Monday, August 20, 2012

Blackberry Picking...A Metaphor For Life? And Easy Blackberry Jam

     Late last week before our heatwave rolled in, I went blackberry picking.  As I walked up the path behind our house, I saw the changes the summer had brought to the neighboring gardens and farms.  For the past seven months, I have watched the cycle of rural farm life.  In Winter, it was so quiet and in early Spring, everything seemed to come back to life.  Now, late in the Summer, the gardens are bursting with produce (every garden, except for mine!) and the fields are nearly harvested.   It is getting quieter.   The days are already getting noticeably shorter and soon school will be back in session.  I spent most of last week cooking meals to freeze as our schedules will become much more complicated once school and sports activities start next week.

     But I was able to take a few minutes from "slaving in the kitchen" to wander up the hill in search of wild blackberries.  Later that afternoon, as I returned home, I wondered if I had just experienced a metaphor (I hope I am using the word correctly!) for life.  You see, some berries were easy to find; easy to pick.  But these berries were small.  As I searched the bushes, the higher the branch, the larger and riper the berries.  Why did I have to be so short?  Why did there have to be so many thorns?  Why hadn't I thought to wear more appropriate clothing such as long pants and a long sleeves instead of shorts and a t-shirt?

     It was maddeningly frustrating but I was thoroughly enjoying the puzzle, the hunt, the experience.  Sure, I got scratched.  Sometimes, the best I could do was get the low fruit.  Sometimes, I found an opportunity to get the higher fruit.  As my bounty grew, I realized that this is a little about life...some things are easy - some are hard.  Grabbing for the low fruit might have been fun but way too easy.  Getting the higher, riper fruit was at times frustrating, but when I succeeded, I was rewarded with a better prize - and that was a blast!

     A simplistic view on life, I know.  Perhaps a little corny...a little sappy but also perhaps something that I needed to remember.

     The best part of that journey...the blackberry jam that I made later that afternoon.  No pictures this time as we ate the prop too quickly!

Easy Blackberry Jam

I scoured the Internet looking for blackberry jam recipes that were easy and did not require pectin.  I learned that cultivated blackberries have far less seeds than wild ones.  My jam is indeed seedy - but tasty.

I picked about five cups of blackberries.  I started with one cup of sugar and then added more until it I was happy with the level of sweetness.

5 cups blackberries - mashed with a potato masher
2 cups sugar
1 t lemon juice
Splash of vanilla extract

Clean the blackberries and place in a heavy bottomed pot.  Using a potato masher, mash to the desired consistency.  I like my jam a little chunky.  Add the sugar and heat the mixture over medium heat until the sugar dissolves.  Add the lemon juice and the vanilla.  Bring to a boil and boil for about 10 minutes.  You want the mixture to thicken.  When you like the consistency, place in a jar, seal and place in the refrigerator.  It will thicken more as it cools.  I did not go through a canning process as I doubt it will be in our refrigerator very long.

This was wonderful on Saturday morning - bagel smeared with cream cheese and topped with blackberry jam.

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