Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Purple Fingernails

In case you haven't noticed it's blackberry season.  I have a love/hate relationship with blackberries.  I love the excessive amounts of free deliciousness that can be foraged in nearly every urban park in the Seattle area, but hate the fact that it is taking over in every urban park in the Seattle area.  Himalayan blackberries, which constitute probably 99% of the blackberries that can be picked around here is a horribly invasive plant that has no regard for where it grows and who's habitat it is stealing.  And once it's around it's a major bi-otch to try to get rid of.  You can't just cut it down (which is hard enough with all the thorns) but you have to dig up all the roots or it'll just grow back stronger.  It really is horrible stuff.

Picking the berries is actually doing good for the environment because every berry that is picked and ingested by us means all those seeds in there aren't planted somewhere else.  So go out and pick berries people!

That's what we've been doing for the last several weeks.  But what to do with them?  The possibilities are endless!  We've made several berry cobblers and muffins with them, but the majority have been juiced to become jam. 

Juicing blacberries is a little painstaking but a necessity when making jam because their seeds are so big and tough.  Blackberry jam with or without seeds is delicious but the lack of seeds makes the eating experience just a little better.

Today, I started with the 10 pounds of blackberries my parents picked for me over the weekend.  I had to do three batches because there were just so many.  I put some in a pot and put the heat on medium low.  As they were warming up, I took a bottle (in this case a sake bottle) and mashed the berries with it.
Once it was pretty warm (it doesn't have to boil) I poured it into some cheesecloth that was placed over a bowl.  Depending on how warm the berries are, you may have to let them cool before starting the squeezing process.
 This is what results in purple-dyed fingernails.  You really have to caress and work the bag to get the most juice out of the pulp.  It can be pretty hot so watch out.  I probably spent about a good 5-10 minutes for each squeezing session.
This is the result.  Five quarts of berries equals 2 quarts of pure, thick, blackberry juice.  That should get me about 5-6 batches of blackberry rhubard jam.  Time to start chopping rhubard and preparing jars!
Yeah, I make this look gooood...

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