Wednesday, July 6, 2016


Nellie -- west field

The old “sarvis” bush in the yard is long gone, but to my surprise, just in the last couple of years I’ve discovered quite a few serviceberry bushes on the property. This year I found the best berries on a bush within a stand on the north side of the west field, where we also pick elderberries. Odd that one tree would be loaded while its neighbors were virtually barren – but then, what do I know?

White blossoms on elderberry; serviceberry at edge of field
I had no helpers on my first day of picking serviceberries, unless you count Bess, and she felt a nap coming on and went back to the house. My first picking was really too soon. Five days later, the berries were riper and plumper, so I picked again and Mike helped me. Both dogs were with us, eagerly waiting for the berries that would fall from the bush or slip from our hands. This time we got enough to make jelly with some extra.

Serviceberries are native to America and grow everywhere. The berries are like blueberries in appearance with a more pithy texture. Following the recommended juicing method – one cup of water to ten cups of berries – I was not able to extract the needed 3 ½ cups of juice for the jelly. I actually recooked the berries with more water. (Purists are probably recoiling at the thought.) My theory is that berries here in this dry environment are not as juicy as those moister climes. Next time I won’t hesitate to double the water because the liquid was plenty thick. I used organic apple juice to bring the measurement to 3 ½ cups for the jelly.

I mulled over several jelly recipes and methods. One called for 8 cups of sugar, and I just couldn’t bring myself to use that much. Instead I opted for a recipe calling for five cups of sugar. It worked well.

Awkward -- need picker pail
And then on Sunday, July 3, we went back out to our prolific tree with our picker pole. Together Mike and I worked to get those beautiful berries that grow up high. So often the way – the best fruit is inaccessible.

And then, in the afternoon I made a serviceberry pie – ¾ cup sugar to 4 cups berries thickened with 3 tablespoons flour. Tasters agree it could use more sugar. If I made it again, I would use at least a cup of sugar and add a half teaspoon of almond flavoring and perhaps a half teaspoon of cinnamon. But -- the jelly is a taste treat while the pie is not, so perhaps I’d just opt to make jelly. 

[Mike and I are enjoying town time today, except that I left the power cord for my computer at the farm. Posting this with precious battery power.] KW


Chris said...

You've been busy! Working with fruit is always interesting because one never truly knows how sweet or sour it is. So many variables!

Kathy said...

So true! Another variable is the juice the berries yield. Last year participants at Elderberry Fest felt the available berries were too dry. It's a question as to when we should pick them. Should we pick early and chance that the berries are strong and sour? Or should we wait for better flavor and chance that they will be dry. This year I plan to make juice with early berries so that we have that to fall back on.

I'm watching the black hawthorn berries, which should be ready in August. I'm also watching the thimbleberries on the grade, but I don't know if I'll pick those.