Monday, July 1, 2019

Granny's Blackberry Jelly

Another blackberry season is upon us, and thus our family tradition of trekking to an overgrown fence row commences. It is great family time. You gotta bring a towel to wipe the sweat, keep an eye out for snakes, and battle the thorns on these things that were created by the devil himself. But trust me, great family time. These are the delicious little wild berries that grow wild on fence-rows and power-lines, and in spots of your pasture that are hard to keep mowed. Modern plant breeders have "improved" these little boogers to be as large as your thumb and thorn-less, yes, thorn-less. But for some reason, we just like the wild ones. Maybe it's the family time, or maybe its the fact that we have to put in so much work to pick them that makes them taste sweeter. Julie loves to smell them cooking on the stove-top. Giving her olfactory system that annual sense of satisfaction is reason enough for me.

There is one main reason I keep going back year after year to harvest these tiny, thorny, suckers. That is granny's jelly. A biscuit (often left over from breakfast) with butter and jelly was a normal dessert after a large lunch (that we called dinner). This "dinner" was a way to break up the day between the early morning milking and the afternoon milking. It was time for a big meal and a little rest.

Now my granny made jelly from several fruits, and they were all good, but the blackberry was by far the best. Most folks make blackberry jam because its easier. You see Jam included the tiny seeds, but to make jelly the seeds had to be strained out. Granny always took this extra painstaking step and removed the seeds to make the jelly that we all loved.

Once as a teenager, I asked granny to show me how to make her infamous blackberry jelly. We spent a few hours cooking the berries, straining the juice, and making the jelly. As well as I remember we went through this process 3 or 4 times. She appreciated that I showed interest in her craft, and I enjoyed the knowledge and wisdom that she shared with me in the process. She taught me many lessons, most of which are more important than making jelly. After her body would no longer allow her to make jelly she gave me her berry press. Its a simple perforated funnel with a wooden spindle, but I wouldn't take the world for it. This jelly is really good on a biscuit, and mine is almost as good as hers was. But in truth, I don't really pick blackberries for the jelly. I pick'em, cook'em, press'em and strain'em all for the memories.