Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Thimbleberry Jam

Just before the rain and the cool breeze came in from the lake, there was warmth and summertime bliss. In that little window of time, I convinced my husband that picking berries was a fun activity and he would love an afternoon dedicated to this berry toil. Luckily for him, we stumbled across several large patches of thimbleberries. Thimbleberries grow tall, and are very easy to pick. They are comparable to a raspberry, only much larger and thimble shaped. They taste a little sweet and a little tart at the same time. They are SO delicious!

Thimbleberries are fragile. They don't hold their shape well. After you pick them, they sometimes collapse into themselves and become a little jam like. Perfect for a thimbleberry jam project! I make jam every year, but this is the first time I have picked enough thimbleberries to make a batch of jam. Plus also, if I don't have a batch of jam made by this time of year, I get a little nervous. You know how it is. Jam nervousness. It's a thing.

So, jam is easy. I use sugar and pectin in my jam because I preserve it and store it for months at a time. You could simply cook fresh picked berries down into a lovely berry reduction, sweeten with a touch of honey and have a perfect jar of  low sugar jammy goodness. That would be an awesome alternative! But as I said, I want to store my jam and the sugar content helps keep it more shelf stable.

First things first, prep your jars. This includes washing them in hot soapy water and then giving them a dunk in some boiling water. This helps further sanitize the jars, but also warms the jars which helps stabilize the glass jars from breaking when you are pouring the scalding hot jam into them. The danger level already sounds high, but I assure you, if you go slow, you'll be okay. Maybe also throw on an apron at this point for good measure. Whatever you do, don't wear a white shirt! Sometimes splatter happens. Warning.

Now let's get the jam going! First I rinsed the thimbleberries. Then I crushed them with a potato masher. I used a total of 4 cups prepared (crushed) berries. Place the berries in a medium- large saucepan. Gradually add your fruit pectin. I used a powdered pectin. Bring the mixture to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down, over high heat, stirring constantly.

Add the sugar at this point, 5 cups of granulated sugar to be exact, stirring to dissolve. Return the mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam in necessary.

Now can your jam. This includes pouring the hot jam into your prepared jars, sealing each jar with a lid and placing in a water bath for 8 to 10 minutes. After the water bath, I line up the jars on the counter top to cool. Allow the jam jars to cool completely. Give them away as special gifts to your friends and neighbors. They will love you more!


4 cups prepared thimbleberries
4 1/2 Tablespoons powdered pectin
5 cups granulated sugar

Belly up!!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Summer Blueberry Salad

I made the most amazing salad! It was amazing because it was full of things from my garden, and things from the wild, and things from my family. I didn't think I could make a salad with this much local flavor. And then there's sweet, salty, and crunchy. Trust me, you're going to want to try this one!

Local in Grand Marais, around this time of the year, is definitely the wild berry harvest. The berries are plentiful and many of you already have a healthy supply in your freezers. I was lucky enough to pick some wild blueberries. They adorn this salad, and add an earthy sweet note. The other ingredients are simple, and you can improvise with what you have available in your gardens or your local area. Red leaf lettuce, green beans, snap peas, and garlic chives are all abundant in our garden and so they all played a role in this salad. I also used pecans that were harvested from the old farmstead in southern Illinois where my mother in law grew up. They are sweet and delicious! I love knowing the source of my ingredients, it just makes things taste better!

my daughter's sugar snap peas are enjoying the summer's heat

the red leaf lettuces survived a chicken ambush!


1 cup wheat berries (you could use cooked wild rice, farro or quinoa too)
1 tsp salt
1 cup sugar snap peas ( I used both sugar snap peas and green beans)
4 cups coarsely chopped red leaf lettuce ( a variety of greens would work- baby kale, beet greens spinach, etc)
1/2 cup apple cider vinaigrette (recipe follows)
2 cups fresh blueberries
1 cup toasted pecans
3/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled

1. Bring several cups of water to a boil. Add the wheat berries and salt, and simmer until cooked- about 25 minutes. Strain, and rinse under cold water. Set aside.

2. Chop the peas and beans into bite sizable pieces.

3. Toss together all of the ingredients with the vinaigrette. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Serve with remaining vinaigrette. Enjoy!!


1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
a few sprigs of garlic chives  (chives, garlic scapes or green onions will work)
2/3 cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons honey (or maple syrup)
2 tsp coarse grained Dijon mustard

Whiz the above ingredients together in a food processor or blender. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. You can store this in the fridge for a week. It's really great on grilled fish!

wholesome local goodness!