Last spring we planted a stand of ‘Anne’ raspberries, between the fence and the walkway in the back yard. These are golden raspberries, plump sweet ones that grew all through the summer, in defiance of the grower, who told us it could be a year before we saw a yield.
The new plants are prolific and they intimidate me. Or maybe the easy fruit made me smug. Either way, I never got around to pruning them. I must have asked Michael twice and my friend Anne, too. But I’m the kind of person who needs to be shown, by someone standing in my backyard with pruning shears in hand and good eye contact. This is what you do. Reading directions online and squinting at a YouTube instructional clip (“…prune your raspberries into a ‘V’ shape”?) didn’t help. And anyway, it’s easy to forget about something that’s not only unfamiliar but hidden around a corner, out in the winter drizzle.
This summer, the canes are showing our neglect. They’re tall and top-heavy and only somewhat confined by wire supports. Not as pretty. Not as neat. Some of the canes have fallen over onto the decking that’s adjacent to the walkway. It’s a mess. Still, they produce enough fruit that each of us can eat a good handful every day.
Yesterday my daughter and I gathered enough to fill a cereal bowl halfway. When I mashed them this morning, it wasn’t quite a cup of fruit. So I went out and sat on the pavement beneath the plants and looked up, my favorite trick for sussing out the hidden ones. There they were. Even among so few plants (sandwiched, really, into a too-small bed) there seem to always be more. It makes life feel so abundant, to lift a leaf I’m sure I’ve looked under before and see a perfect berry, so ripe it’s started to go orange.
I ended up with an even cup of mashed fruit, enough to quarter the Pomona’s recipe. I put the water on and sterilized a couple of jars while I went about the rest of it. I rinsed the berries, mixed half a cup of blackberry honey with half a teaspoon of pectin, and mashed and heated the fruit along with a half teaspoon from the jar of calcium water in the fridge, left over from a big canning session two Sundays ago. I can hardly believe that’s all there is to it.
Canning is starting to feel more natural. I reach for the right implements without consulting the instructions again and again. I look forward to sprinkling the pectin over the honey and watching it dissolve as I swirl them together with a soup spoon. I feel a little sly, like I’m mixing up a love potion.
In a way, I guess I am, though it feels just as heady to create it as to consume a spoonful straight from the saucepan. Here’s what has me smitten: a cup and a half of jam comes to a boil almost immediately. I hardly have time to put the dishes in the sink before it’s time to fill the jars. Small-batch canning is not invasive. It doesn’t result in blobs of burnt goop stuck to the tray under the burners that Brian has to cover with a baking soda paste and then scrape free with a brownie server. It doesn’t suck away my Sunday. Before nine a.m. I had a pretty jar to put downstairs, next to the strawberry jam, plus almost four more ounces that went into the fridge, for eating this week.
Since I made it, I’ve been thinking about a good baguette from The Bread Peddler, a good cheese from Little General, and a big picnic blanket. That’s what we’ll do tonight, if the jam lasts until then.
If you’d like to know more about Olympia’s newest, sweetest grocery store, read my article about Little General Food Shop here.