Friday, August 5, 2011

Blackberry Jam, Blackberry Jelly, Blackberry Tie-Dyed Aprons, Blackberry Fingernails....

I have a ole timer farmer friend....whom I love.  Nearly every time I see him, he is overall clad and smiling.  And he knows where all the best deals are on local produce.  There just ain't nothing to do with a person like that but love 'em.  Here's a picture of him from a few years ago:  note that he is with my kids....and not afraid.  :)  Also worth noting is that he showed up at this place to help us pick blueberries when he couldn't even eat them himself.  (Wow....those are some big blueberry bushes, huh?  Have you ever had to stand on a ladder to pick blueberries??  Crazy, huh?)

(Okay...those aren't blueberry trees.. It's a peach tree.  The kids talked him into aiding them in peach picking...or he talked them into picking...I'm not sure which.  All I know is, I turned around and nobody is picking blueberries but me...strange how that works.) 
Back to the story...
So, my sweet farmer friend calls me the other day and says, Michelle, I've found you some blackberries.  You come on over and pick 'em up.
I get to his house and not only does he have a bunch of blackberries, but he also has a box of peaches, a watermelon, and a cantaloupe.... seriously.  I think he wears overalls to hide his wings.  I bet they are made of feed sacks.  I love feed sacks.  I really want to find some to cover some of my throw pillows....and make a pocketbook....and maybe a dress.  How cool would that be? I want a feed sack dress.  ( searching "feed sack dress" made me drool...  seriously gotta find some feed sacks)
What was I talking about again?  Blackberries.  The farm girl kind.  Not the phone
So, yesterday, I start squishing blackberries between my fingers....and when I wiped my hands on a papertowel, I noticed how pretty the color was...  and I *do* SO love pretty colors....course, I didn't have a white t-shirt I could tie-dye..  so, I was thinking, Dang...I guess I could make me an apron to dye...and then it occurred to me, "OHHHH!!!  APRON!  I have one of those."  and it's white.  was white.
So, I squish blackberries, use a spoon to press them through the sieve

to separate the juice for jelly

and set the pulp to the side.

I looked up how to use natural dyes online and read that you could use salt as a pre-soaker so the color would set...  So, I put my apron and Sarah's in a pot with salt and cold water. I think it was a half a cup of salt for every 8 cups.
I then twirled them up, put rubber bands on them, and poured some blackberry juice over them (in a small bowl)...I tried to use as little blackberry juice as possible...since I was going through all this trouble for actual food, initially.  To ensure that the aprons stayed below the surface of the juice all night, I put a small saucer on top and weighted it with a quart jar of honey :)
And then I set about making the jam and jelly.  I made the jelly first...I decided to make cooked (canned) jelly, since I'm running out of freezer room (think surplus goat milk). I am so used to making freezer jam that I really didn't pay attention to the directions for cooked jam as closely as I should have ... arrgh..
I mixed the juice, pectin, and sugar and brought it to a boil....just as I realized that you only bring the juice and pectin to a boil....and add the sugar later.  FAIL.  So, I get up this morning to syrup....blackberry syrup....which, *technically* can still be used...think IHOP.  I don't know...does IHOP have blackberry syrup?  Whatever.  You know what I'm getting at.  (If IHOP doesn't have blackberry, they should.)
Anyway...I re-made it this morning.  That's right.  I popped all those little seals off, dumped them into a pot, and FOLLOWED THE DIRECTIONS included for the misfortune when your jelly does not set up. I have to look and see if it's set up.  Hmmmm... SYRUP.  Okay.  All I have to do is convince myself that I WANTED shouldn't be hard...  I am of the same mind as Calvin...(from Calvin and Hobbes)

"I'm not in denial, I'm just selective about the reality I choose to accept"

So, yesterday...  after I made the, syrup...  I made the jam. I ran it through the sieve twice to get out as much of the seeds as possible...cause I just wasn't sure I could eat it if it was like snap, crackle, pop trying to eat my biscuit...  The jam turned out great.  Mainly because I paid attention to the directions.  *Sometimes* I learn from my mistakes.  
 And then...the unveiling of the aprons...or, unwinding...  untwirling...
I was ecstatic!  You know what color they were?!?!?!   Blackberry.  Seriously....  you knew that, right?
They were brilliant!  And then I washed them *gently* in the sink...and then sent them through the rinse and spin cycle in the washer...  and then the dryer...
And they weren't as bright...but, very cute!

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