I see Jelly in my future.
I pick every berry that is close to me and never seem to get them all.
I start picking at the end of one long drooping arm, pulling off blackberries the size of my thumb. As I pull and pick the heavy juicy berries the branch raises slightly as the burden is lifted. As each branch moves and gives, I notice more berries hidden under leaves and behind grapevine. I turn my head to pull the thorn from my sleeve and notice the HUGE berries on the branch that got hold of me. I dive into that one, too, but I don’t have to pick every berry I see. I can be choosy and pick only the biggest softest darkest ones, leaving the less ripe ones for another days pick. The fruit is so plentiful that I share harvesting duties with my neighbor. My neighbor is an elderly old man who lives with his very elderly mother. They have been in the area forever. Mr. Neighbor himself, attended school in the very house we now live in. He picks and packs quarts of blackberries from the backside of the hedge and sells them to earn spending money for the Tunbridge World’s Fair. Joe Neighbor works hard for his money, sometimes picking twice a day. Even with each of us picking at least 8 cups of berries a day, it seems we cannot exhaust the vine. I occasionally go picking crazy and fill my container and my hands only to stop picking when I begin to drop more than I pick.
I pick berries with such zeal that you would think it was my first time. But that is not the case. I was so excited last summer that I stuffed my pockets throughout the workday while I was digging is rural Georgia. A little bit everyday and I brought home enough berries to make a pie and top ice cream.
This year I am out to make jam, just like my Bikeba. She got me interested in the whole jam thing.
As a kid, the cousins and I would visit the grandparents farm every August. We ran 180 acres in the mountains of Virginia. At least once during our visit we would load up onto the beat-up blue farm truck and drive up the pastures to the berry patch. As we crossed each field we would take turns opening the gates and shooing cattle. The cows followed us because they thought we were bringing them food. No dummies, the cows followed us to our food. Blackberries.
The group of us stumbled out of the truck bed and descended on the bushes and picked until our buckets overflowed or we whined our way out of there. I am not sure if that is quite how it went down, but I do remember occasionally confronting cows and wasps that wanted to share our berries. I also remember thinking that a sweatshirt wasn’t thick enough. I did know that whatever it took, it was worth it to have homemade blackberry jam.
More than just boiling and canning some berries, she sometimes strained the juice to make jelly. This was a slow process I had no patience for. You have to let it drip overnight?! And I can’t squeeze the fabric strainer? No, squeezing allowed. That would make the jelly cloudy. How tedious! Maybe that is why I ate more blackberries than I brought home.
Now I understand the value of a multiday food event such as jelly, pig roast, and cheesecake (better on the 3rd day!).
Since we are still settling into our new house I have yet to uncover where I have packed my canning supplies. Jam will just have to wait. Maybe I will dig for that box tomorrow. Today, however, my berry haul will be used to make dinner. I am thinking Seared Duck Breast with Blackberry Sauce and a side of Chard that comes local from a friend for which we traded blackberries. Maybe we will finish with blackberry cobbler.
Jelly and recipes coming as soon as I find my pots again.