The blackberries. They’re back, and they’re as free as ever along the old train tracks behind our house, and I am out at all hours picking them. (Almost all hours–I do try to avoid the prime coyote hours of dawn and dusk.)
Our fridge filled up quickly, and then our freezer, but my addictive picking habit had not been fully satisfied so I turned to the only thing left…jam.
This is how my summers were growing up: we’d spend the early summer picking strawberries from our strawberry garden then fill the kitchen sink with water and berries to help sort and stem the berries for Mom’s freezer jam.
Then the huckleberries turned red and we’d pick all those and turn them into pies in our Holly Hobby oven. Next came blueberries in the front yard– we’d pick and pick and pick so we could spend July rolling in blueberry pies and cobblers, buckles and crisps. When the cherries ripened on our tree we’d pick all the birds didn’t get, pit them, and can them.*
As summer waned we’d head down our dead end street to forage for blackberries until our hands and mouths were equally purple and we’d bake with them or turn them into jam. In late August we’d head to the fruit stand, load up on peaches and pears, and spend evenings canning jar after beautiful jar of fruit. Our pantry, by this time of summer, had become an oversized jewelry box with its shiny jars of every color.
Come September the Italian prune tree in our front yard would start dropping all its plums and what Mom didn’t cook down into plum sauce was used as ammo in our neighborhood Plum Wars.
So for me, summer isn’t measured in weeks or months as much as it is measured by the ripening of fruit. I love that the farther I walk down into my backyard, the stronger the smell of blackberries becomes. I’ve planted plum, pear, cherry, and apple trees but they are too neglected to produce anything, and I can’t bring myself to buy can or jam fruits that were free to me for so much of my life. But the blackberries? Those I couldn’t get rid of if I wanted to. And so I pick.
Kevin made the mistake once of asserting that home-canned peaches are not any better or different than store bought ones. (I’ll pause while you suck in a horrified breath.) He paid for it. The story is worth rereading, if you have a minute.
So it was a bold move he made last night while watching me wash and sort and mash and strain and peel and pour and boil and stir and clean last night when he leaned back on a counter and said, “I just don’t think I’ll ever get it. They sell perfectly good jam at the store for zero the work.”
Guess whose lunches are going to be chock-full of peanut butter-and-nothing sandwiches this year?
And now I am stuck with 24 jars of jam that may not get eaten but will at least not get wasted on an unappreciative palate. Pbbbblllt.
The jam might go to waste, but at least the blackberries didn’t. Right?!
*Then in the winter when we were eating our canned cherries, my mom would pay us a nickel if we found a neglected pit in our cherries. I was the entrepreneur of the family who would intentionally leave pits in about 20% of the cherries I pitted.