One of the greatest pleasures of living in the country is picking berries and preserving them in jams and jellies to savor all year.
Nothing says a country summer like a therapeutic couple of hours walking around on sticky floors from making batches of wild berry jams. And there’s nothing more gratifying than opening a jar of raspberry, chokecherry, or currant jelly in the dead of winter to brighten up a cold morning.
I picked raspberries as a kid and remember jams my mother made, but as an adult it was my friend Carol who got me hooked on the summer tradition of berry picking and making preserves as an adult. Every time I see chokecherry bushes or raspberries ripening, I think of her and I and our daughters berry picking and making preserves together.
Last Sunday while our family was out checking cows, salt, and water tanks, we took a seldom-used trail and drove past some wild currant bushes loaded with big, ripe burgundy berries. I knew the berries couldn’t wait much longer to be picked and decided to go back in the evening to pick them once we were done getting our square bales out of the road ditch. I convinced my family to come along for company and promised them they could take a nap if they didn’t want to pick berries. Nothing beats a Sunday more than being immersed in Mother Nature’s kind of noise: birds and squirrels chattering close by, wind blowing through the trees, and my currant berries hitting the ice cream bucket. I had the family dog lying beside me and while my family napped, I was deep in thought while picking away.
Currant bushes have lots of little thorns and are very prickly, but while my family dozed in the pickup, I picked frantically to get as many berries as I could. The next night I made two batches of the tart-sweet jelly. My jelly making session snowballed from there. I had other berries I had frozen from last year and two years ago that I never got made into preserves, but have since filled just about every jelly jar I have.
Enjoying homemade jams and jellies on toast or dinner rolls is pure country delight, but what I love most when I open up a new jar of a berry jam is opening up the summer memories. Remembering the day I picked them, the spot I picked the berries, the sounds that the birds and nature provided that day, the people that were with me, the kind of day it was, the conversations we had, and the unexpected things that happened. Making homemade jams and jellies from berries that I picked is preserving one of my favorite summertime memories.