Wednesday, August 2, 2017


Serviceberry bush behind house
While family visited earlier this month, Yancey, Hallie, Nick, and I visited the serviceberry bush behind the house. It was loaded with berries, but as we picked, we decided they weren’t quite ready. Some berries in the clusters were still green. It was also hot and uncomfortable, so we abandoned the effort.
Same bush -- above north field

I sorta forgot about the bush and it was almost two weeks later when I visited it again with my “picker’s pail.” I was pleased to find berries, now fully ripe. Mike came along and helped me pick while his companion, Bess, blew and snuffed in the tall grass in order to find berries and slurp them up.

After the passing of my parents, I became the family jelly-making guru. Nick loves to pick berries, so I taught him and Hallie all I knew about jelly-making, and they took what they learned to a whole new level. Nick seems to enjoy a good hike to find berries in obscure places. He even found a gooseberry bush here on the property.

My mother used to insist that one had to be very careful to follow ingredient proportions when making jelly. “You must be exact in your measurements or you risk that the product will not gel. Do NOT double the recipe,” she said emphatically. But I noticed that my dad was much less particular. He didn’t talk about it, but if he had extra juice, he might just double a recipe.
“Tsk, tsk,” Mother would disapprove under her breath. “The recipe says, ‘Do not double.’”

Well, perhaps I digress, but my point is that my serviceberry jelly didn’t set this year. You know, recipes for jellies using old-fashioned country berries are no longer included in the pectin packet, so we’re reduced to finding instructions online and some of those are experimental. “Serviceberry jelly is hard to make,” wrote one blogger. “Nonsense!” I said to myself. “Balderdash! I’ve made several batches without incident.” Until this time.
Cooking berries . . .

The first problem is making the juice. I used a method I hadn’t tried before. I barely covered the berries with water, simmered for 10 minutes, drained off the juice, then added more water and simmered again. I thought it was a great idea, but to my consternation, the juice gelled. (Apparently serviceberries have a lot of pectin.)
. . . to make juice

Now I was confused. How should I proceed to make the jelly? So, I followed a recipe calling for a minimum of pectin. What I didn’t realize – but now know – was that when the juice gelled, that WAS the gel. I think – I THINK – that if I had used a full packet of pectin, it probably would have set up, but as it was, the product didn’t gel.

I considered re-cooking, but I felt there could be some risk in doing that. Instead, we have nice serviceberry syrup, delicious on waffles. I’m just disappointed that I don’t have jars of beautiful jelly to share with friends and family. Not this year.
Elderberries still very green

Black Hawthorn berries
“Pick more berries and start over,” you say? No, it was already late in the season, and berry-picking is a lot of work. Mike isn’t into it the way Nick is. But – the “haws” will be ready soon and then the elderberries. KW


Hallie said...

Sorry the effort didn't result in jelly. Berry picking is the kind of sport where hours disappear into those little containers that hold the berries. It's a shame when it doesn't bear the treat you had in mind. Let's keep high hopes for elderberries. I should check on the blackberry bushes here in Seattle.

Kathy said...

One of my problems is that I forget from year to year what I learned, failing to make notes. I remembered (too late) that the Kraft Canadian website has a Certo recipe for "Saskatoons," aka Juneberries or serviceberries. But -- even a good recipe doesn't give good directions for making the juice -- probably too much variance in the berries from season to season or place to place.

Next week I'll begin picking the haws. I have a cup or two of serviceberry juice that I will add to the haw juice. I would guess the blackberries are ready.

Chris said...

Syrup is a good save--and delicious. Definitely not a bad result!