Thursday, June 24, 2010

Black Raspberries! And Dreaming of Making Jam...

In recent months, many articles have appeared touting the cancer-fighting powers of these tasty summer fruits. They're rich in anti-oxidants, vitamin C, and fiber, and delicious! I've also found them to be pretty easy to grow. I have pulled up wild plants (they tend to grow near dead trees) and plant them by a fence where they get equal amounts of shade and sun. They tend to spread, so just pluck up the new young plants if you get too many, and share them with friends.

I moved this spring, and the lovely healthy berry bush I had growing died back when I uprooted it, and will not produce fruit this year, but it's already growing nicely again, so next year we should be back in business. I also pulled up another wild one and planted it this week, and once it finsihed drooping I will cut it back and wait for it to spring back next year.

I love them on Cheerios for breakfast; but only when they're fresh. Since they're only around for a few weeks, freezing is the best way to preserve them for year round enjoyment; I imagine I will throw them into my juicer occasionally. But I am going to make jam from them for the first time tis year. I've been gathering them and freezing them; a friend in the neighborhood has several clumps of bushes and can't eat all the berries; so he lets me come pick as many as I want (he'll get some jam for his generosity). Which is nice, since spelunking in the wild patches I picked from last week left me with big scratches on my lower legs, and a bee sting! Once I have enough, I will gather my jars and get cooking.

Last summer I made jam for the first time. The freezer jam was not so good (too runny), and the apricot preserves were too tart (should not have used pectin! next year I will follow this recipe to the letter), but the peach jam (pictured above), cooked slowly with a bit of sugar and a healthy dose of lemon juice, was lovely. It was my favorite as a kid, so I'm happy to follow in Mom's footsteps. I am going to try the no-pectin method again with the black raspberries.

I try not to eat too much sugar, and also not too many carbs; but homemade jam on toast is the breakfast of gods. When I read fiction from the good old days, they seem to eat an inordinate amount of jam. War-time films emphasize the importance of jam as a foodstuff in England. It's the next best thing to fresh fruit, I guess: juicy vitamins and fiber in a jar.

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