Wild Blackberries on Sauvie Island

I’ve made several trips to Sauvie Island and shared some of what I found here. On Sunday I made a visit with two friends who know the island well and where the best places for picking wild blackberries are. The berry patches were huge and heavy with plump, ripe fruit. I haven’t picked wild blackberries since I lived in Washington during the 1970s. We had a huge patch in our backyard so picking and cooking with the berries was easy. I made pies and jams and even traded the fruit with other neighbors who had other fruits growing in their yards.

My goal for picking was 3.5 pounds for a single batch of jam with a little more for morning breakfast. These berries are best cooked the same day they are picked while the fragrance and flavor are at their peak. Before I left for the island, I had sugar, lemons and jars at the ready for my return. Another great opportunity to delve into Rachel Saunders’ Blue Chair Jam Cookbook. You can read about the many recipes I’ve cooked from her book by clicking on the category ‘In the Kitchen’, or search the the book title.

While we were picking berries we frightened a large male deer. And as we were headed back to the car with our bag of fruit we spotted quite a little gathering of American green tree frogs (Hyla cinerea). They were certainly in the right habitat, but they didn’t seem concerned about our presence. Click on image for a larger view.

07-10-16 Sauvie Island frog-1

In a small clump of vines we counted at least 8 frogs, 3 clustered on a single leaf.

07-10-16 Sauvie Island frog-2

And this one seemed to be posing for us. (Frog photos by Susan, used with permission.)

07-10-16 Sauvie Island frog-3

The berries were beautiful!

07-10-16 wild blackberries

And since they had just been rinsed with light rain the day before, clean up was a snap. These berries, 1 3/4 pound sugar and 3 ounces fresh lemon juice yielded 6 8-ounce jars of jam plus a little ‘taster.’

07-10-16 wild blackberry jam-2

I was inspired to make some bran muffins for breakfast the next day.

07-11-16 breakfast with blackberries

What a fun trip with friends this was! And the rewards will be enjoyed for months to come.

Lemon and Pink Grapefruit Marmalade

I barely squeaked in a batch of marmalade  last year so I’m determined to get with it this year and stock some favorites. The citrus that is available now is just too wonderful to ignore, both fresh and for creating marmalade. This week I turned lemons and pink grapefruit into one of my favorites. The fun thing about following Rachel Saunders’ method for creating marmalade is that the process is broken down into steps that are spread out over three days. What may seem like a daunting task is spread out so that it is easy to do and doesn’t command a large amount of time on one day — need I say more?

Day one: Cut lemons into eights, placed them in a pan and covered them with water.

Day two: Cook the lemons to create a syrupy lemon juice.

01-27-16 cooked lemon juice

Prepare and cook sliced lemons.

01-27-16 cooked lemons

Juice grapefruit, prepare and cook the rind.

01-27-16 cooked grapefruit

Here’s the fresh grapefruit juice and the cooking liquid from the grapefruit.

01-27-16 grapefruit cooking water, fresh juice


Day three: Prepare the grapefruit halves by scraping out the centers and cutting the rind into small strips.

01-27-16 grapefruit rind


01-27-16 grapefruit rind cut

Juice fresh lemons.

01-27-16 lemon juice, fresh

Assemble all the prepared ingredients plus sugar in a copper preserving pan for cooking.

01-27-16 ready to cook

It’s beautiful already! When cooking is complete, ladle marmalade into sterilized jars and remove trapped air by inserting a knife and running it around the outer edge of the jar.

01-27-16 releasing air

Clean jar rims and place caps on the jars.

01-27-16 ready for lids and the oven

You can see that I got 12 half-pint jars and a small ramekin from this batch. The jars were placed in a 250 degree oven for 30 minutes and allowed to cool at room temperature overnight. Scones anyone?

You can see more of my preserving adventures by choosing the “In the Kitchen” category at the right. You can find Rachel’s book here.

Early Girl Tomato Marmalade

Our Early Girl tomato plants have been very productive this year. We’ve enjoyed the fruit steadily all summer and, even though it’s November, the fruit continues to ripen in our mild weather.

Time to try another of Rachel Saunders’ recipes from The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook! I love marmalade so what could be better than her Early Girl Tomato Marmalade?

The prepared tomatoes, lemons, oranges, sugar, lemon juice and a generous pinch of saffron are stirred together and sit overnight.

The next morning the fruit is placed in the preserving pan along with the final ingredient, cinnamon, and the cooking begins.

The marmalade is cooked at high heat without stirring. . .

until the bubbles become very small. This indicates that the moisture has been cooked off. It’s really close to being done here.

And here it is done, ready to store or gift to friends.

I’ve shared other adventures with Rachel’s cookbook here. If my tomatoes continue to produce, I may have to make some Early Girl Tomato Jam.

Kumquat Marmalade

I’m back to cooking my way through Rachel Saunders’ Blue Chair Jam Cookbook. I’ve shared this process before here, and other things I’ve learned through her book here. It has been another windy, rainy day in the San Francisco Bay Area so hunkering down making marmalade and writing are a natural for me.

I am an inquisitive person, especially when it comes to food, so even I am surprised to say that I’ve never had a personal encounter with a kumquat before. I have ended that sad story by purchasing some at my local farmer’s market, plucking my fill of Meyer lemons from my neighbor’s tree and following the instructions for Kumquat Marmalade from Rachel’s book. The process for making marmalade according to Rachel is a 3 day process. Oh no! you might say. But relax. You are not working for 3 days. Each day has a step in the process and I’ve found her process to be easy and end with terrific results.

Day 1: The kumquat is a very small citrus fruit with a smooth yellow-orange skin.

And here is one cut in half. They have a seed the size of a seed in an orange and quite a few of them.

A portion of these were halved and put in a bowl with Meyer lemons and water. They sit overnight.

Step 2 in day 1: Thinly slice the other portion of kumquats and place them in water. I have to admit that during the slicing process I began to wonder if this amount of work was going to be worth it. Fruit this small sliced thinly gives new meaning to tedium!

On day 2 the two batches of fruit are cooked. The mixed fruit cooks until it begins to become syrupy. The kumquats are cooked until tender. The mixed fruit is put in a strainer and both batches are allowed to sit overnight.

On day 3 the final cooking of marmalade commences. The two batches of fruit are combined with sugar and lemon juice and placed in the preserving pan. Here is the start

and here we are almost done cooking.

The marmalade was at the perfect stage after cooking 35 minutes. After being placed into jars, it sits in the oven for 30 minutes at 250 degrees. Then it sits overnight unmoved to ensure proper setting. Yield was 12 8-oz jars.

Is that gorgeous color or what?! I wish you could smell it. It’s definitely citrus, though not at all like the orange and lemon I am familiar with. It has its own delicate flavor and aroma. Was it worth the work? Yes, indeed.

Under the Influence of Buddha

Or at least his hand. I lay blame for the spell I’m under directly at the feet of my dear friend Peter, who is not a Buddhist but is an incredible chef. Peter introduced me to Buddha’s Hand citron several years ago when he showed me his tree laden with oddly shaped yellow fruit that did indeed seem to have fingers. He explained that the fruit has no juicy flesh or seeds and is prized for its aroma and usefulness in cooking. Aha!

Last winter Peter generously shared several of the fruits with me and I candied them, using the same method I learned for candied orange rind. This confection truly knocks socks off at ten paces and while it can be wonderful in many dishes, my first batch was eaten right out of the jar. Well, that was that. This spring I purchased my own tree and it is producing fruit!

The larger fruit here is 2.5 inches long now and can be 6-12 inches at maturity this winter. I can’t wait to candy this citron and use it in Brandied Cherry Conserve next spring. Rachel Saunders calls it “an indispensable ingredient” for that recipe.

Where did this exoctic fruit come from? A 19th century paper on citrus mentioned that the Buddha’s Hand citron had been introduced to California from Japan, but for about a century thereafter the tree was rarely grown in the state. In the early 1980s virtually no commercial plantings of Buddha’s Hand existed in California, but as of 2008 there were at least 25 acres farmed by specialty citrus growers. The fruit is available at local farmer’s markets in the San Francisco Bay area.

In Japan Buddha’s Hand is a popular gift at New Year’s, for it is believed to bestow good fortune on a household. In China it symbolizes happiness and long life.

I won’t be seeking out anyone to break this spell. I’ll stick with the potential for good fortune, happiness and long life — not to mention some mighty fine eating!

Inspiration in everything

I am having my own Julie & Julia experience with Rachel Saunders’  Blue Chair Cookbook. Professional cooks refer to her as the Czar of Jam.  I purchased her book last year as a Christmas gift for a friend. I realized upon opening it that I had to have my own copy.  Rachel is a local girl and she teaches — lucky me. I took her marmalade class and haven’t looked back. During the winter I made Cranberry-Pomegranate, Strawberry-Blood orange, Lemon and Pink Grapefruit and Rangpur Lime marmalades and Cranberry-Pluot conserves.

The book is organized by season so it coordinates easily with my buying habits at the local farmer’s market. This spring I made Strawberry-Rhubarb, Rhubarb-Cherry, Cherry,  and Rhubarb with Candied Ginger jams. Here’s the beginning of Rhubarb-Cherry jam. The copper preserving pan is one of the keys to successful jam making. When not in use, it’s great eye candy in the kitchen.

I have a navel orange tree and recently used her recipe for candied orange rind.

The texture and color of this orange rind is inspiring in many ways: stir my cappuccino? Dice for my next jam-making session? Or how about a quilt! Now we’re cookin’.