thought i would share this wild berry recipe here for those who are interested in partaking of the season.
1) it’s august. go swimming for the afternoon somewhere the waters run crystal clear through the forest. with friends, or alone, it doesn’t really matter – but make sure you give yourself plenty of time to sun on the rocks afterwards. once you have baked the clean water into your skin and are ready to head back out on the trail, stop for a few minutes to pick 2 or three cups of salal berries and put them in a small container (with stems, this will fill up a nalgene bottle). eat a few to remind yourself that contrary to popular opinion, these fruits aren’t poisonous and actually quite subtle and tasty. when you get home, throw open the doors and air out the house while you rinse and sort the berries.
2) find a blackberry patch not to far away from where you live. preferably one that is not too close to a highway, train track or busy road as there is a high-likelihood these plants will have been sprayed with poisons. be careful of the thorns while you pick 3-4 cups of these tempting beauties and spirit them back to your home. as above, rinse the berries and sort out any stems and other little bits of wild nature that have hitchhiked in the berry bowl.
3) go next door to your neighbour’s house. knock on the door and introduce yourself since you are new to the neighbourhood and this is as good a time to meet people as any. ask if you can have 2 of the small green apples growing on their tree. tart green apples make a great natural source of pectin (as do salal berries). explain this to your new acquaintances and promise them a jar of jam in trade if this experiment in wild-jam making works out.
4) wait until the house is a bit cool, or open up the doors as making jam can get warm. get the boiling water canner ready and dig out the canning jars ready to go from last year’s jam-making. prepare the jars by bathing them in the boiling water for 10 minutes and the seals for 5 minutes. while you are doing this, crush one layer of berries at a time in a saucepan with a potato masher or like-device. once you have a nice jammish consistency going, turn the heat on to medium and add the apples (cut up into little pieces). cook until everything boils and the apples get mushy. add sugar to taste and 1/2 a cup to 1 cup of water. don’t add too much sugar as it will drown out the subtle tastes of the berries and they have enough natural sugar to preserve without a ton of additional sugars. boil some more until the jam gets stiff (if you are nervous about the jam not setting – if it appears a bit too thin – add a bit of pectin but you probably don’t need it).
5) once the jam is ready and cooked through (and the right amount of sweet or tart) pour it into the prepared jars. this recipe fills about 5 250-ml jars. bathe them in the boiling water canner with the lids on tight for another 10 minutes and then pull them out to cool for a half a day or so.
6) once you have determined the jam to be the goodness it is, commence giving a jar to your neighbours and to the friend(s) who helped you pick the berries. you should be left with a couple of jars for yourself to go in the winter-larder as well as a small dish of jam for using right now. later, when there are no berries left on the bushes, you will be glad for this small taste of summer wild.