Picking black raspberries and making jam during annual trip to Illinois

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GALENA, Ill. — Every summer my family and I come to this town where there are hills of hay bales and woodsy woods. When we are here, we make black raspberry jam.

A black raspberry is a blackberry and a raspberry combined. You might think that the berry would be big, but actually the berries are very small because we don’t do pesticides. We pick the berries from the woods behind our house where they grow in the wild.

We never planted any seeds or plants; they just popped up. There are nearly a thousand berry plants in our woods. Can you imagine how many berries there are? There are fifty to one hundred berries on each bush.

The berries are not that easy to get to because the bushes are thorny. The bushes go dormant every winter. The warmer and more sunny it is in the spring and summer, the bigger the berries are and the more there are of them. If it is very rainy and cold, then the berries will be little and there will be a small amount of them.

When we pick the black raspberries, we have to be careful not to get poison ivy and to not get pricked by a thorn. To prevent getting pricked or poison ivy, we wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts. If you are not allergic to poison ivy, that is less important.

Picking berries is fun and hard at the same time. It is fun because you are in the middle of the woods, and it is just very satisfying to me. On the other hand, harvesting is hard because I have to wear hot bulky clothes when it’s 95 degrees outside.

When I pick, I am tempted to try one, so I do. The berry tastes of fresh fruit and the earth. When I am picking them, they smell like mother nature.

Making the jam requires precision because you can literally burn an entire batch. To make jam, we wash all of the berries, mash the berries in a bowl and put them in a mixer.

After a few minutes of heating, we add sugar and gelatin. The sugar sweetens and the gelatin thickens the jam. We transfer the jam from the machine to the jars and seal them tightly. The jars go in a large pot of steaming water for a while. After that, the jars of jam sit on the counter for twelve hours. This is so the jars will seal properly. Making jam is a long process that takes work but is so much fun. And is so yummy in the end.

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Picking black raspberries and making jam during annual trip to Illinois