Monday, August 20, 2012

Blackberry Lemon Thyme Jam

Blackberry Lemon Thyme Jam

Every summer when I was a child, as a family we looked forward to blackberry season. Because I lived in a somewhat rural area in Western Pennsylvania, our house was surrounded by wooded and undeveloped areas. This allowed for the perfect environment for wild blackberries to grow. They were not the "monster-size" berries that you find at the grocery store now, they were tiny, sweet purple clusters that mother nature tended all on her own.

My dad was the blackberry pro; spotting them on the side of the road as we drove home from my grandma's house or the grocery store.  Dad is a man of few words. He will talk when needed but he is never a person to "waste words" just to hear himself talk. Us girls always knew when he was thinking and as we would drive, we knew he was making mental notes of location and approximate ripening time for our berry picking.  When that day came and dad declared the berries ready, we would all bundle up in our long sleeve shirts and long pants and head out. Since my sister and I were young, we would pick the berries along the bottom and the perimeter of the berry patch so we did not get "stuck" by the thorns on the bushes. Mom and Dad would always venture more into the middle of the patch and therefore get the largest haul.

One really memorable thing about berry picking for me was the vessel that we brought the berries home in: my dad's miner's bucket. For most miners, the bucket that they use to take their lunch into the mine, is a very special item. It is an item that they carry with them everyday; into a place unlike any other and a scene that most people will never see. Most miners carry the same bucket through their mine career. Those buckets see young, hopeful men just starting out going into the mine, they see hard work, the loss of best friends and in this day and age, business politics, and unfortunate mine closing which include the loss of local jobs that have sustained families for generations.  In most cases, the mine bucket will "retire" or become "laid off" from it's duties at the same time their owner does.

Whenever I used to see my dad's mine bucket come home from a long day's work; dirty, scuffed, and with its reflective stickers, I was instantly proud of my dad. But most important for a miner's kid, that bucket was always a sign that my dad was home! Mining is dangerous and knowing he was home was always comforting and a relief (some of my fellow classmates where not so lucky.) The dirty, empty bucket would then sit on the kitchen floor until we were done eating dinner as a family. After dinner, as my mom scrubbed that bucket to get it ready for the next shift,  I always wondered what the bucket had seen that day!

I think that vessel, my dad's bucket, is one of my family's most valued items. It was present in our everyday life and saw my family in all stages of our lives.  If it could talk, it could tell the story of the mine, my dad's long hours there, me and my sister's childhood and my mom ever present in the kitchen making home life happy. That bucket did not just feed my Dad lunch; it fed our entire family.

And on special days in mid summer, in rural Pennsylvania, that shiny silver bucket would go into the woods empty and come out brimming with dark purple berries....

Blackberry Lemon Thyme Jam

When my family picked blackberries, my mom would always make blackberry pie or as a special treat we would eat the berries covered in milk and sprinkled with a teaspoon of sugar. This recipe is not a family recipe but reminds me of my family in all ways. I have another blackberry recipe that will follow this as well. When blackberries are in season I like to get my fill!

One of summer's great gifts

5 Cups Blackberries
2 Cups Raw Sugar
Juice of 1 Large Lemon
2 Tbsp Lemon Zest
5  Sprigs of Thyme

This recipe calls for raw sugar

In a food processor, process all berries until they are a mash. Place all ingredients in a large pot. Bring all to a boil slowly. It took about 30 minutes on a full boil (frequent stirring) for my berry mixture to reach gel consistency (if you are unfamiliar with the gel set please look at this great blog, Adventures in Canning and Preserving.)Remove and discarded the thyme sprigs.

Fresh Thyme

 Make sure jars and lids are sterilized in a hot water bath. Fill about 4 half pint canning jars. Process them for 15 minutes in their boiling hot water bath. Remove from hot water bath and place on a wire cooling rack on the table. Wait to make sure all the jars have sealed. If a jar does not seal make sure that you place that jam in the refrigerator and use within one week.
Recipe adapted from Hedgerow Row

Great on biscuits or any bread that you want to add a little sweetness to.

1 comment:

A. Linda said...

What a wonderful tribute to your Dad and your childhood memories. You put it very eloquently and I can certainly feel how proud you are of him. I am sure he knows that but what a wonderful way to express it! ! !
Love ya
A Linda

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...