Friday, December 18, 2015

blackberry jam

This year, we have no honey to give out to teachers and families as we did last year.  I saved all the extra honey frames before I closed up the hives for the winter and will feed them back to the bees in the coming winter and early fall, an experiment in keeping my bees as healthy as possible and helping them grow and build up a bit more quickly than they have in other summers.  This feels right to me.  Any honey they have not eaten come spring, when they are all flying again and bringing in new nectar and pollen, I will likely harvest and we can enjoy it then.

And if you are likely to receive any gifts from us this year, I encourage you to stop reading here. Unless you are someone who likes to have to pretend that you are surprised by the gifts you receive.

Here's a teaser though....some intense things went down in our kitchen this weekend.

I was a bit at a loss as to what I could create that would feel as though we were gifting something of what we have grown here.

That's when I remembered the blackberries in the freezer in the barn.  I know very well, given our harvest of blackberries before we had bees here versus after, that it is due to the pollinating activities of our honeybees that we have such an abundant overflow of blackberries each summer now.  And so, in a way, this is another gift we can give that is a product of our bees. Bee-lated, so to speak.

It turns out there were quite a few berries in the freezer. 64 cups of blackberries, in fact. If you have ever had the pleasure of picking blackberries in an overgrown wild bramble, you know that 64 cups of blackberries is a bumper crop of blackberries, reflecting the need to suit up and protect one's hair and skin, and despite this, still resulting in much blood loss and scratches raised and irritated for days. Not to mention those moments, when trapped by thorns, held slightly off the ground by the canes and their thorns as the wind blows, when you begin to wonder just how long it would be until someone up in the house might come looking for you.

I used Marisa McClellan's recipe for blackberry jam from Food in Jars. The only thing I did differently was that I cooked the berries in a bit of water for a few minutes before I began mashing them to remove the seeds, because they were frozen. You know a Mainer means business when she heads to the basement to retrieve the family lobster pot because it will contain what your kitchen pot supply cannot.

On a trip to the farm store for chcken feed last week, Jonathan came home with these little wonders, of which I was quite skeptical when I first met them.

They looked rather fussy and cute for what I was about to do to them.  I mentioned the lobster pot.

I doubted whether they were going to survive the carnage I was about to inflict upon them, as you will see. Isn't it all so pretty right here?

After a good deal of squishing and dripping and head scratching about sleeves that were holding up beautifully despite all this attention but once filled had become larger than the mouth of my gargantuan sized ball jars that were stuck and also acting like corks when I tried to pour out the strained liquid, Elliott figured it all out for me, and we began to have some rather gorgeous looking blackberry juice.

This is when I was truly won over by the bags. Elliott snapped this picture as I worked. It was a bit, well, gruesome. Nicholas announced that it looked like I was milking a human heart. Which was gross. And rather well described.

A quick trip to the garden with the pulp and seeds, which apparently is a delicacy to chickens.

And a full clothing change, and intense hand scrubbing for me, and we were all off for a few hours to a guitar performance. A whole other kind of jam.

And we were all back in the kitchen, darkness having moved in outside.  I lost a few squishers to homework.  And pots needed to be slid aside for supper preparation.  And then it was time to put the kids to bed.

But then, that's when the fun began.

It was date night in the kitchen with the Ball jars. We are very hip.

And thank you Grammie for the canning tools. But you really aren't supposed to be reading this.

Whew. That's some gorgeous color and a true taste of summer as the world goes dark and cold for a bit. Not so different from honey after all.

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