Regular Food in Jars contributor Alex Jones is back to share the tale of a tiny batch of jam made from fruit grown right in her West Philly neighborhood. I do love a good forage! – Marisa
When it comes to gardening and foraging, I do my best to hit enough planting milestones in early spring so that I’m not missing out on a particularly delicious spring or summer crop. And I keep an eye on ripening berries and fruits in my neighborhood so I can forage goodies to enjoy and preserve, too.
This spring was a little different. It was my first working as a freelancer, and any hope that I’d have extra time and flexibility to spend on these pursuits quickly vanished — I felt busier and less in touch with what was growing around me than I had been when I was employed full time.
For example, I missed planting peas this year. On the other hand, I got in two good harvests of elderflower during a particularly busy May, a first for me. And yet, I just missed the height of my West Philly neighborhood’s flush of juneberries, mulberries, and sour cherries, which hit a little earlier than usual this month.
But on a sunny, suddenly free afternoon, I got a chance to grab a few takeout containers and see what the trees within a one-block radius of my apartment had left on their branches.
My original plan for this month’s challenge was to make juneberry (AKA serviceberry, AKA saskatoon berry) jam, but almost every berry within reach on the trees around the corner from me was dried up or already picked. Same with the mulberries to the west of me, which I usually catch at their peak — I barely harvested a handful.
Luckily, the sour cherry tree in my community garden still had lots of fruit, so I grabbed as much as could before the heat got to me. The raspberry bush that grows on my fence was heavy with deep red fruit, so I harvested a cup or so on my way back home.
Putting it all together after pitting the cherries, I had just enough fruit from my microclimate — the one-block radius around my apartment — for a tiny batch of mostly-foraged jam.
I threw the two cups of the fruit into a small pot with a squeeze of lemon and a cup of wildflower honey, then let it cook down until it sheeted from the spoon — no pectin added.
The result was a single eight-ounce jar of thick, red, pleasantly seedy jam. The raspberry flavor was rounded out by the cherries, and the juneberries added a dark berry note (I think the mulberries, whose flavor isn’t exactly strong, just provided a little extra texture).
I won’t be able to pull out a big stash of foraged jam to give to friends this winter as I’d hoped, but I was comforted by the fact that I could still put together a little something from my fruiting plant neighbors even though I missed the flush.
When life gets crazy, the things I love to do for myself — making jam, working in the garden — can feel like just another chore piling up. This little batch reminds me that biting off the little bit that you can realistically chew right now is an OK thing to do and proves that I can still find a little time to do what I care about even when things feel like too much.
Now that it’s in full swing, I wish everyone a stress-free canning season! How are you handling it? Share your tips for meeting your preserving goals and staying sane in the comments!
- 2 cups mixed early summer berries (raspberries, sour cherries, juneberries, and mulberries, or any combination thereof, will work)
- 1 cup honey
- The juice of half a lemon
- Wash the fruit. Stem the mulberries and pit the cherries, if using.
- Combine fruit, honey, and lemon juice in a small, non-reactive saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to medium.
- Cook, stirring frequently, until the jam sheets off of your spoon or spatula.
- Remove pot from heat.
- For refrigerator jam, funnel the mixture into a half-pint jar, then seal, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate.
- To can, prepare a one-jar water bath canner such as an asparagus pot and one half-pint jar, ring, and lid for canning. Funnel the mixture into the jar, then wipe the rim and seal fingertip tight with lid and ring. Process in the boiling water bath for 10 minutes.