I have a lot of catching up to do, blog-wise. I debated going back to where I left off and working forward (which would include posts on a trip to Iowa, a new job, and an overgrown garden jungle), but instead I’m going to take you through time backwards–starting with the most recent weekend: blackberry picking.
My parents pretty much own the market on wild blackberry picking: last year, they harvested something like 60 gallons (I may have been known to exaggerate, and I may be doing so now, but if I am I’m sure I will be corrected in the comments). As a direct result of all that gallonage, they vowed a vow not to pick any more blackberries at all this summer. None. Zero. Zilch.
After all, their freezer still runneth over.
But still their mountains produced bounteous goodness–blackberries galore. To let them all go to waste? Oh, the agony. Here’s where Tim and I came in.
Our freezer, after all, did not runneth over.
Thankfully our one free weekend all summer coincided with the peak of Kentucky’s blackberry season. So we loaded up and buzzed on down after Tim got off work last Friday (the formerly 7-hour-trip has been reduced to 6 hours due to an increased speed limit on VA interstates, but it unfortunately took us 8 hours due to rain and traffic and roadwork…). Bright and early (for us) Saturday morning, we were up and raring to go.
Tim, in fact, was so raring to go that he ran circles around the truck for half an hour before we left.
We picked morning and evening, with the noontide being set aside for de-tickifying, eating lunch, taking naps, and working on a special wedding present I’ll post about in a few days. All told, we harvested 3 gallons of berries, not counting what went into our stomachs.
For any berry picker wannabes out there, here’s the system that works best for my parents: cut the top off a plastic milk jug, just above the handle. Loop a belt through the handle and fasten the belt around your waist. As you pick, drop the berries in the milk jug. It’s cheap (as in, free), easy, and disposable. What’s not to like (aside from the slightly ludicrous appearance)?!
Once we had the jugs filled, we loaded them into a cooler I’d brought, and Tim and I carted them home on ice and stuck them straight into the refrigerator.
To wash the berries, I submerged them in my dish pan (per mom’s instructions) so that all the leaves, bugs, and whatever else could come floating to the top. After rifling through them a few times with my fingers, I divided them into four parts. The first quarter got mashed and frozen to make jam. The second quarter got flash frozen to make smoothies, pancakes, and pies (I spread the berries out on a cookie sheet and froze them for 3 hours, then bagged them in ziploc bags and stuck them back in the freezer). The third quarter got juiced to make…juice. The last quarter got re-refrigerated and turned into a blackberry roll, blackberry-banana muffins, blackberry sauce, and three or four fruit salads.
Yum. (Don’t worry, Gretchen A., a whole post’s worth of blackberry recipes is coming right up). I think this just might have to become a yearly tradition.
P.S.: while we were on our way back to my parents house from the blackberry patch, we had fun playing with a very nice, very tiny, very long antennaed locust. Whenever any of us moved, one antennae would zero in on us. It was hilarious. You can kind of see some antennae action here if you look close:
Isn’t he cute?