Thursday, August 18, 2011

harvest: oregon grape jam

continuing to sample wild local berries this year with this oregon grape jam. Oregon grape needs a lot of sugar to make a tasty jam as it's rather sour - and even sweetened, it retains a tannic/bitter edge. Langdon Cook writes that the resulting jam is as at home on pb&j as it is on a cheese plate, and here I couldn't agree more. I think this would be excellent paired with gorgonzola (or even rogue creamery's smokey blue), as the bold sharpness of the cheese would balance the tannins.

But mine is probably more tannic than most because it contains - drumroll please - the seeds. Here's the deal. Oregon grape has big, hard seeds in the middle of the fruit. But after getting only 4 small jars from about 4-5 cups of salal berry picking, I sure wasn't about to strain this batch of the seeds. Instead, I tried something new: after boiling the berries with a bit of water to get them to start releasing their juices, I popped the hot fruit in the food processor and blended, seeds and skins and all, for about 3-5 minutes straight. The result? A thick smooth paste, which I thinned with water (no harm to the flavour, which is still quite strong) and then sweetened a bit. I added pectin with the sugar and ended up with 14 small jars this time. I still probably will continue to strain my salal berries, if only because of their sticky, hairy skins, which seem to pick up a lot of dirt and debris from the environment that I'm happy to leave out of the jam, but I think this blending process is a winner for oregon grape.

Now, the only thing is, this jam should NOT be enjoyed by pregnant women or nursing mothers, as the naturally occurring berberine can cause or worsen jaundice in nursing infants, and cause contractions in pregnant women, sometimes leading to miscarriage. Otherwise, it's supposed to boost your immune system, which makes this a great peppy jam to enjoy during winter's cold and flu season!

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