Judging from all the posts from the cooler-climate blogs I read, North Carolina isn't the only place that is hot, hot, HOT these days. We've spent the last few weeks near 100 degrees with humidity at a balmy 80%-- like a nice, steamy sauna, and near impossible to spend more than a few minutes outside without feeling like you're suffocating under a mountain of wet wool blankets.
But for one beautiful day a couple of weeks ago, the temperature never rose above 70 degrees. The air was moist and cool without a hint of stickiness, and we all donned jackets in the early-morning chill. My friend Angie and I gathered up our children-- my two boys and her two girls, who are nearly the same age as mine-- and headed off for adventure. That day's adventure led us to a local blackberry farm, where the berries were as big as the little fists picking them, and much to my delight, the thornless bushes yielded fruit as sweet as any wild tangle of vines I crawled through as a child. The children ate berries until they were juicy from head to toe, bird-watched, tractor-watched and had a genreally wonderful time. Angie and I wandered and talked and soaked it all in, and in a short hour we had FIFTEEN quarts of berries. Filled with the pioneer spirit, Adam and I went out the next day and picked several pounds of blueberries--harder to aquire but so wonderful that I had a hard time not eating the entire yield on the way home.
Angie is a real cook-- the former pastry chef of this wonderful place, who really believes in quality foods prepared slowly and carefully. I've been putting up jam for years, and mine is always done the fast and easy way-- with commercial pectin. Angie proded me to move out of my comfort zone and try more traditional methods. While she filled my kitchen with blackberry pancakes and buttermilk cake and cobbler, I set about jamming up some of those delicious berries. I tried this recipe--and promptly overcooked those wonderful berries into a jam that is too tough (at least for my taste.)