I have a few confessions to make: I love the birds and I love foraging in my backyard. I love fresh food. Really, really fresh food. So I get a serious thrill out of picking something one moment and eating it or preserving it in my kitchen the next. It is such a beautiful, peaceful thing to harvest your own food, surrounded by birdsong, or the voices of little children helping you at your side, questioning everything, learning and sharing their observations as you go along. For all of these reasons, our backyard is full of fruit and constant birdsong.
|Black Currants are an acquired but delicious|
fruit to make into jelly (and bake onto
pork tenderloin) or to throw into fruit crisps.
These ones are in my backyard right now.
For those of you who are not green thumbs... you CAN grow fruit in Edmonton! Just ask the Fruits of Sherbrooke... there is a wealth of fruit that can be grown in our climate. The Fruits of Sherbrooke volunteers go about "rescuing" unwanted fruit in the older neighbourhoods of Edmonton and turning fruits like rhubarb and crab apples into wonderful jams, jellies, savoury and tart sauces and ketchups. They are a non profit society that sells their creations at markets around town, and they invest their profits back into their organization, giving unused fruit a terrific (and delicious) place in our local food system.
When we moved into our home, we purposely put strawberries, red currents, black currents, red raspberries, yellow raspberries, black raspberries, gooseberries, rhubarb, highbush cranberries and a single, lone apple tree in our teeny backyard when we did our landscaping. There are flowers too... but my secret thrill comes from the fruit scattered throughout the yard, from the creative experimentation that I can do with our meals and preserves and with the wildlife that our purposeful planting has brought to our backyard. And I love the sense of wonderment, adventure and independence that finding, picking and searching for that fruit gave our children when they were young... and that gives our neighbours' four and six year olds today.
|Fresh field berries make the best spring jam! |
More than hot house grown fruit, field grown
berries have unbelievable flavour!
See? Nothing to it.
|Apricots make a delightful jam that is perfect as a glaze|
for a roasted (or BBQ'd) pork tenderloin.
Each year, I experiment with different combinations of fruit. Sometimes that experimentation is the mother of necessity... a recipe calls for two cups of fruit but I only have one and a half cups of one kind and need to add a half cup of something else to complete the recipe. And sometimes, I'm simply tinkering and trying to improve on the flavour of a previous jam.
|Forming terrific checkerboard patterns on the fruit tables|
at the market, these two kinds of berries make the
perfect jam pairing.
Certo makes making jam incredibly easy. Certo is fruit pectin that is extracted from lime peels. I buy it in its liquid form in packages that are pre-measured. Fruit pectin is what thickens jams and makes them spreadable, rather than pourable. It is a natural ingredient that is extracted from lime peels.
|Blueberries are very easy to turn into a jam and they are|
in season right now.
For now, here's a super simple recipe. Join me... I'm making a batch today!
freezer red or black raspberry jam
Seriously... make a batch of freezer jam and you'll never go back to store bought jam again! The flavour is that good! The recipe is that easy! Kids love getting in on the mashing and the stirring (and the label making).
Did you know that calorie for calorie, raspberries have almost double the amount of dietary fibre that black beans have? That's some nutritional whollop! Raspberries also have calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin C and bone-building vitamin K.
Be sure to use a potato masher to crush the berries and not a food processor so you get little chunks of fruit in the jam. And don't cut down on the sugar or double the recipe as the jam won't set (thicken) properly.
2c. crushed raspberries or blackberries
4 c. granulated sugar
1 pouch liquid certo pectin
Crush the berries, one layer at a time. In a large mixing bowl stir together the fruit and sugar. Let stand 10 minutes. Add the certo and lemon juice. Stir for 3 minutes. Put into clean glass jars or plastic freezer containers, filling up to 1/4" from the rim. Cover with lids. Leave at room temperature 24 hours or until set. Put in the freezer and pull out and thaw in the fridge a day before you intend to use it. Yield: 5 cups jam.
Recipe from Original Certo Liquid (instructions in the box)
Nutritional information from The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, by Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., C.N.S.
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Contributed by Sheri Hendsbee