Monday, August 3, 2009

Wild Blackberry Jam & Adventure for the Soul

Sadly, I am home. Sometimes it feels good to be back, and other times I wish I could travel forever. It’s a fight not to pack up the motor home and head out again. Wanderlust has me by the throat it seems.

I took Otto the Travel Box (motor home), up Idaho Highway 12 on a fruit picking adventure. Along the road runs the most beautiful river, the Clearwater. Named so because you can see right through to the bottom where large trout swim around and tease you. This part of Idaho is my favorite. I adore going through stark desert mountains into lush green old forest growth as I head east. All along the roadside are fruit trees and bushes and I stop and pick and play all over the place.

My first campsite was at the Wild Goose US Forest Service Campground sandwiched between a beautiful white sandy beach along the river, and blackberry bushes on the highway. After a swim, I started up the road with my camera bag and a sack intending to pick all the blackberries I could handle. I was surprised to find not only blackberries, but apples, chokecherries, service berries, ripe wild plums the size of large cherries, wild carrot, thimbleberry bushes past their prime, and believe it or not, one amazing glorious sour cherry tree.

This cherry tree was a thing of beauty. The ripest, reddest cherries warmed by the sun and fed from the cool water made them burst with flavor. I was desperate to pick them and I reached and stretched, but alas it was not to be. Karma was punishing me for stealing cherries for those sour cherry financiers. I could barely grasp but a few perfect little cherries without risking my life. The rest were off a very steep embankment. Too big and steep to slide down, I knew I would just have to stare longingly at those beauties and continue the berry hunt without them.

I also ate a few sweet wild plums along the way before I figured out what they were, and of course picked every ripe blackberry I could find before nightfall. As I slowly trailed back I was stopped by a female road worker who offered me a ride. That’s Idaho. Amazing isn’t it, that someone will pull over and check on you. Of course there is no phone or cell service for many miles, and it’s a different way of life. A much more peaceful one in my mind.

Reflections started to fade in the water as the stars came out. A brilliant display of light sparkled in the sky on my way back to Otto and I began to think of love life man Steve Fugate, who I saw walking the highway earlier in the day. Although I don’t know him personally, I know of his story. His message is powerful, sad, and yet hopeful. Fugate walks American in honor of the son he lost to suicide, and the daughter he lost to an accidental drug overdose. His site tells more about his astounding journey.

The next morning I woke to motorcycle after motorcycle passing by on the highway. I quickly realized I had a front row seat to motorcycle gawker’s paradise. America’s big biker rally started the following weekend and the Westies were off to Sturgis South Dakota! I watched the big bikes, the little bikes, and a cluster of several beautiful Shelby Cobra cars pass my way. I supposed I should tell you now; I’m a voyeur. All crazy photographers are. I love to watch life go by and cheer it on.

After some tubing and playing on the river (and a bit of hitch hiking to get up the river so I could float down), I packed up and headed east to Jerry Johnson Hot Springs. Jerry Johnson is a mile hike in a mystical looking old growth cedar and fir forest into a beautiful warm river where the river rocks have black moss growing on them. Hot water pours out from a waterfall and at other places on the cold mountain fed river, making it the most picturesque place in the world. I didn’t bring my camera this time, as many go nude and I was alone and didn’t want to make any trouble.

I got lucky and had the upper pools to myself. I slipped off my clothes and sank into a beautiful, shallow gravel pool with water trickling over the rocks. Warm water surrounded me as I watched the river rush by and the moss on the old trees sway in the wind. Here I was at peace. I only wish I could have stayed forever in that water, but sadly the sun began to set and I left before I had to walk back through the forest in the dark.

Trusty old Otto and I headed back west a few miles to Wilderness Gateway National Park where I found a spot to camp for the night. I passed out in restful sleep for the first time in years.

Up Next: Scones, thimbleberries, and a territorial squirrel declares war.

Wild Blackberry Jam & Canning Instructions


8 cups ripe wild blackberries
1 (1.75 ounce) package fruit pectin
3 cups sugar (taste after each cup, add more to taste if needed up to 6 cups)

1. Prepare your canning jars. I wash my jars and bands with hot water in the dishwasher just before using and place my lids in a bowl of near boiling water. Also, start boiling water in a canning pot with enough water to cover the jars by about two inches.

2. Mash the blackberries with a potato masher (don’t use a food processor), in a large pot. Sprinkle in the fruit pectin and bring to a boil over medium high heat while stirring constantly.

3. While boiling, stir in the sugar one cup at a time tasting after each addition until sweetened to taste.

4. Ladle the jam into jars stopping a little less than 1/2 inch from the top. Use the magnetic lifter to grab a lid, shake the water off gently, and top the jar being careful not to touch the underside of the lid. Screw on the bands finger tight, but not too tight.

5. Process the jars in the boiling canning pot for 10 minutes under 2000 feet elevation and 15 minutes over 2000 feet. Then turn off the heat and let the jars sit in the water for 5 minutes.

6. Remove the jars with canning tongs to a towel covered counter and let sit for 12 hours.

Notes: Full canning kits can be purchased with everything you need except jars. You can also skip the canning step by using freezer jam pectin, pour jam into freezer jam containers, and freeze.

Recipe & pictures by Laura Flowers


Patricia @ ButterYum said...

Yeah, you're back! Your trip must have been really wonderful... as I read your words, I felt like I was like watching a movie!

La Table De Nana said... old were you when you were allowed to this on your own?:) How cute was that question asked by the kidlets..?

Sounds like you and Otto had a great time..and the jam looks so good~

Ciao Chow Linda said...

what a great day and wonderful jam too.

Kathy Walker said...

Rivers, streams, and ocean sounds are all tranquilizers for me. Your trip looks and sounds relaxing. The jam looks delicious!

Mari @ Once Upon a Plate said...

Laura, thank you for sharing your adventures with us; I love Idaho and your descriptions bring it right back to mind.

Your jam looks soo delicious ~ a bit of your trip preserved. :)

Creative Classroom Core said...

Ive been jamming up a storm lately as well :) Yours looks amazing! The kids and I go blackberry picking every summer :)

Heather S-G said...

What a lovely post, Laura! I took a page from your book and had kids standing on my shoulders with cherries at their finger tips a couple of weeks ago...LOL!! We ended up with about 2 or 3 each because it was all we could reach...but boy were they sweet :D

Mary Bergfeld said...

Thanks for sharing your swim and berry hunt with us. This was a lovely post, Laura.

Levi said...

Beautiful post. Beautiful photos too.

The Cooking Photographer said...

Thank-you everyone. I am glad to see you all. :)

Marta said...

I always get something I call the "post-vacation blues", you know, that little slump in energy you get once you've come back from a wonderful trip! But, you know, trips wouldn't be wonderful if we were on them all the time! I'm about to go on a 2.5 month vacation... it's going to be a bad slump after!!
thanks for the detailed canning instructions and this great recipes. LOVE blackberries!

Lo said...

That's exactly the sort of day I love to blog about. Almost perfect!

Love the idea of that blackberry jam.

Pink Little Cake said...

Thank God you are back girl!! we miss you, I miss you. I love your post, as I am reading I feel like I am there, under the sun and getting ready for a swim like you. The pictures are awesome, as always, I can prety much taste the blackberries.

Sherri Murphy said...

I now love to camp and we ride the Harley everywhere! I only wish I was one of the biker's you saw pass by!

Your jam looks soooo good.

Chef Fresco said...

This reminds me of my childhood days picking blackberries with my parents. They used to make jam every season. I need to restart the tradition!

EMC said...

I adore Idaho. I've been looking forward to our adventure to the cabin in Kirkwood for quite some time, but now I really can't wait. Beautiful fruit!! And I saw Steve Fugate in Lewiston not long ago....

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