Life in the Jungle

DSC_4152 I’m beginning to feel a bit like Bubba Gump in the movie Forrest Gump. If you are not interested in the trivial happenings in my corner of the world or the millions of things you can do with black raspberries, read no further.

It is black raspberry season again at the Litttle House in the Hill. It is basically the one month of the year where I rejoice in the amount of untamed jungle because it is the one month where that jungle pays off big time. I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again: black raspberries are totally worth the hype! They may be small and unimpressive to look at, but these little berries pack a punch with taste. So delicious.

So every day lately I get home from work, change into long pants I don’t mind getting stained, long sleeves, a hat, my yard shoes, and I coat myself in bug spray. I’m hoping the anti-oxidants found in black raspberries counteract the carcinogens I spray onto myself in order to pick them. It seems like a fair trade really.
Black raspberry picking is not as idyllic as it sounds. Sure, we all like my photos of the container full of those delicious morsels. But it isn’t as easy as it looks. Part of the reason black raspberries are so happy in my particular corner of the world is that they love untamed jungle. spiderSo the black raspberry brambles are surrounded by buckthorn, russian olive, and weeds of all kinds, not to mention poison ivy growing at the base of them. The bushes themselves are very thorny so you thrust your hand in for a clump of berries and end up covered with scratches. They stain your hands. They also stain your face when you swipe those swarming mosquitos away from your face. As it turns out, mosquitos love berry jungles. They are in swarms out there (thus the bug spray) and even that doesn’t keep them completely away and they buzz in your face while you’re picking and occasionally bite your ears, your hands, and land on your cheeks (thus the berry stained face I spoke of). You will also encounter a lot of daddy long legs spiders. They seem to prefer to hang out in the berry patch. When you disturb them, they scurry away to another bush and are harmless, but kind of shocking if you aren’t expecting them.
DSC_4187Basically, I come back from the jungle with a delicious haul of berries, and covered with berry stains, scratches, and bug bites, and a great sense of peace and restored balance. Maybe God gave me this berry jungle to help combat the insanity of construction season at work. An hour in the berry jungle and though I’m a mess, I’ve found my equilibrium again and am ready for what comes next. I also LOVE harvesting things from my very own yard to eat / drink / preserve – makes me feel just a bit like Laura Ingalls Wilder. #earthycrunchyleanings

So far I’ve made the following with the black raspberries this season:DSC_4200

Black Raspberry Jam 
I followed this recipe and it worked great. I like that you don’t need pectin, you just boil the berries long enough and it thickens right up. The only disappointment making straight up black raspberry jam is that it takes a lot of berries to just make a couple jars of jam. Maybe not worth it? I now want to try black raspberry peach jam, because that sounds heavenly. Stay tuned.

DSC_4194Black raspberry infused rum and vodka
Like in my previous post about my new experiment of infusing all the alcohol, you basically just put black raspberries (washed) into liquor. I put about 2-3 inches into a quart mason jar, cover it with liquor, and wait about two weeks, shaking occasionally. Then you strain off the berries (and make drunken cobbler, or eat over ice cream, or something), and you’ve got wonderful black raspberry vodka / rum / etc.

Black Raspberry Shrub
Based loosely on this recipe, but with my own spin.
4 cups of black raspberries (with a few mulberries)
4 cups of sugar
4 cups apple cider vinegar
I mixed the berries and sugar and let them sit maybe an hour or two, and then because I couldn’t wait for the juice to naturally seep out of the berries, I popped them in a sauce pan and cooked them for a bit and then strained the juice through cheesecloth to get rid of all the seeds / pulp. I then added 4 cups of apple cider vinegar. I mixed it together and hoped for the best. Honestly I’m not much of a vinegar person. I mean I clean with it all the time, but I don’t drink it so this seemed like a stretch. Tonight I decided to see if it was a waste of berries and I made myself a cocktail. 1 shot shrub mix, 1 shot  strawberry infused vodka, ice and off brand sprite. It really is amazingly tasty! I don’t taste the vinegar exactly but it somehow deepens the flavor of the fruits and wow. Yes. Go try this. Or better yet, come over and try it with me.

Canned Black Raspberries in light syrup
Rinse black raspberries and remove any leaves or icky berries
Pack pint or half pint jars with them
Make light sugar syrup (1 c. sugar to 4 c. water – cooked just long enough to dissolve the sugar)
Pour light sugar syrup over the berries, leaving 1 inch headspace
Wash rims of the jars, put on new canning jar lids and rings
Can in hot water bath for 15 minutes. Let cool and check the lids to make sure they sealed.
Delicious!!!! I like this on ice cream, pancakes, etc.

Black Raspberry Syrup DSC_4158
4 c. black raspberries
8 c. water
3 c. sugar
Boil together and simmer on low for awhile, stirring occasionally. Strain out pulp and seeds with cheese cloth. Jar syrup and can in a hot water bath 15 minutes. You could cook this down a lot longer for a thicker syrup but the thin syrup tastes delicious so I don’t bother.

Black Raspberry Char

A few words of warning: black raspberries stain. EVERYTHING. Clothes, fingers, faces, dishtowels, pot holders, anything they touch. Don’t use your best dishtowels when dealing with them.

And there you have it so far. I’m sure I’ll come up with more to say before black raspberry season is done.

crazy daze

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