Friday, August 10, 2012

Wild Blackberries

This summer the wild blackberry crop is outstanding. Even though blackberry bushes are highly invasive, in certain years they produce an unusual amount of berries. The trick is to get them before the bears do.

The berries have ripened slowly this summer, and it was possible to harvest a good portion over the period of a week. In the large meadow on the other end of the property there is a huge patch of blackberry bushes that were covered with flowers this spring and with berries in late July. It is normally difficult to get at many of the berries as one has to literally wade through the bushes as thorns rip both clothing and skin. This year, however, a bear had managed to get the first crop of ripe berries, and in doing so had made a nice set of paths through the bushes. While it was still a hazardous undertaking, we managed to pick well over one gallon of berries.
wild blackberries

Now wild blackberries are not at all like the plump, juicy things you get in the store. They are small, full of seeds, exceptionally sour, and don't have much juice. I took the berries, put them in a pot with 1/2 cup of sugar, and brought them to a simmer. This brought out a lot of the juice. The mixture was forced through an old applesauce sieve my mother had used long ago. This got most of the juice and pulp out, and left most of the seeds behind. A final pass through a fine-mesh strainer gave about ten cups of blackberry mash.

Using the standard jam-making instructions provided on the box of pectin, ten cups of wild blackberry mash translated into nine half-pints of homemade wild blackberry jam. It has a nice mild berry flavor that is quite different from jam made from farm-raised blackberries.

On a side note, our boy Doberman Rosso also likes wild blackberries, and has learned to carefully and selectively bite off the ripe berries. Luckily, he isn't very efficient, so there is no competition between him and me.

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