Ripening cultivated blueberries

Ripening cultivated blueberries

OK, here’s the local scoop:  when you’re born from this Upper Peninsula land, hatched from the soil, you’re considered a real “Yooper”.  If you’re from someplace else, and happen to settle here, you’re somewhat suspect.  And if you’re from downstate Michigan you’re likely to be called the dreaded “Berry Picker” or, worse yet, a “Troll”.  (A Troll is someone from beneath the Mackinac Bridge.)

So we’re Berry Pickers.  Even though we’ve been here these thirty long years.  We’ve raised two young ‘uns who are bona-fide Yoopers, even though they’re living elsewhere out there in San Diego and New York City.  THEY belong, even though they’re not here.  We’re fringe Berry Pickers or Trolls or heaven knows what other names…

Quart of delicious berries

Quart of delicious berries

Then again, I’ve decided I like the name.  Berry Pickers.  It has the ring of down-to-the-earth around it.  It has the ring of jams and jellies and berries on morning cereal.  It has the ring of sitting in the midst of blueberry bushes, or strawberry plants, or raspberry fields fingering the luscious ripe berries.  It has the smell of summer surrounding the title.  It feels of hot beating sun, tangy ripe aromas, afternoons spent outside.  We…I mean I, am definitely a berry picker.

The first ripe blackberry (or black raspberry) spotted anywhere around here

The first ripe blackberry (or black raspberry) spotted anywhere around here

Barry is a reluctant berry picker.  His back tends to hurt him, hunched over in the fields.  Sometimes he’ll accompany me.  (And maybe tomorrow we’ll head out to the Yellow Dog Plains for some wild blueberries to sprinkle over our grains and into pancakes, you never know.)  Most of these pictures were taken two or three days ago when I was invited to pick in a friend’s cultivated plot.  Oh, treat!  The berries look as large as grapes. 

I decided to make some jam.  Not just your regular jam.  I am experimenting, trying to create a no-sugar recipe, based on local Mennonite jam which advertises it’s sweetened with white juice concentrate.  So I bought some fruit pectin and some frozen white grape juice.  Time to try to create some jam, without an official recipe, as I’m mostly boycotting recipes these days in exchange for creativity.

Homemade raspberry jam sits in pot on deck (posing for photo opportunity)

Homemade raspberry jam sits in pot on deck (posing for photo opportunity)

Here was the experiment.  Take two cups of raspberries, then add two tablespoons of white grape juice concentrate.  Stir and boil.  Then add 2 t. of pectin or sugarless sure gel.  Mix the pectin with some cold water before adding and stirring in the frothing boil.  Scrunch your brow, attempting to determine if it’s jelling.  Finally, remove from heat.  Stare at it for awhile longer.  Let it cool in two half-pint jars.  Finally, cap and put in the frig.  The next day, take it out and sample.  HURRAY!!  It jelled.  However…it’s not very sweet.  Next time, perhaps, I’ll add a little brown rice syrup or agave syrup or honey (you could add a tad bit of sugar if you’re not prejudiced).

The last of the raspberries prepare to leave us

The last of the raspberries prepare to leave us

Summer is waning now.  Autumn nips at our heels.  Someone suggested a possible photo for today’s blog (before the temperature soared to 62 degrees):  us in our winter coats and hats.  But, no.  We won’t go there yet.  The calendar still insists it’s August.

Here is a photo from last night, just as the sun descended beneath the horizon.  Not that we ever see the sun set.  When you live in the middle of the woods, it’s necessary to imagine it. 

Isn’t the cloud lovely?  It was a pink-tangerine evening…

Pink-tangerine evening cloud off our front porch

Pink-tangerine evening cloud off our front porch

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