Berry Ahh-Bundance!

It’s hard to believe summer‘s winding down, especially after such a long, cold winter last. It was cold well into spring, and now fall’s on our heels. This summer’s been mild, with few “dog day” temperatures. July was wet followed by lots of sun, perfect for open windows. All that rain and sun was the ideal combination for an abundance of berries…

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Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries…I love them all. I’m blessed to have all these varieties growing on my property.

IMG_8907IMG_8905I planted blueberry bushes last year. It was exciting to see berries growing, right outside my window. Then POOF! The berries disappeared right before I wanted to pick them. The culprit? A hungry chipmunk!

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All was not lost…we went blueberry picking at a local farm; a great family day with friends. We couldn’t believe the blueberries…large and small, all sweet. We picked over nine pounds!

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IMG_8884Berries, especially blueberries, are an extremely healthy food. Studies show they aid memory, boost the immune system, are low in fat, high in fiber, and contain more antioxidants than any other fruit or veggie. We love blueberries as a snack, raw in a bowl. Of all berries, I find blueberries freeze best. Washing berries before placing in the freezer can result in globs of ice, so make sure that your washed berries are drained and dried well before freezing.

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At home, an army of chipmunks couldn’t have put a dent in the amount of raspberries and blackberries dripping from the branches of our bushes this season.

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It was a banner berry year! We picked and picked! Every day, we picked several pounds. Raspberries grow wild in our area, but at the end of each season, we prune the bushes back, just like cultivated plants, resulting in fuller, more prolific bushes each season (and it aids the yard from looking wild).

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For raspberries, instead of buying pre-sweetened yogurt (check the sugar content on labels, there’s so much sugar with  little fruit), we buy  cheaper-by-the-ounce, whole-milk plain organic yogurt, and mash raspberries right into it. (If it isn’t sweet enough, add a drop of Agave).

IMG_9102I do love a good, quick cobbler, hot from the oven with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and my favorite baked goods all use berries in them. Most of all, my favorite thing to do is make jam. It’s relaxing to make, and I use the jars as gifts, tuck-ins, and thank you’s all year long. Jam’s become my “calling card”, and making it has long been a favorite hobby. Check out my past blog for how-to jam basics here: http://www.farmgirlbloggers.com/1102 and for step-by-step on how to make Sunshine Dandelion Jelly: http://www.farmgirlbloggers.com/1197#more-1197 .

 Jam Tips:

  • Make jam only in small batches. If you have more berries than what your recipe calls for (my favorite one uses six cups of fruit),  make additional batches. Don’t double the recipe.
  • I prefer jam “gelled”, not runny. Whether using MaryJane’s wonderful Chill-over, or regular or low sugar pectin, I add one-half additional amount than the recipe calls for. (For example, a box and a half, as opposed to one box). I love the texture, yet it doesn’t yield preserves that are “gummy”.
  • Unopened, jam can store a year. Opened, consume it quickly for best taste and freshness. Leftovers need refrigeration. Storing opened jam in the fridge with the metal ring and lid used to seal isn’t a good idea. Plastic, screw-on lids are sold next to canning supplies. I prefer regular-mouth canning jars for jams. Whether using half-pint, pint, or larger mason jars, a screw-on plastic lid from an empty standard mayo jar will  fit regular-mouth canning jars. Repurposed, the lid keeps opened, refrigerated jam fresh.
  • When in doubt, throw it out! However much work, time or expense it took, if opened jam (or any home-canned product) smells, tastes, or  looks  “off”, toss it. Remember, botulism has no taste. Better safe than sorry.
  • For a quick and easy, pretty appetizer, serve a round of your favorite cheese (goat, cheddar, brie…) topped with homemade jam and organic crackers.
  • Jam’s a great start to canning…a perfect beginner project to get your feet wet. Vegetables and meats should always be made with a pressure canner. Jam can be done on the stove in a big pot, using the “water bath” method.
  • When boiling jars of jam using the water bath method, always make sure water completely covers the jar tops. I boil my jars at least twenty minutes before removing them to cool.

IMG_9178I’ve made blueberry, raspberry, and three-berry jam so far, and a couple of cobblers. The vegetable garden’s also been spoiling us, too, with a later and longer harvest. Tell me, how’s your season been? What are you canning? Do tell in comments!

Until Next Time…Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

Leave a comment 9 Comments

  1. Beverly Battaglia says:

    Nicole, your pictures of all the berries is beautiful and making my mouth water. Audrey looks so grownup in the picture with you. Sounds like fun, too. The instructions for canning are so good and thorough. Proud of your writings. I love you,
    Mother

  2. Jaimey Bates says:

    Those berries look delightful! Nummy!

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Thanks, Jaimey! We are still enjoying them, though we picked the last berries of the season a few days ago. We also are throwing them straight from the freezer into our juicer in the mornings…so delicious! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  3. Betty says:

    I question the safe use of Chill-over,also called Agar-agar Kanten. This is from Japan where there is still radiation that’s leaking in to the water and is now in the oceans in the USA, like Washington to California. It’s not safe to eat fish due to radiation, so how can this product be safe if it’s grown in the water in Japan.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Betty, I did speak to Brian at the farm with your question. While Agar-Agar can be harvested from the Pacific, MaryJane’s Chill-Over is harvested off the shores of Morocco, which is as far away from Japan as one can get! Thank you for your concern! If you have any other questions on Chill-Over, (or any of her other wonderful products) please contact Brian at MaryJane’s Farm at (888) 750-6004. -Nicole

  4. Nicole, I loved this post on all your beautiful berries. We have wild blackberries on our farm in Tennessee, but no raspberries. Sadly. I too love making jam – it is just the most satisfying things ever. I am going to order some of Mary Jane’s Chill-Over… I’ve been wanting to try it and always forget. Our vegetable season has been great also… I’ve managed to can green beans, pickles, tomatoes and tomato sauce. Plus strawberry, blueberry and wild blackberry jams and jellies. I do love how they all look in the pantry! – Dori –

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Dori! Sounds like you’ve been busy! I agree…aren’t the jars so pretty? I still need to make some more strawberry jam, it’s the most popular here so we run out frequently. I plan on making pickles tomorrow. No canned tomatoes or sauce yet – our tomatoes are JUST now turning. We’ve eaten what’s ripened, but soon I bet everything will turn ripe at the same time, and we will have to can some! Soon, we will be picking apples and making applesauce, too. Thanks so much for stopping by! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  5. Ulla Christensen says:

    Its looks delicious an its so good this product’s are organic. we are looking forward to taste you product .
    Love fra farfar an farmor DK

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