Tuesday, July 29, 2014


We are feeding the little birds on the front porch. They are so cute.  Two native pheasants come every day or so and feed in the service bushes on the buds. A band of 11 chinks are wintering here, too. It is so beautiful! A picture wherever you look! 

Ina Dobson, February 16, 1936

It’s hot again now, but last week we had a storm followed by a few cooler days. Son Clint said he was reminded of late September. I had the same thought – it just felt like fall. I was right at home working on my Halloween quilt. And, taking advantage of a cooler day, I also tried to make serviceberry jelly and baked cookies. The cookies turned out fine, but the jelly didn’t set.

The trouble with making jams and jellies from native berries is that concise recipes are difficult to come by. Things have changed a bit since Grandma’s day, and while online advice might be helpful, it isn’t always reliable. There just aren’t many of us making jams and jellies from native berries, such as service, elder, and hawthorn, and the process boils down to experimentation.
Serviceberry bush / tree

I read that serviceberries have a lot of natural pectin and thus the recommendation was to use powdered pectin sparingly. Proceeding on that basis, I ended up with syrup. I thought about recooking, but I’d rather sew. So okay – syrup it is. It was great on my French toast.

When it comes to living off the land, I don’t think all berries are created equal. The bushes are bound to be affected by the environment in which they grow. Bushes on river banks and in rainy, moist areas surely produce fruit that’s juicier than those growing in the dry upper country. It’s possible that my juice from pithy berries just wasn’t rich enough.
I read that those who pick serviceberries enjoy eating them like blueberries. Hmmm. They seem quite seedy to me. Nellie and Bess, however, just love to eat them off the ground. They have been great berrying companions.

There’s something comforting about jelly-making, even though I often think it’s useless. With the exception of elderberry, we use very little. But – since my parents made jams and jellies, the activity has nostalgic appeal. I didn’t think I was paying much attention, but I remember things. Mother strained her cooked fruit through a jelly bag which she hung from the clothesline in the basement so that it could drip into a stock pot carefully positioned on a stool. I remember her saying, “Squeezing the bag will cloud the jelly, but as it hangs, I just touch it and that starts it dripping again.” I’ll bet she never thought I’d remember that. (I’m a little surprised myself.)
Orofino, Idaho, from the Gilbert Grade, 7-18-2014

I always thought that by the time I got to be – okay, 65 – I would be good at things. Instead, I’m still a learner. Some things work; some things don’t. Sometimes I know why; sometimes I don’t.

Well, I hear the hummingbirds squeaking, which could mean the feeders are about empty. I’ll make some fresh nectar. That’s something I can do. (But don’t cut back on the sugar. They take exception to that.) KW

[I know -- it's strange to illustrate a summer post with a winter caption, but it indicates that my grandmother had a serviceberry bush in the yard. I would love that! And an elderberry bush, too.

With the exception of the picture of Orofino and the quilt top, the others were taken on today's morning walk.]


Chris said...

That quilt is so cute! Hope you're having fun with it.

You're the second person I know whose elderberry jelly didn't set. The other one lives in Arkansas. Must be world-wide! Or at least continent wide.

Kathy said...

Yes, I AM having fun with the Halloween Masquerade quilt. It's sandwiched and laying on Hallie's bed upstairs. I have a list of supplies to get at Jo-Ann and Amazon. And I'm waiting for cooler weather to begin the handwork I want to do.

It was the service berry that didn't set -- too soon for elderberries. We're probably all reading the same blog that said we should use pectin sparingly.