jam in the freezer.  But you can also do a water bath or follow the directions in the Sure-Jell box.

 

Making Jam

July 11, 2014

Carol's raspberry jam

Carol’s raspberry jam

” . . . making preserves is an art of stalling time, of making the fruit that is so evanescent last indefinitely.”
— Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby

I bet this new jam won’t last too long on the pantry shelf — definitely not indefinitely!

 

“It is a vulgar error to suppose that you have tasted huckleberries who never plucked them.”
—  Henry David Thoreau, Walden

In Washington we have an abundance of blackberries rather than huckleberries.

“The fruits do not yield their true flavor to the purchasers of them.”
— Henry David Thoreau, Walden

How poor Thoreau would find me, a city dweller, who procures virtually all of my food from supermarket shelves.  And while our neighborhood farmers’ markets give us access to locally grown food, we simply buy it with our coins.  How rarely do we plant, nurture, harvest and preserve our own food.  According to Thoreau, we are missing out on the true flavor of food when we do not grow or pick it with our own hands.

Having grown up on a farm, I still hold a deep appreciation for the hard work that goes into bringing food to the table.  I’ve butchered chickens, so I understand the life that was once vibrant in my packaged chicken quarters.  I’ve milked a cow by hand, so I remember the source of my glass of milk.  I’ve made my own blackberry jam from hand-picked berries, so I can appreciate the work behind a jar received as a gift.

Snapshot of me milking our family's cow in 1972, forty years ago!

Much is lost when we forego laboring with our own hands, for the value of the work is not just the finished product, but also the feelings of artistry, productivity, and self-worth built along the way.  And it is true that we savor the end product more when we’ve created it ourselves.

One of my colleagues gives our library staff jars of her homemade blackberry jam each Christmas, and each spoonful bursts with the tastes of summer and Shirley’s shared joy in nature’s abundance.  Everything that is in a jar of Shirley’s jam is what Thoreau is alluding to in this week’s quote.

Shirley's jam on breakfast scones

Homemade jam from hand-picked blackberries

Sweet goodness

“The advantage of riches remains with him who procured them, not with the heir.  When I go into the garden with a spade, and dig a bed, I feel such an exhilaration and health that I discover that I have been defrauding myself all this time in letting others do for me what I should have done with my own hands.  But not only health, but education is in the work.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson