High Summer. We are past the Solstice into the time of heat and drought. Leaves fade, the air is tinged with yellow. Large Geum and Tiarella, the last of the wildflowers, are brittle and dry now, curling themselves back into the duff of the forest floor. The woods are oddly quiet in the late afternoon when Bill-the-dog and I take our daily walk. Too hot for the birds to speak. We make our way over familiar paths, crunching underfoot the first fallen leaves; Madrona, Big-leaf Maple, Osoberry.
Still, the forest rewards us with the first of the blackberries, teases us with tiny evergreen huckleberries that will become their sweetest after the first frost. I bring a bucket with me now, dive into the blackberry thickets and pick what I can, return home scratched and happy to make the blackberry jelly that my family calls “Essence of Seattle Summer”.
Essence of Seattle Summer
1 gallon wild blackberries, part of them not quite ripe.
1 apple, cored and chunked, skin and all. (If you’ve got crabapples use 2 cups of them, whole, instead.)
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup water
Dump blackberries, apple chunks and lemon juice into a big pot and add the water. Heat gently until the blackberries begin to juice up, then raise the heat and simmer slowly until the fruit loses its color.
Stretch a piece of clean muslin over a second big pot and fasten with a bungee cord or string. Pour the hot blackberry mush onto the muslin. Then go to bed. Don’t squeeze or otherwise force the juice through the muslin.
The next day remove the muslin containing the blackberry remnants. Don’t squeeze!! Just scrape off the goo and either feed it to the worms or compost it. Wash the muslin in cold water, dry and save.
Now, measure out the juice. You’ll want to cook up the jelly in 4 cup batches.
For each 4 cups of blackberry juice add 3 and a half cups of sugar. Heat gently until the sugar dissolves, then bring everything to a crisp boil. Skim any junk that comes to the surface. When it starts to look dark and shiny test for jell by dripping a little hot juice onto a saucer. The jelly is ready when it jells as it cools on the saucer.
Pack into sterile pint jars.
What did you see this weekend?