A major part of my food obsession is studying and finding wild edibles in my area. Here in Upstate NY, we have a vast amount of plants that most people consider weeds, or “invasive”, but in reality they are some of the most delicious delicacies around.
We have wild grapes that we turn into wine (berries,too), dandelions that we turn into jelly, and we use the greens on salad. Garlic mustard and chives are two excellent aromatic greens to add to dishes. (Just to name a few.)
But today, I want to focus on the glorious Wine Berry.
These beauties are something special. Similar to a raspberry, they’re sweet with the perfect hint of tart. They literally grow EVERYWHERE on our hill, so we’ve been collecting them to make jam.
I love jam and preserving, because once winter comes around, there’s that fresh, sweet summer in a jar, ready to eat and remind you of that beautiful warm weather. What could be better?
They are pretty easy to identify. We typically find them along the road, or in sunny sections of the woods. As I said earlier, they are very similar to the raspberry, with those cylindrical sections all over. Once the berries are picked, you see the star-shaped sepals that they were attached to. The plant has fuzzy red stems with thorns inbetween (careful, those hurt and itch like a son of a b*!). So tasty and worth it, though! 😉
I think when it comes to jamming, or preserving, people over complicate it, and it gets them into trouble. This jam is 100% all natural. Just berries and sugar. No need for pectin; it is naturally all over these berries, and it will thicken on its own if you cook it down enough. Worst case scenario, you have berry compote instead of berry jam, still magically delicious.
Here’s how to make it:
Wine Berry Jam
+ 2 (16 oz) mason jars, or whatever size you prefer
+ 10 cups wine berries (you can also mix in other berries)
+ 1/2 cup water
+ juice of one lemon
+ 2 cups sugar
To sterilize the mason jars, add them and the tops to a large stock pot, and cover with water. Heat on the stove over medium heat until the water comes to a boil. Allow to boil for 5 minutes, and remove from heat.
Rinse the berries very carefully under cold water. Add them to a large stock pot, along with the water, lemon, and sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally. The berries will begin to break down, and the mixture will become thick. Once it reaches about 220 degrees (the gel point), turn off the heat. Another way to test it is to dip a metal spoon in the mixture. Run your finger down the middle of the back of the spoon. If the mixture doesn’t run into the clean line, it’s done!
Add the mixture to the mason jars and secure the lids. Most of the time, the heat from the mixture sucks the top in and seals it shut, which means you don’t have to boil the jars again. If they don’t suck in, add the jars of jam to a pot of water, and boil until the lids seal.
See? That wasn’t so hard now, was it!!?
Let’s get back to jammin’ people!