Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Black raspberry - from picking to jelly

Knowing I was going to be out on garden tours all day with Mary this past Saturday, I didn't want to lose that "time to myself" I like on weekends, so I took Friday off as well.  Turns out my scheduling that day off weeks before couldn't have had better timing - as the local pick-your-own place, Walnut Drive Gardens, advertised on their Facebook page a few days before that black raspberries were ready for picking.  We got hit HARD with thunderstorms Wednesday night/Thursday morning, which such an extreme change in the barometric pressure that I was up throughout the night and called off sick Thursday.

Friday was still kinda arthritic, but I didn't want to waste a second day, especially a day I'd taken off as vacation, AND I didn't want to miss out on the black raspberries.  I figured people would've cleaned out the field on Wednesday, or that the heavy rains would've rotted out the berries, or that it would be a muddy mess.

Nope.  It was PERFECT picking weather.  A little warm, but not at all buggy, and aside from when moms came through with kids to pick berries, and the kids were running around arguing with each other, or telling mom to come look at the one perfect raspberry, or the mom was threatening to give up on berry picking and just head off to the pool, it was peaceful - just me, a few other quiet pickers, and the birds....

And the berries?  Let's just say there were tons of berries!  

I was told I could drive out to the berry patch at the farm and pick anywhere in rows 1-6.  I went out to row 6 and started picking, seeing there was one guy WAAAAAY down at the far end.  At first I worried I was stomping on his turf, but then noticed he just seemed to be randomly flitting around from section to section, row to row, apparently looking for the most picture perfect berries.  I'm a bit more intense - I will pick a narrow section clean of ripe berries, looking behind leaves, moving a foot or two to the side to see what new berries are revealed from their hiding places, etc, and then I'll move down the row a couple more feet.

I was given a small bucket (maybe 2 qts?).  I filled that surprisingly fast (compared to previous years), and was having such a nice, peaceful time and feeling like I was accomplishing a lot, thinking of all the jelly I'd be making, that I dumped the berries into a plastic grocery bag in the car and picked another bucket full.

When I filled the second bucket I was surprised to find I'd been picking for almost three hours!  I got out there thinking I'd listen to my audio book, but instead appreciated the nice quiet sounds of nature, and just got into a zone.  Turns out I'd picked over 13lbs of black raspberries, which cost me just over $47!  OUCH!  Holy cow!

After some other errands, the berries and I got home, and I found a pot big enough to fit all of them into - my largest stock/canning pot (it's huge!).  Added a little water before the berries, cranked up the heat, then started adding and mushing the berries.

Less than ten minutes later they were crushed with the potato masher, and dumped into my "jelly bag" (a clean white cotton pillow case that I wrote "JELLY BAG" on).  

This got put into my biggest colander, and set back over the large, freshly cleaned pot and in the basement fridge til I had time to deal with the juice on Sunday.

It's a very messy job - the kitchen looked like a murder scene!

Just FYI - a little black raspberry juice drizzled on vanilla ice cream in a glass, over which you then pour some Vernor's ginger ale?  YUM!

I made three batches of black raspberry jelly Sunday morning, each using a different kind of pectin.  This was partly because I had so much juice (something like 13 cups), and partly because I wanted to compare the different options.  I knew Pomona Pectin would make the "most natural" jelly, but it also uses a lot less sugar, and results in maybe half the amount of jelly as some of the other options.  I also used Sure-Jell (dry powder) and Certo (liquid gel) pectins.

I ended out getting 20 jars of jelly total - mostly half pint canning jars, but also some a little bigger and some a little smaller.  Two of the batches got a tiny bit of red raspberry juice added since I remembered I had a tiny bit remaining in the freezer from last summer's garden.  There was maybe a cup total of the red raspberry juice, so I doubt it'll greatly influence the flavor.

And then there was a tiny bit (1/2 cup?) of juice remaining after all three batches.  I plan to use that the supplement the black currant juice I plan to make "real soon" from a purchased bottle of "Just Black Currant" juice.  I cracked it open, gave it a try, and realized it's NOT something I want to drink as is.  You can turn purchased juice into jelly, so I'll give it a try using this recipe...

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