Thursday, April 21, 2016

BERRIES

                        
                    
There are so many flavorful berries growing in and around Sitka! 
You will find both wild and domesticated varieties.

The berries listed below are covered in this post. They are in alphabetical order. 

Scroll down to read about any or all of the berries.
BLACKBERRY
BLUEBERRY
CLOUDBERRY
CRANBERRY
HUCKLEBERRY
RASPBERRY
SALMONBERRY
STRAWBERRY
TAYBERRY










BLACKBERRY (Rubus fruticosus)

I was afraid to go through the woods to the blackberry patch when I was a little kid living on the south shore of Massachusetts. Very gradually, the fear gave way to courage.

Courage to leave the familiarity of the sunny, noise-filled neighborhood... 

and venture through the dark, silent woods to the blackberry patch beyond.

Courage to slip past those gigantic spider webs... 

There were so many! Each web was centered with a huge black and yellow spider. 

Courage to maneuver in among the thorniest branches imaginable... 

The huge, shiny blackberries hung like treasured jewels on the long, thin, thorny branches.  Even with long pants and long sleeves, I was guaranteed to be covered with bloody scratches by the time my pail was filled.

Courage to be in the woods filled with snakes... 

even if they were mostly harmless garter snakes.

Courage to be alone... 

I had an amazing friend who would venture just about anywhere with me. 
But, sometimes, I would go into the woods all by myself

My mother was appreciative when I came home with a full bucket of warm, shiny, ripe blackberries. She always made a blackberry pie. My mother and one of my four brothers were crazy about pie. Me? Rather than bury them all in a pie, I loved popping the biggest, juiciest of the berries directly into my mouth!


Does everyone love blackberries? Seems like it. Blackberries do not grow wild in this part of the world. But, imports will grow happily here in Sitka. Just be sure to choose an early maturing variety. Most years, depending on Sitka's weather, early maturing blackberries will be fully ripened in September. You don't want to end up like me with thousands of never-to-ripen green berries on a late maturing blackberry bush. It was years ago. I foolishly dug up a random blackberry bush from a field behind the Sea-Tac airport and planted it in our yard.





                     

                 EATING BLACKBERRIES

  • Bake the blackberries in a pie.
  • There may be nothing more delicious than a bowl of vanilla yogurt or ice cream topped with lots of fresh, ripe blackberries.
  • Blackberry jam on toast is divine.
  • Warm up some blackberry sauce for pancakes or waffles. 














BLUEBERRY


Sitka became my home in 1975 when I was in my mid-twenties. This was well before the days of GPS and Google Earth. With my youthful courage still intact, I flitted about picking blueberries on many a mountainside. Fortunately, my courage gave way rather quickly to caution! Yes, I became very cautious.

Cautious about the weather...

Sitka weather can change from fine to terrible in no time at all. Heavy winds, soaking rains and thick, blinding fog are not uncommon. Proper rain gear and boots are a must. Hypothermia is an unfortunate reality both on land and sea.

Cautious about the dark...

I remember thinking I had plenty of daylight left to venture into the woods after work. No. Hiking out as twilight turned to dark was idiotic. And terrifying. It is remarkably slick in these woods with far too many hidden, steep drop-offs. Besides rain gear, wearing an emergency backpack nowadays, including a good headlamp, makes sense. And a firestarter. And a GPS device. And a means of communication. Most importantly, tell someone where you are going before you leave.

Cautious about injury...

Is it just me, or do other people trip and fall a lot in the woods? I get so busy looking up and around at everything that I not only trip and fall, but I also crash into trees and low hanging branches. I have never had any serious injuries, but I have had countless cuts and bruises. And, knives and I have not always been the best of friends.

Yes, you may have guessed it, cautious about bears...

I am in awe of bears. And, I am more afraid of bears than anyone I know. I am, after all, an intruder on ancient feeding grounds. There are more than 1000 giant brown bears (Ursus arctic sitkensis) living here on Baranof Island weighing as much as 800 pounds. Each. 
Berries are right up there with salmon on the bears' grocery list. Constant, loud, annoying noise usually scares bears away in the wild. I bang an old, long-handled, metal sauce pan on rocks. I also attach a can of bear spray to my wrist and holster a powerful gun... just to be on the safe side. Some people find a flare to be useful. Mostly, I have learned to cautiously back out and away when I sense any presence of bears.



The three wild blueberries we target in late summer and early fall are:


DWARF BLUEBERRY (Vaccinium caespitosum)


The dwarf blueberry is a low, alpine shrub with very small, toothed leaves and round, blue, sweet berries. These are my favorite blueberries. Most years the weather conditions around here are such that these berries are scarce. 
It is whenever I am picking these particular blueberries that I am most grateful to a woman I admire so much, Amy Johnson, for allowing me to peek through her window to the world.




EARLY BLUEBERRY, BLUE HUCKLEBERRY (Vaccinium ovalifolium)


This is about a three foot tall bush with curved stems and firm, juicy, blueberries. The ripe berries have a bluish, powdery looking bloom. So plentiful, it is these berries that usually find their way into our freezer. Hanging on branches at mouth level, these blueberries are our dog's favorite.




ALASKA BLUEBERRY (Vaccinium alaskensis) 



The Alaska blueberry bush is up to six feet tall. The berries are large and nearly black with a very distinctive shape. Up there at eye level, big and bold, these are Mr. Welsh's favorite.



Picking blueberries in the wild is so enjoyable. But, considering the large amount of berries we pick annually, you'd think it might get a little tedious. No problem when using a berry picker!


Raking in some leaves and branches along with the berries is unavoidable. We have a method that helps reduce the number of stems and leaves that end up in the picker with the berries. Grab a branch below the berries with one hand. Twist the cluster of berries and leaves so the branches are somewhat vertical. With your other hand, you can slowly rake the bulk of the berries into the picker in an upward motion. Once you get the hang of it, very few stems and leaves end up inside the picker.




My darling Mr. Welsh happens to be ingenious and creative. After first picking berries together with our boys, a five gallon bucket of blueberries was staring us in the face. There were lots of leaves and other debris mixed in with the berries. Mr. Welsh quickly built us a "berry board." We placed the board on a table indoors. The board has a built in lift on the upper end. We rolled the berries down the board, a few cups at a time, into a large bowl. The leaves, stems and other debris stayed behind on the board. We wiped all of the waste off the board periodically as we worked. The berry board sure makes quick work of berry clean-up!


After decades of use, the berry board has changed color by absorbing the stain of the blueberries and huckleberries. 






Once we have cleaned the blueberries, we package and freeze them. Lots of the blueberries are placed on trays to be frozen individually. I slide the tray into a freezer for an hour or two. Once frozen, they go into ziplock bags, milk cartons or are sealed inside vacuum bags. Then the blueberries are stored in a freezer.






These frozen blueberries will be used at a later date in hot cereal, for snacks, green drinks, smoothies and blueberry muffins:






or maybe pancakes:




Some of our fresh blueberries are loaded directly into clean, empty milk cartons for freezing. They stack well in a freezer. A half gallon of frozen berries is a good amount to thaw and cook into a pie or some other baked good.



We also like to have plenty of blueberry sauce on hand. Add it as a flavorful sweetener when making green drinks. Add it to the second stage when making kombucha. It is so very delicious warmed up and drizzled on top of yogurt, ice cream or pancakes. 


I like to call these blueberries as well as other prepared berries 
FLOWER FAIRY FOOD.





BLUEBERRY SAUCE is so simple to make!

  • Bring a pot full of fresh or frozen blueberries to a boil, stirring frequently. 
  • Stir in a bit of lemon or lime juice... what would amount to about 1 teaspoon per pint jar of jam. 
  • Add an amount of sugar to suit your own taste. We like it barely sweet. 
  • Bring it all back to a boil. Boil the mixture for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
  • Pour the hot mixture into clean, sterile canning jars. 
  • Wipe any drops of sauce off the jar rim with a clean cloth before screwing on sterile lids firmly.
  • To be sure of a secure vacuum seal on your lids, place the jars with lids inside of a big pot of boiling water, being sure the water is above the top of the jars. There are special tongs available for purchase to accomodate this procedure. Boil the jars, called a HOT WATER BATH, for five or so minutes.
  • Turn off the heat after the bath and remove the jars carefully. Place them on a counter. As the jars cool, you will hear each jar "pop" as the seal is made.
  • If any of your jars do not seal, store them in the refrigerator and use them up first. Sealed jars can be safely stored on a shelf without refrigeration.



Here is a short stack of blueberry pancakes filled with blueberry sauce and whipped cream. 

Warning! There is a price to pay for eating so many blueberries at one time. You will have a blue-toothed smile for a while!










CLOUDBERRY (Rubus chamaemorus)
Cloudberry wearing morning dew.


Cloudberries are also known as nakals, akpiks, avrons, salmonberries, baked-apple berries and yellow berries. This plant is so strikingly beautiful and special that it is embossed on Finland's two-Euro coin! 

Cloudberries are not plentiful around here. Slim-pickings or not, finding a few cloudberries is well worth the time it takes. If you start searching long and hard in muskeg areas around mid-July, you just might have some success. Cloudberry plants are less than a foot tall. The thick umbrella-like leaves usually have five lobes with toothed edges and can be used medicinally.



I loved reading the information about cloudberries in this book:


A fascinating fact I read about the cloudberry, "Once picked, these berries can be stored in a cool place for months without extra preservation." 

Cloudberries contain a natural preservative!



Cloudberry plants grow a single, white flower. That single, white flower matures into a single berry. One berry per plant! The berry is firm and red initially. Don't pick the unripe, firm, red berry. Wait until the berry matures to a salmon shade (yellowish orange). It will be soft and sweet. I think the flavor of cloudberries is similar to apricots. Pick these treasures carefully by hand. A berry picker is not helpful with cloudberries.

The only ripe and ready cloudberry in the photo below is in the upper left corner.





The summer of 2015 was the best of all years for me when it came to finding cloudberries. It was thrilling! The weather was unusually warm and sometimes dry. So, it was inviting to wander noisily through muskegs. If I found more than a few cloudberries, I carefully loaded them into a container with a lid and brought them home. Look at that color!





I had a half gallon jar in a freezer into which I kept adding more and more cloudberries. There was nearly a quart ready to freeze after the first outing! I know that does not sound like much. But, it is really a good score, considering the scarcity of cloudberries around here!






Shortly after my successful cloudberry outing, I stopped by to visit a dear friend. It was her birthday. What a surprise to see her birthday cheesecake! It was dazzling! Yes, I ate a big slice. It was delicious!



In all, there was a half gallon of cloudberries in our freezer by summer's end. This was more than enough for me to make some cloudberry sauce.


The cloudberry seeds are somewhat large and uninviting in sauce. 
I thawed the frozen berries and forced them through a sieve.






The seeds stayed behind in the sieve while the remainder of the berries dripped down into the bowl below.








The seeds were packaged and frozen. I am hoping to promote the growth of more cloudberry plants by drying and sprinkling the seeds into a muskeg come spring.






The liquified cloudberries in the bowl were made into  an extraordinarily delicious sauce. After warming up the liquid, I added sugar to taste. I brought the mixture to a boil and boiled it for 4 to 5 minutes. I poured it into half-pint sterile jars and covered the jars with sterile lids. After a ten minute bath in boiling water, the jars of sauce are ready for the shelf.

There was a little bit of warm sauce left over, so I poured it over some vanilla ice-cream. Heavenly!





It's fun to do something different with cloudberries each year when there is a good harvest. One year I made juice. Another year it was raw, uncooked, fruit leather.
To make this fruit leather:
  • Use the liquified cloudberries minus the seeds. 
  • If you want it sweeter, add and mix in honey or maple syrup to satisfy your taste.
  • Add and mix in any herbs or spices you like for flavor or nutrition. I added some of our powdered seaweed. 
  • Pour the liquid on dehydrator trays lined with either non-stick sheets or parchment paper. 
  • Spread it with a large spoon or spatula so it is no more than 1/4 inch thick.
  • Dehydrate for 12 hours or more at 95 degrees. You will know it is done when it peels off easily from sheets or parchment paper.
  • Cut into whatever shapes or sizes you prefer.
  • Roll your leather inside something like parchment paper, wax paper or plastic wrap. I also roll fruit leather up without any wrapper and store it in a container in the refrigerator or freezer. 




When there are only a few cloudberries around to harvest, I like to pick and eat them for breakfast with yogurt and granola. Sprinkled on oatmeal is good.  And, just imagine how delicious cloudberries taste after dinner in a bowl floating on a little cloud of whipped cream!  



CRANBERRY (Vaccinium oxycoccos)

Bog cranberries. Not my favorite berry to eat, but probably my favorite to pick. I am not sure why I get so excited about picking these cranberries each year. It is probably the thrill of the find. Cranberries are pretty rare in this neck of the woods. Actually, they don't grow in the woods. They grow in our marshy muskegs.

Bog cranberries are so tiny! Each cranberry is 1/2 inch at most. They vary in color and shape. See the cranberry in the photo above that looks like a little Gala apple? If you could consider berries adorable, these berries are adorable.

Low bush cranberries also grow in our area and are often referred to as lingonberries (Vaccinium vitis-idaea). Lingonberries are much brighter and uniformly red. Also, the little bush grows upright above the moss compared with bog cranberries.

High bush cranberries (Viburnum edule) have been a rare sight, but also grow in the wild in our area. The berries grow on a tall, erect shrub with maple shaped leaves.


All kinds of cranberries are welcome in my cranberry bucket!



Most years, it is not until late September that I start looking for cranberries. The rumor is that they sweeten up a little bit after a good frost. Not that cranberries ever really sweeten up. They don't. By waiting until late September, I know I will have a chance at spotting these tiny berries. They turn from a pale color to variations of red as they mature. 


It takes a while to get an eye for bog cranberries. There is a lot going on color-wise in a muskeg. Once you spot a cranberry, it is worth dropping down on your knees and looking closely around the berry you first spotted. There are often quite a few more cranberries hiding under cover! All I saw at first below were the two most outstanding berries. On closer inspection, there were at least 15 more!




Look at the thread-like stems on the tiny evergreen vines!


I wish I could recommend using a berry picker with these berries. But, no. Best to pick these little berries individually by hand. A picker would scoop up too much of everything else!

I love to locate and harvest enough cranberries each fall to make my own cranberry sauce for special fall and winter meals. Some years cranberries are so scarce that no sauce makes it to the dinner table. But, depending on the weather, there have been good harvest years. Last year was unusually good. Over two quarts harvested in one day was striking it rich!




I made a batch of cranberry sauce. 
It is simple to make.


CRANBERRY SAUCE
INGREDIENTS:

1 CUP OF SUGAR
1 CUP OF JUICE OR WATER
4 CUPS OF FROZEN OR FRESH CRANBERRIES



  • Clean any debris from cranberries. Place them in a bowl of water and scoop out any moss, leaves, stems, etc.
  • Drain the berries.
  • Mix one cup of sugar and one cup of  juice or water together in a saucepan. I like to use apple or orange juice. Bring this mix to a boil. Stir often and well.
  • Add four cups of cranberries. Stir while bringing the mix back to a boil. 
  • Simmer this mix at lowest temperature for about 10 minutes. Stir periodically. You will see the cranberries burst open. The sauce is done! 
  • If you like to add additional flavors to your cranberry sauce, add it and stir it in at the finish of cooking. Some people add orange or lemon zest, raisins, chopped nuts and/or spices. Your choice.



Cranberries will keep for a long time in a refrigerator. I have never checked to see how long. If I have an abundance of cranberries, I like to freeze them for later use. We have a vacuum sealer. I like to vacuum a cup or two of cranberries per bag and then store them in a freezer. 

I include one of these small packages of cranberries periodically when making pancakes or some kind of baked good.




These CRANBERRY PECAN MUFFINS are especially good:





INGREDIENTS:
2 EGGS
1/2 CUP SOFTENED BUTTER OR VEGETABLE OIL
1 CUP SUGAR
1 TABLESPOON VANILLA
1/2 CUP MILK
1/2 CUP YOGURT
2 CUPS FLOUR
1 TEASPOON BAKING POWDER
1/2 TEASPOON BAKING SODA
1/2 TEASPOON SALT
2 CUPS FRESH OR FROZEN CRANBERRIES
1 CUP COARSELY GROUND OR CHOPPED PECANS
OPTIONAL: 2 TABLESPOONS POWDERED ALARIA OR ANY OTHER POWDERED SEAWEED





DIRECTIONS:

  • PREHEAT OVEN TO 375 DEGREES F 
  • BEAT THE EGGS IN A MIXER BOWL 
  • ADD AND MIX IN THE BUTTER, SUGAR, VANILLA, MILK AND YOGURT 
  • ADD IN AND MIX AT LOW SPEED THE FLOUR, BAKING POWDER, BAKING SODA, SALT (AND ALARIA) 
  • WITH A LARGE SPOON, STIR IN THE CRANBERRIES AND PECANS 
  • PLACE 12 PAPER LINERS IN A MUFFIN TIN. FILL WITH THE BATTER EQUALLY 
  • OPTIONAL: PLACE A PECAN HALF ON THE TOP OF EACH BATTER FILLED CUP 
  • BAKE 25 MINUTES 
  • REMOVE FROM MUFFIN TIN AND PLACE ON A RACK TO COOL 
  • ENJOY!




Cranberries are not only nutritious, but they add an interesting, tart flavor kick to many dishes.
  • Sprinkle a few on top of a green salad. 
  • We have added a handful of cranberries and chopped pickled beach asparagus to bland sandwiches such as diced chicken or halibut. Stir in a little mayo and stuff it all inside pita bread. Or, roll it up in a tortilla, romaine lettuce leaf or large mustard leaf.
  • Blend a handful of cranberries in with a smoothie or green drink.








HUCKLEBERRY (Vaccinium parvifolium)





Red huckleberries grow abundantly in the Sitka area. The berries are somewhat translucent in shades of pink and red. The shrub grows in open as well as shaded locations in and around town and the forest. It is anywhere from 4 to 8 feet tall with ridged green stems. The bell-shaped blooms usually appear in late March and early April.





Healthy huckleberry shrubs with ripe berries are a spectacular sight! There can be hundreds of beautiful red berries on a single shrub.



It does not take long to pick a good supply of huckleberries when using a berry picker.

Sometimes a few blueberries get mixed in when we pick huckleberries. It is irresistible when ripe blueberries are nearby.

We enjoy using fresh huckleberries when they are in season. We are sure to pick enough huckleberries to freeze, same as our blueberries, for later use. Some are frozen individually on trays, vacuumed sealed and placed in a freezer. These are often used for such things as smoothies, green drinks pancakes and muffins.



Some are poured directly into empty milk cartons and frozen for use in  such things as pies and sauces.



So into a pot some berries go to make a family favorite:


SPICED HUCKLEBERRY SAUCE

  • Use fresh or frozen huckleberries... as many as you wish. 
  • Thaw frozen berries.  
  • Zap berries in a blender briefly so as to break skins.
  • Pour the huckleberries from the blender into a big cooking pot, paying attention to how many quarts of berries you have once they have been blended. 
  • Bring the pot of huckleberries to a boil, stirring frequently. 
  • Stir in a bit of lemon or lime juice...  about 1 teaspoon per quart.
  • Stir in an amount of sugar to suit your own taste. I use three cups of sugar for 4 cups (1 quart) of berries.
  • Bring it all back to a boil. 
  • Boil the mixture for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
  • Pour the hot mixture into clean, sterile, canning jars. 
  • If using pint-sized jars, add 1/2 teaspoon each of cinnamon and nutmeg to each jar. Stir well. Use less if using smaller jars.
  • Wipe any drops of sauce off the jar rim with a clean cloth before screwing on sterile lids firmly. 
  • To be sure of a secure vacuum seal on your lids, place the jars with lids inside of a big pot of boiling water, being sure the water is above the top of the jars. There are special tongs available for purchase to accomodate this procedure. Boil the jars, called a HOT WATER BATH, for five or so minutes.
  • Turn off the heat after the bath and remove the jars carefully. Place them on a counter. As the jars cool, you will hear each jar "pop" as the seal is made.

If any of your jars do not seal, store them in the refrigerator and use them up first. Sealed jars can be safely stored on a shelf without refrigeration.



As you may have noticed, this process is almost identical to the process of making blueberry sauce. The main difference is the addition of spices. Another difference you will notice when you go to eat this huckleberry sauce is how thick it is. There is a significant amount of pectin in huckleberries, so it thickens up on its own, as thick as jam, without any additional pectin.




Spiced huckleberry sauce on toast or pancakes tastes a lot like eating apple pie!


















RASPBERRY (Rubus idaeus / Rubus strigosus)


It was over 30 years ago that I purchased several varieties of raspberry from a local business. They grew so well!

Unfortunately, I did not record the names of plants in those days. Fortunately, it doesn't really matter. Whenever anyone sampled the raspberries in our gardens and asked for the variety name for ordering purposes, I simply dug up some starts for them.

Raspberries come up all over the place around here!



When a delphinium was transplanted from our yard into our covered garden a number of years ago, some raspberry roots must have been in the soil. Here is what happened:






Then the roots crawled from the covered garden under a wall and into  our greenhouse. Here is what happened:






My daughter, with a personality as sweet as the ripest berries, found a good patch to pick. Our raspberries usually grow and ripen just fine outdoors. 




But, raspberries love being protected from rain in the covered garden and greenhouse.
No mold grows.
No slugs lurk around sliming things up.
The berries grow so sweet, plump and ripe that they seem to be begging your fingers to pick them!










And pick them we do! By the bucket!








Years ago, my son... so cheerful, helpful and fun... picked way more than he ate. 





I am so grateful that raspberries grew by mistake in our covered garden and greenhouse. Ripe berries usually appear in the greenhouse as early as May. Then they ripen in the covered garden as early as June. Raspberries are ripe in the outside gardens by July or August. How amazing! We eat fresh raspberries from as early as May until as late as December! 



Both the raspberries and celery seemed to call my name when I visited the greenhouse. I was compelled to pick some of each for a snack.
Hmmm. Which will I eat first?




When there are more fresh raspberries than we can manage (I know, hard to believe), we freeze them for later use. Some are frozen on sheet pans. They are vacuumed into small bags and stored in the freezer for winter snacking. These frozen raspberries are also handy for adding to smoothies, green drinks and desserts.





Lots of raspberries are smashed and frozen inside empty milk cartons and tubs.


The smashed, frozen raspberries will be thawed at a later date and made into juice, jam or some kind of baked good.






Jam?
Oh, the fragrance of raspberry jam!
I have spent entire days making raspberry jam.
It is usually a rainy, indoor, fall day.

My mind wanders back to my early days in Sitka. It was the beautiful, smiling, Joni Didrickson Lewis who invited me over for the evening to learn the art of JAM. My life has never been the same! 
Each year, as fall turns to winter, there are cases of all kinds of jam stacked around the house for family, friends and neighbors. Thank you, Joni! You have no idea how much you changed my life.

Back to reality as the entry door opens, the cool air swirls in and around with the aroma of raspberry. Family members arriving home in late afternoon. 
Warm raspberry jam on soft, fresh, home-made bread... in place of dinner.






So lets make some cooked raspberry jam!!!


INGREDIENTS

  • 5 cups of mashed raspberries. Use fresh or frozen raspberries. Thaw if frozen.
  • 4 cups sugar or more (I like it barely sweet).
  • 1/4 cup of lemon or lime juice, fresh or bottled.
  • about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon butter to help reduce foaming (optional).
  • 1 package (2 ounce) of MCP pectin. There are quite a few choices when it comes to pectin. But, we will keep it simple here and use a common brand available locally. There are directions inside the pectin box, but my directions are a little different.


DIRECTIONS
  • Before you get to cooking, be sure you have cleaned and sterilized (boil in water about 5 minutes) some canning jars and lids. Use the size you prefer. I have used 8 ounce (1 cup), 12 ounce and 16 ounce (pint-sized) jars.
  • Stir together the 5 cups of mashed raspberries, the lemon juice, the pectin and the butter in a large cook pot. 
  • Bring it all to a boil for about a minute, stirring often. I use a long handled, stainless steel spatula for stirring. 
  • Add the four cups of sugar.
  • Bring it back to a full boil, stirring regularly. 
  • Boil for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  • Remove from heat and pour or ladle into jars.
  • Fill, leaving about 1/2 inch of space at the top of each jar.
  • With a clean cloth or paper towel, clean off the top of each jar.
  • Screw on lids. The way I learned this step was to use two piece lids. Once screwed on, I flipped the jars with lids upside down for about 5 minutes. Then I turned them right-side up and that was it. Done. Nowadays, we are encouraged to place the jars with lids in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. This means you fill a large pot with water, bring to a boil, add covered jars so there is an inch or two of water above the jars, bring back to a boil... and boil for 10 minutes.  Remove from boiling water and cool. The hot water bath is to insure a safe seal.
  • Once the jars have cooled, let them sit at room temperature for a day. 
  • Refrigerate any unsealed jars.
  • Best storage for sealed jars is in a dry, cool, dark location. We store some of our jams and dried goodies on shelving we built in our entry hallway:















SALMONBERRY

Salmonberries are the first wild berries to ripen around here each year. 

The bright pink flowers quickly yield to hard green berries. When the green berries grow and ripen, they glisten in glorious shades of yellow and red. There may not be a juicier berry on earth! 





I must admit, I have never gone beyond picking, and immediately eating, salmonberries. On site. It's what I do. Hey, it's what lots of people do!




This year (2016), there were astonishing numbers of blooms on each bush. Far beyond anything in memory.



And those blossoms transformed into astonishing numbers of berries! They were not all ripe at the same time. It was possible to pick gallons of salmonberries intermittently from late May until early July.





The colorful berries were huge and juicy.




It is simple to determine which salmonberries are past their prime. They begin to brown. Once over ripe this year, they were especially attractive to what I think are those dopey MARCH FLIES and our ever present SLUGS.



The March fly (Bibio albipennis or Bibio xanthippes) "has a passion for nectar, walking and landing all over anything that it can attach to while it waits to mate." Klas Stolpe wrote an interesting article about these flies in the Juneau Empire back in June 2012.

And, of course, we have lots of opportunities in Sitka to witness slug behavior. Slugs wisely take advantage of our home gardens and pretty much everything yummy in the wild! They have little trouble gliding around on Sitka's wet foliage.  



2016 has been a great year for me to get creative in the kitchen with salmonberries. Late in the fall, I started to take advantage of my gallons of frozen berries. I found it best to use the berries the same day they are thawed. When thawed, they look nearly as bright and colorful as when they were fresh! 


After a day or two, the thawed salmonberries tend to brown, even if refrigerated.

So, I got right to it. Because I was interested in experiencing the pure salmonberry flavor, I made SALMONBERRY JUICE. Lots of juice. I used our juicer/steamer, added a pinch of sugar to enhance the salmonberry flavor and canned the juice to store for later use.

Here it is!

The color and flavor are both unique. The juice is delicious and well worth the effort.




Next up, SALMONBERRY JAM/SAUCE 

Not following the directions on the small box of MCP pectin entirely, I used the following ingredients in the following amounts:

  • five cups of gently blended salmonberries
  • 1 small box of pectin
  • 1/4 cup of lemon or lime juice
  • 3 cups of sugar
  • 1/2 tsp of butter to reduce foaming
I let this all come to a boil and kept it boiling for 6 minutes. The results were thick enough for jam... and loose enough for sauce.


 I love that the colors in these pint size jars of salmonberry jam varied depending on the colors that predominated in each of the frozen containers of berries as they emerged from the freezer.

Among other things, I look forward to enjoying this unusual treat in the making of my home brewed kombucha, to flavor and sweeten green drinks/smoothies, on pancakes and with oatmeal.







STRAWBERRY

We have grown so many different kinds of strawberries over the years!

At first, we grew some common garden varieties that fell into the category of everbearing day-neutral strawberries. Commercially grown, we purchased and grew Tri-Star, Seascape and Eversweet... along with quite a few others.
Gradually, we parted ways with these strawberries.




For our tastes and needs, we settled on three kinds of strawberries:

MUSK STRAWBERRIES (FRAGARIA MOSCHATA)

We purchased and grew both of the musk strawberries available at the time, Profumata di Tortona and Capron.

It took a couple of years for these strawberries to get comfortable with our weather. Two to three decades later, they are still here. And, they are so happy in our gardens that they spread like ground cover.

The fragrance of these berries is heavenly! 

The flavor is a combination of strawberry, raspberry and pineapple. Heavy on the pineapple. 

When ripe, the musk strawberries are somewhat white on the underside and dark pink on top. 

The musk strawberry plants do not yield all that many berries, but they are the most uniquely flavorful of our strawberries.

When my kids were little, I told them that musk strawberries are flower fairy food. We were reading lots of children's books and I could not help myself.






ALPINE STRAWBERRIES (Fragaria vesca)
Ruegen Alpine
Like most alpine strawberries, the Ruegen alpine does not send out runners. It is a short, perennial plant that reproduces by seed. Under the tubs where our upright alpine strawberries grow, there are always lots of little new plants growing where a berry or two dropped off the plant. The berries are plentiful, tiny and sweet.
These everbearing little gems do not mind growing in shade! 




Alpine Yellow Wonder 
Alpine Yellow Wonder is another strawberry with unusual flavor. This tiny wonder also has a hint of pineapple. As with Ruegen, there are no runners... just lots of little berries throughout the summer on upright 10 inch plants.




WILD STRAWBERRIES (Fragaria virginiana)

The wild strawberry is definitely a berry to rave about in a temperate rain forest. You will run into them above beaches, hiding in grasslands, along sidewalks, bordering rivers and various other surprising locations. There are lots of wild strawberries growing near our airport and our ferry terminal as if eager to welcome tourists and travelers. 
The countless wild strawberry plants in and around our own gardens originated from a dozen or so plants offered by a friend, Eve Grutter. She thought they came from somewhere down by Wrangell, Alaska.
Growing cheerfully in sun or shade, wild strawberry plants spread by runner and sure pump out the berries! 

The blossoms are lovely and plentiful beginning in April.



We have our wild strawberries growing in tubs




And cascading down from the top of rock walls.


Wild strawberries do well when it is cool and rainy, but loved the warmer, dryer weather we had last summer. We harvested over 10 gallons of wild strawberries from our gardens for later use. That was on top of the berries we all picked and enjoyed fresh throughout the summer.

Strawberries do not ripen after they are picked. I checked on the strawberry patches most every day, picking the ripe berries. Some days it was a big job!






Once picked, I removed the green caps and any other debris. The berries were placed in a single layer on baking sheets and placed in the freezer for a short time until frozen.








Once frozen, the berries were transferred into ziplock bags, vacuum bags or empty milk cartons for storage in the freezer.








Once things slowed down a little in fall, it was fun to make 
WILD STRAWBERRY JUICE






WILD STRAWBERRY JAM
 

WILD STRAWBERRY COBBLER






WILD STRAWBERRY ICE CREAM 
We have a nifty electric ice cream maker.


Using a bunch of frozen berries from a ziplock
along with whole milk
and a little wild strawberry jam...
it got all mixed up in the blender.
I poured the mix into the bowl of the ice cream maker.
The timer was set.

In about 30 minutes, we had ice cream.


Now the big decision... enjoy
 wild strawberry ice cream in a bowl






or in a cone?














TAYBERRY (Rubus fruticosus x Rubus idaeus)

You may never have heard of tayberries. No wonder. Tayberries came on the scene from Scotland fairly recently...  in 1979. These long, narrow, purple berries with super thorny canes are a cross between blackberry and raspberry!


It was about 15 years ago that I ordered some tayberry starts from a catalog. The canes grew fine as well as the berries. But, it was usually so cool here in the fall that very few berries ripened. After a few years, I gave up on the tayberries. I dug them out and used the garden space for something else. A few years later, the canes reappeared. Some roots had remained in the soil. I am so glad they did! 
Whenever we have a halfway warm summer and fall, the tayberries flourish! 

As the tayberries ripen, I pick and store them in a container in the freezer. If enough tayberries find there way into the freezer, I make jam!
 




The method described in the raspberry section for making jam works well for most berries.










There is so much more information to share about berries in and around Sitka. But... this blog post is already so long! 








HAPPY PICKING!!!









6 comments:

  1. very interesting, made me want blueberry pancakes in the worst way.

    thanks
    denise

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Denise! Maybe you and your adorable grandchildren will get up into the hills for some berry picking. Yummy times ahead! Lots of love to you.

      Delete
  2. Just want to thank you for sharing all this amazing information. What a great resource!
    Helen Raschick, Sitka

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are welcome, Helen. Glad to hear your appreciation. Happy Picking!

      Delete
  3. Hi, this is great information thanks, would you know where I could buy one of those tin berry pickers? My friends mom brought one back to Canada from Alaska that had hanco imports on it but I can't find one anywhere I look. Thanks again

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Greetings Mark! It seems that the berry pickers we use are no longer in our local stores. If I locate any, I will surely let you know.

      Delete