It's foggy this morning. It's also really quiet in Bamfield now - the summer season has ended, the sports fishermen have all gone, the wandering tourists have all found their way back home & it's now time for the locals to re-emerge & re-engage with one another.
I emerged from the berry bushes a little early this year. I had to - there was no more room in my berry freezer & with the meat freezer packed to the top with tuna & salmon & the fridge freezer on the fritz, I had no where to store what I consider to be a rather great year for berries. Right now, the bears are agreeing with me, so it's actually rather a smart idea to have stopped so soon - walking through a bramble patch with a bucket full of berries strapped to your butt is a sure-fire way to get a bear's attention. Been there - done that - ain't happening again!
Anyway - the maniac berry-picker that I am, decided the first week of September would be a great time to start emptying the berry freezer & make my 'yearly' supply of jams & jellies. What an event...
Mind you, I sell most of my product to the community & tourists, but this year, we didn't have an art gallery in town, so my stock has piled up & is now waiting for the Christmas Craft Fair in November.
What did I make this year?
The 'red berries' are the first to ripen up around here: salmon berry (not worth picking because of the watery flavour & I let the birds eat those ones in the hopes they'll ignore the others...yeah, right...), thimbleberries, red currants, & red elderberries (which the birds ate before they ripened this year because there are so many birds that have returned to the area - nice to see & I'm glad I picked so many last year that were buried in the bottom of the berry freezer). The red huckleberries, raspberries & loganberries take a while longer to ripen up & are considered a mid-summer fruit (late summer & into fall if the weather is nice).
I made rose hip jelly last year - at the request of a few people for sentimental reasons, but the stuff never set, so I was left with a few boxes of rose hip syrup. I'm not picking them this year - well, maybe a bag or two as I like to dry the hips for tea... Anyway, the syrup is amazing on pancakes - tangy & sweet & loaded with vitamin C. It's also great in sauces for pork dishes. Wish more people would experiment with this item as I do like it so.
The red elderberry jelly has finally set after a couple of weeks - I almost freaked out the day after I made it all - almost 3 dozen jars - because it hadn't set. I have run into the problem of some of my jellies being rock-hard - an issue when you try to spread it on toast. So I've been playing around with the amount of water I use to cook the fruit in at the juicing stage (I don't use juicers - cooking the elderberries is a necessary step in order to make them edible) & then again at the jelly making stage. I was concerned when they didn't set up right away that I had added too much water, but am glad to see that it can now be labelled 'jelly' - this flavour is also one I quite enjoy.
The loganberry patch - I finally got cuttings planted last year so I didn't have to mooch off the neighbours - provided enough for a couple of batches & the raspberries - thankfully everbearing ones that allow me to pick into the late days of October - survived the grazing of the deer to provide me with a few batches. There is a difference in flavour between the 2 - subtle, mind you with the loganberry having a bit more of (what I call) a floral flavour. It really depends on what variety of loganberry you have growing. Some taste more like blackberries (& turn an almost black colour when fully ripe), others are more like raspberries & the ones I have are nothing like that. I tend to pick them a day or 2 before they are fully ripe - more for convenience than anything & if it's not too hot in the house, will let then sit on the counter overnight to fully ripen. Just a few more for me than for the birds.
Next come the 'black berries' - or darker coloured berries - my favourite. Black currants, salal berries, blackberries (all types out here: thornless, thorny, very thorny & the wild trailing blackberry), blueberries (wild & domestic varieties) & evergreen huckleberries.
Here I've made 'some' salal jelly (and I have more juice waiting in the freezer for a free day to finish it all off...) & I've also made up some strawberry-rhubarb-red elderberry jam. Now this stuff is tangy & tart & a special treat as the rhubarb harvest some years is low & I refuse to grow my own strawberries (due to them taking over my garden & not giving me any fruit...)
Next on my list came the blackberries - finally a year in which they were prolific & not hard little bullets. With so many varieties to choose from, it's not difficult finding enough for jam & then reserving some for syrups or to add to red wine vinegar for a winter berry vinegar to use in salad dressings. Earlier this summer, I made the decision NOT to make any berry wines this year - take a year off & clean out the pantry of all the wine making supplies. Feels a bit like spring cleaning!
I also made a 'black & blue' jam - didn't actually have enough blueberries to make a separate batch & with the addition of a smidge of Mexican vanilla, it's quite devine!
This has been the year of self-discovery as well. One of those revelations came during that week of turning into a Mad Jammer - I actually do not eat very much of my own jam & jellies. Why then do I feel compelled to pick so much?? I have a twisted opinion that it's wasting food when I see people's berry bushes loaded down with ripe fruit that isn't being picked. Sure, the birds are eating a fair amount & sooner or later, the bear will come along & sit on the bush to eat the rest (& thus destroy a productive plant), but if you plant something, you should be responsible to tending to it & harvesting it. Out here, there are so many wild fruits available, that's it not really necessary to cultivate too much in your own gardens & I almost hyper-ventilate when I see people missing out on such bounty growing right on their doorsteps.
Obsessive-compulsive - I think so. The other thing is that I prefer tart-tangy-savory fruit spreads, which I rarely make in large quantity. Yes, I'm a marmalade girl... One of the best jams (actually called sauce because it didn't set fully) was a cherry-sage blend I made last fall. I think I've managed to hide one or 2 jars away somewhere which will be converted into the most amazing pork tenderloin sauce during the gray days of winter.