Thursday, August 04, 2005

Mountains of Blackberries

In what is becoming a summer tradition among my group of friends, S, O, E, and I went to Homestead Farm to pick blackberries. Blackberries are the perfect fruit to pick yourself because the cost differential between blackberries in the store ($3.00 per pint) vs. pick-your-own ($1.99 per POUND) is incredible. Plus you get to taste blackberries at the peak of ripeness. And the differential between a ripe blackberry and an unripe one is the differential between a spoonful of sugar and a spoonful of lemon.

Last year, we were overambitious and picked 35 pounds of blackberries. This ended up making 18 huge jars of blackberry jam, two pitchers of blackberry lemonade, a blackberry cobbler, blackberry barbecue sauce, and a blackberry pie, along with a healthy amount of eating blackberries and frozen blackberries. WHEW. This year we were smarter and ended up picking about 5 pounds of blackberries each. I don’t know why, but all of these Chinese families kept coming up to me to see our incredible haul of blackberries. I ending up letting several eat a few because they were so curious. I always find it embarrassing to have Chinese folk come up to me and start speaking some Chinese dialect. I am a quarter Chinese but the rest of me is Vietnamese and I know absolutely no Chinese.

The gang went to my place to sort through the bounty and make our various blackberry yummies. We sorted our blackberries into edible/freezable (ones that were at their peak of perfection) and cookable (ones that were either underripe and sour or mashed from the ride over). Freezing is a great way to preserve berries. The fresh flavor gets sealed in. Speaking of freezing, I abhor the whole idea of sterilizing jars so all of the jam I make is destine for the freezer. While some folks might have the constitution for standing over boil water sterilizing jars and hoping that a sliver of air didn’t get trapped in said jar and turning the jam into a mold and bacteria festival, I certainly do not. Any jar of jam that does not get used in the next three weeks is destined for the freezer.

We simply used the low sugar recipe on the Pomona pectin box. My head does threaten to explode when I see tradition jam recipe that call for more sugar than actual fruit. By that point, it’s fruit flavored sugar. To our eight cups of mashed fruit (THANKS E), we added 2, count them – 2, cups of sugar. And it tastes wonderfully sweet.

To be continued…

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