Copper Harbor Lighthouse

Copper Harbor Lighthouse

Monday, October 12, 2015

Red Gold

Red Gold.
Keweenaw Tea.
This isn't the Beverly Hillbillies, Julie.
Don't get carried away with new lyrics! 

Friday was the day I pulled the bags of thimbleberries out of the freezer and made the jam. Actually, I only pulled out about half the berries, as I didn't think I had enough jars for all the berries. I gave away quite a few jars from the last batch, so I knew I was probably short. I believe I have another full box of new jars somewhere in the basement, but I couldn't find them.

Of course, I forgot to take photos of the first few parts of the process. You'll just have to take my word for it that I thawed the berries and sterilized the jars in the dishwasher. (Have I mentioned how much I LOVE having a dishwasher again? It's been 18 years since I had one!) I spread the thawed berries out on cookie sheets and checked them over very carefully - looking for anything that didn't belong in the jam - like small bits of leaves (or tiny insects). Thimbleberries can't be washed like other berries, as they'll fall apart (aka totally disintegrate!), so we take great care to "pick clean" (as the locals call it). Also, after we pick, I always look through them immediately before popping them in the freezer. Anyway, I only found 3 or 4 tiny bits of debris (no insects) in all the berries I thawed. I measured the berries as I put them in a 12 qt. stock pot. By this point in the process, they are pretty well self-mashed, so I just break them down a tad bit further with a potato masher.

Remembering how many cups of berries I added to the stock pot, I then added an equal amount of sugar. I also throw in about 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice for every 4-6 cups of berries. Some people don't add the lemon juice, but I do. We just like it better that way. That's the recipe. It isn't necessary to add pectin, as thimbleberries have enough natural pectin.

I put the stock pot on medium heat and stirred well to mix in all the sugar. It liquefies immediately as it's stirred - and gets thinner as it heats.

While the berries were heating, I finished preparing the sterilized jars. The jars and lids (seals) need to be kept warm. In the past, I put them in the oven on a cookie sheet, but I decided to use my warming drawer. This is the first time I've used this feature on my oven, and I LOVE it - almost as much as my dishwasher! It made the process of removing one jar and lid at a time faster and easier.

As the berry/sugar mixture continued to heat, I made sure to stir it often, and foam gathered on the surface.

The warmer the berries got, the more I stirred.

The foam disappeared as the mixture began to thicken again, and it soon started to boil.

I turned the heat to low and stirred continually while the jam boiled for about 3 minutes.

I then moved the stock pot to the simmer burner - another handy feature on my stove.

The simmer burner kept the berries warm (and not too thick) while I used a canning funnel and a ladle to fill the jars - pulling a jar and lid out of the warming drawer one at a time.

After each jar was filled and sealed, I simply turned around and put it on the island to cool. Steve had purchased some ice cream with dreams of topping it with thimbleberry syrup, so I put the last of the pot scrapings into a gravy boat for later that evening. (Just nuked it in the microwave a bit before topping the ice cream. Delicious combo, by the way.)

As I worked, I listened to the lovely sound of lids popping. Yes! I needed to let the jars rest for about 12 hours before tightening the lids (rings) all the way, so I let them sit overnight. I printed my labels on Saturday and gave each jar a final wipe down before attaching the labels.

The result: 28 jars of thimbleberry jam. Jars of this size sell locally for $14-$18. If you do the math, that makes the street value of my 28 jars anywhere from $392-$504! That's why they call thimbleberries red gold.

We put the filled jars back in the jar boxes and moved them to the basement for storage. Since our freezer is currently holding more berries, I still have more gold to pan. I'll try to get to it in the next few weeks, as we're hoping we'll need to use some of our freezer space for venison next month!

Oh, and. . .

All is well in the Keweenaw.

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