Growing up on the farm in North Carolina, we loved picking berries right off the bushes.
We picked blueberries that we called huckleberries or blackberries that we called briar-berries.
I only grew up in the summer – there are no fun stories about winter. My nephew Barney and I would get on our bicycles and go as far away as five miles, all on dirt roads. The only mishap would be a good case of red bugs (town folks called them chiggers) but they are miserable by either name.
Mother would make jams, pies, cobblers and ice cream with these wonderful wild berries. The blueberries that grew wild around here were small, low-bush berries and they grew in the edge of the woods. The blackberries grew in the ditches and sadly, I never see them anymore. I don’t see the wild blueberries either, so I planted some in my yard by an old pine tree stump.
The blueberry bushes that we have here at Big Mill are the high-bush variety, reaching way over my head. Each year I position a step ladder in amongst the bushes and leave it there for the entire season. I also place Earl, an inflatable snake in the bushes too. His job is to deter some of the birds. Fat chance! He does scare Big Mill B&B guests sometimes.
The blueberry is native to North America and they are one of only a few blue foods on all the earth. This tiny berry is gaining respect among folks who want to stay healthy, since it is a great source of antioxidants.
- 4 pints fresh blueberries
- Zest and juice of 2 lemons
- 7 cups sugar
- ½ teaspoon butter, to reduce foaming (optional)
- 1 pouch liquid fruit pectin - 3 ounc
DON"T DOUBLE THE RECIPE_ I don't know why, but it will fail. If Irma in The Joy of Cooking says, "Don't double," then I won't even try it.
Fresh-picked, blueberries, with some of the berries not totally ripe make the best jam. So if you are able to pick your own and make the jam immediately, it will be worth it. My blueberries are growing right outside my kitchen window, so they are very fresh.
1. Put half of the berries in an enamel or stainless cooking pot and crush the berries, making juice. Stir in the remaining berries, the lemon zest and lemon juice. Add the sugar and butter and bring to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. Pay careful attention to the pot. It will boil over in a heartbeat and you don't know what a mess is until you boil over blueberry jam.
2. While the berries are seriously boiling, quickly add the fruit pectin and stir for exactly one minute. Remove from heat and put in sterilized jars, following canning directions.
3. Yield: 10 half pints plus a wee jar for tasting.
Blueberries are good for you…Isn’t it great that they taste so good?
Big Mill Bed & Breakfast, Williamston, NC 252-792-8787 www.bigmill.com