Sunday, December 26, 2010

That's Berry Nice!

Blackberry BushIt was about 25 degrees outside this morning, so I thought no better time to think of the warmth of the sun and our trip to a blackberry farm last Spring!


Most of us from our community one day drove in a caravan to a local pick-your-own blackberry farm in Cottonwood, TX. Neither Dave nor I had ever been berry picking of any kind before, so it was a new experience for each of us. Here are some of our community leisurely strolling down one of the rows picking blackberries as they go:

Community Folks Picking Blackberries


I was pleasantly surprised at how relaxing it was. Some of the bushes, however, didn't relinquish their berries without brandishing their thorny weapons; but I prevailed and took the valued treasure with just a little blood shed (ouch!) But it was well worth it: :)

Susan Picking Blackberries


After a couple of hours, we had filled our buckets; and the farm owner and his wife weighed our haul and charged a very reasonable fee. Apparently, they also open their farm at other harvest times (eg. pecans, black-eyed peas, other fruit trees, etc.), so we look forward to perhaps returning again:

Buckets of Picked Blackberries


Afterward, many of us stopped at the farmer's little picnic area and had a nice time of food and fellowship in the cool shade:

Blackberry Farm Picnic Area


When we returned home from our lovely outing, reality set in; and it suddenly occurred to me that I had no idea how to make anything from berries; and we would probably get sick if we tried to eat them all before they went bad. Dave recommended doing something with them in the solar food dryer; and sometime just previously to that, one of our neighbors had suggested making fruit leather. Capital ideas!! So I did a little research online and gave fruit leather a try. First, I pureed some blackberries:

Pureed Blackberries


Then I poured the pureed mixture onto two sheets of waxed paper and shaped it into a thin layer on each sheet:

Blackberry Fruit Leather on Wax Paper


Then I placed the sheets out in the solar food dryer:

Blackberry Fruit Leather on Solar Food Dryer


I can't remember exactly how long it took but not long (a matter of a couple of days in the hot sun), and the consistency of the blackberries was a bit sticky but dried where I was able to peel it off of the sheet. I then broke it up into small pieces to store in glass jars. It is December now, and I ate a piece yesterday that tasted fresh just like when I first stored it!

Removing Dried Blackberry Fruit Leather from Wax Paper


Then I took the remainder of the berries we hadn't eaten or dried and followed a simple blackberry syrup recipe using very little sugar:

Simmering Blackberry Syrup


I was able to make several pints, and went ahead and pressure canned it (I forgot about the water bath option because I'm so used to pressure canning - oh, well :) ). But it turned out fine anyway:

Pint Jars of Canned Blackberry Syrup


And we were able to have it on our whole wheat pancakes soon after. Delicious, and what a healthy change from the "faux" maple syrup sold in stores these days. It was more of a topping than a syrup but still delicious:

Pancakes with Blackberry Syrup


There is one thing I would do differently in retrospect. I was just trying to go the easiest and quickest route, and I didn't take time to extract the seeds. The fruit leather and syrup taste fine but are obviously a bit "crunchy." So I would definitely recommend removing the seeds; and I plan to do it next time, Lord willing. But we are thankful for such a wonderful opportunity to capture and learn to preserve more of God's harvest bounty.

Susan

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan,

Thanks for sharing your experiences with the berry picking and processing. Both the leather and the pancake sauce look delicious. Glad you enjoyed those experiences.

If you can borrow the tomatoe/fruit processor I gave the Bunker's and community a few years ago; that would extract the seeds I think. I don't remember for sure which inserts were included, but hopefully one for berry seed extraction/separation.

Keep warm! God bless you with His comfort, and memories of your first "berry nice" experience!

Beth

David and Susan Sifford said...

Beth,

Thanks for your comment. I hope you're doing well. Yes, Danielle offered to let me borrow a processor to help extract the seeds but they were also busy processing their own blackberries at the time so I declined. But next time I plan to ask to borrow it. Thanks!

Susan

Ann from KY said...

I have a garden way "squeezo." I have a small berry screen that removes the small seeds from blackberries. Very easy--seeds and skins go one way and juice and pulp another. Seedless blackberry jam is one of life's very special delicious treats!

David and Susan Sifford said...

Ann,

I haven't heard of the Garden Way Squeezo. I appreciate you making me aware of it! I hope to be able to make jams and jellies someday without the seeds.

Susan