Monday, August 8, 2011

The Blackberry Jam Bandit and Other Stories from the Farm

Whelp.  We made that blackberry jam, and I was relieved to have some company--Jaimie stopped by and volunteered to work, so I had her fixing tomato plants that had fallen over in the wind, picking blackberries and cherry tomatoes, taking laundry in, making jam, and playing Barbies with Nora all afternoon.  I'd hire her in an instant.  We did a lot and had fun doing it.  Girls, we should do more of our work together.  (Thank you so much, Jaimie.)

So, the jam is extraordinary.  Have you ever seen a blackberry in the sun?  Cluster of black, glossy globes.  Luminous.  The first time I ate one, warm and sweet from the vine, fingers purple, I about fell over.  "So this is how food is supposed to taste!  It has so much...taste!"  I probably shouldn't mention that 5 minutes later I was screaming because I'd reached out and accidentally grabbed a giant praying mantis who had dibs on one of the blackberries I was reaching for.  He actually turned his head and looked at me. I think he said a bad word.  So did I, honestly.

There are benefits associated with growing and eating your own food.  There are also risks:  perpetually muddy feet, giant bugs, grasshoppers that fly at you like you've just stepped into a giant popcorn maker only the popcorn is...gross.  Snakes, slugs.  Oh!  This reminds me.  I accidentally brought in a slug with some of the garden the other day, and I showed it to Nora who ran screaming from the room.  "What!?  You'll hold a frog but you won't even look at a slug?!"  "It's not that.  Those peppers you brought in are spicy!"

Yesterday while I was unloading the recycling, I heard Nora yell, "There's a frog in the car!"  "What?  A frog?  Did you just say there's a frog in the car?"  "Yeah!"  Sure enough.  Some little tree frog had bummed a ride all the way from our house to York.  I'm just glad he didn't jump on my face while I was driving.  Ah, country livin' is so...slimy.  But back to the jam:

1.  You'll need 3 quarts of blackberries, which you've collected a little bit at a time, each day picking the ripe ones and keeping them in the freezer until you've gathered enough (they ripen at intervals).  Don't rinse them.  Yeah, there might be a spider's web or two on them.  Worry about this later.  If you see a praying mantis with a switchblade comb fixing his hair, just leave him alone.  He means business.  He'll slash your tires.

2.  The night before you want to make jam, get in some pajamas and pull out the berries and rinse them, cover them, and leave them to thaw in your fridge overnight while you relax watching "View It Now" BBC period pieces involving unrequited love and cotton mills.

3.  The next day, call Jaimie and ask her to come help you.  Dump the berries in a big pot and heat them slowly, stirring until all the juice is released.  If you're impatient (who, me?) you can use a potato masher to speed the process up a bit, but you will lose valuable "stir and stare" time if you do it this way.  (Working women of the world, take a vacation as often as you can--even if it means dreaming you're on a game show that will pay 1 million, billion dollars for anyone who can match and fold 35 pairs of socks in under 68 seconds.  You can be anyone while stirring jam.  If you need inspiration, see allusion to BBC TV series involving unrequited love in number 2 above.)

4.  Add 6 cups of sugar.  Don't fear the sugar.  It only has one ingredient, and that ingredient is so, so sweet.  You'll just love it.

6.  Bring to a boil and stir for 20 minutes.  I'm thinking of BBC period pieces again.  I just found out I'm related to Jane Austen.  My cousin had the family tree mapped out, and there was Jane.  My Grandma Smith is to blame for my literary bent in more ways than one, apparently.  Anyway, I was talking about jam.  Quit getting me off topic here.

7.  Pour the jam into 4 pint jars and water bath can for 15 minutes.  Nora loved it.  She still has a little purple ring around her mouth as I look at her sleeping.

8.  Oh, there was a blackberry jam bandit, but I broke his leg when he tried to make off with one of the jars.  Don't mess with the jam.


  1. YOu're good. You're very good and so is the look of that jam. Holy cow.

  2. I've never had a picture of me on somebody else's blog before! I feel so special!! My mouth is watering at the thought of those berries. This morning for breakfast I had homemade granola, raspberry yogurt, and blackberries. YUM. I put the rest in the freezer, and I'm pretty sure there was a bug in there but he will freeze and die. It was not, thank goodness, a praying mantis. Or a grasshopper.

    Tell Nora I hope Ken's leg is feeling better. :) See you again soon!

  3. It looks like you ladies had a wonderful, fun, and productive day :) Can't wait to see you both back at school.