Wild Blackberries and Peaches

As I mentioned on Monday, last weekend was the sort of gorgeous weekend where the sun was shining, gobs of people were roaming the city, our apartment was getting stuffier by the minute, and we wanted to go out and enjoy the warm Summer sun.  Not wanting to be surrounded by those wandering gobs of people, boyfriend and I both racked our brains trying to think of something out of doors that didn't involve beach crowds or a strenuous, exhausting hike in the heat...
Berry picking!

If you've ever been to the Pacific Northwest in Summertime, you may have noticed large masses of prickly bushes lining every road, highway, vacant lot, and even occupying a small section next to the sidewalk across the street from my apartment.  Those would be blackberry bushes.  Come August, I see brave souls picking and eating berries from the clump of bushes across my street and I shudder, for I fear they are tourists who do not know the amount of canines and late night revelers who happen to use that particular clump of bushes as a water closet.
I'm serious.
Not to mention the sheer amount of road grime that gets kicked up from all of the cars and scooters zooming up and down our street.
We opted to head East in search of our berries; choosing instead to forage on the side of a country road near an organic farm where we knew no pesky pesticides or city road grime would be drifting onto our sweet, ripe berries.

Needless to say, we hit wild blackberry pay dirt!  Next time I shall not be wearing shorts and a thin t-shirt for the amount of snags and scratches I was dealt while reaching up on my tippity toes for the choicest of berries was a bit painful.
But completely worth it.

 We picked seven quarts of wild blackberries.  SEVEN!  I did get a tad wilty at one point since I am now completely unaccustomed to almost ninety degree heat, but a rest in the shade of some lovely trees and a few big gulps of cold water kept me going for a while longer.

 Admittedly, boyfriend and I got a bit giggly at the sheer amount of berries we were finding.  One of us would erupt in laughter and the other would say, I know! I wonder how much this would cost in a grocery store, let alone at a U-Pick farm!  That little conversation kept coming up and we were feeling quite good about our semi-urban foraging; especially after things I read that morning on the internet about unwise people getting caught by grouchy land owners or people saying how much they dislike blackberries because they are so tart.  
My advice is to seek out a place that is semi public.  We chose two places to pick: on the side of a lightly traveled road as well as in a dirt lot where horse riders park their trailers for trail riding.  We also only picked those berries that came off the bush with the slightest of tugs.  If you have to put effort into getting those berries off the bush?  They're not ripe yet, leave them for next time!

 So what to do with our seven quarts of berries?  One option was of course a simple wild blackberry jam.  A quick consultation with my trusty yellow Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving yielded a basic recipe with just crushed berries, a box of powdered pectin, and sugar.  Basic, no need to stand over the hot simmering pot for a lengthy amount of time on a hot day-perfect.

  We quickly got that batch of berries washed, crushed, boiled and processed into rather delicious (and sweet!) wild blackberry jam.

Knowing we had enough berries for about four batches of jam, we decided batch number two would be a bit more exotic.  I poked around in our canning books and after finding nothing too exciting for blackberries, decided to consult one of my favorite canning blogs, Food In Jars.  I know I swore off ever again following a canning recipe from the internet after our semi-failed, runny lemon-vanilla marmalade fiasco (which...I think that marmalade set up only a teensy bit more after a couple of months...oh well, still edible!), but Marisa, who writes Food In Jars, is a very trusted source on canning.  Not only does she create and share the most delicious canning recipes, but she also gives excellent tips and tricks to use in your own home canning.

After browsing the Food in Jars recipe index, I settled upon a rather delectable sounding blackberry and apricot jam recipe.  Except I decided, like a few people who commented on the recipe, that I would be replacing the apricots with peaches since they are in high season right now.

I stuck to the original proportions and ingredients for the recipe: liquid pectin, cinnamon, lemon juice and zest, and let me tell you: that is one incredibly delicious batch of jam.  It is a bit on the runny side of things, but not so runny that I am panicking over it.  Besides, I've learned my lesson that somewhat runny jam tends to set up a bit in the jars even a few weeks after you've processed and put them away.

We still have a few quarts of berries left which are now living in our freezer since they started to go South two days after picking.  In Tweeting about our canning adventure while we were waiting for things to bubble and boil, a rather tantalizing sounding recipe was shared with me for blackberry jalapeno jam.
Methinks those frozen berries will be thawing out and getting a downright spicy treatment next weekend!

What have you all been preserving lately?  Please share your latest adventures!

Happy canning!

*Special thanks to boyfriend for sharing his canning photographs with us all - who knew that simple wild berries would have not one, but two photographers clamoring to take their portraits?!*

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