Monday, August 25, 2008

Jamberry Land

Backpacking with a seven-year-old and a three-year-old is always an adventure. Little did we know we were embarking on a trip into Jamberry Land. Mountain thimbleberries (Rubus parviflorus) are popping in my corner of the republic, and though we did our usual bush-to-bush reconnaissance, eating berries as we hiked up the canyon, on the trek back down the next day I was determined to bring a taste of thimble home.

As I mentioned in an earlier paean to the Rubus genus, thimbles don't have much of a shelf life, like almost zero, usually falling apart in your hand before even hitting your tongue, which is why you never see them for sale. They're a wild treat, meant to be enjoyed in the wild.

Or you can make jam. A seasoned thimbleberry picker knows this can take a while. Thimbleberries don't take over like blackberries, and they don't fruit in profusion. A good stalk might have a few ripe berries on it. But because they don't have thorns you can wander willy-nilly through a thimbleberry patch—provided you don't mind not seeing your feet and traversing what is more often a squirrelly mass of old winter-killed canes rather than solid ground.

Watch your step and keep a lookout for any furry brown ears poking out of the foliage. Reciting the kiddie-friendly rhymes of Bruce Degen's Jamberry helps pass the time. "Raspberry, Jazzberry, Razzmatazzberry, Berryband, Merryband, Jamming in Berryland."

Thimbleberry Jam

Thimbleberries are naturally high in pectin, so all you need is a 1:1 ratio of sugar to berries and a tablespoon or two of lemon juice, depending on the size of your batch. We had a packed pint of berries to which I added a little over 2 cups of sugar and 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice.

First, boil the berries to desired viscosity, then add the sugar and lemon and bring to a boil for a minute. You might get some foam at the top; skim off if you wish. The jam is ready to be poured or ladled into sterilized jars for canning. Secure the lids and give the jars a 10-minute bath in boiling water. If you've never canned before, read how to at


ladyflyfsh said...

We saw lots of those yesterday while picking huckleberries, but they were so ripe they just disintegrated on your fingers on the way to your mouth.(mush city) Picking for later use would have been impossible. Hey Fin, do you have a recipe you like for huckleberry jam? Also have you perfected your huckleberry pancake recipe yet? Wanna send it to me???

Langdon Cook said...

Hey Mary! I'll be experimenting with huck jam recipes soon and will let you know. As for pancakes, I confess to being unhappy with all the pancakes I've ever made--they're never good enough to post. My friend Kenan, when he's not subsisting on dry martinis and cow, is an expert pancake man and I plan to draft him into a guest FOTL spot. Stay tuned... BTW, how's the Montana mushroom picking???

Anonymous said...

Last week while hacking back a neighbor's intruding brambles I spotted one plant with a few ripe, tasty pink berries that disintegrated just like you describe. Any idea if thimble berries grow in the city? Needless to say, I left the plant growing there.

ladyflyfsh said...

We've had absolutely NO rain in my neck of the woods so no mushrooms at all around here. I know west central MT has had plenty of recent rains so they may be starting to find some shrooms, but nada around here! I've just been fishing and berry picking. I have an invite to go pick chanties in WA (east side) but I can't decide whether to do the fly Fishing Retailer show in Denver or go pick chants. Such a dilemma...need to do the show for biz but need the chants for winter!!! hmmmm