Tuesday, August 9, 2011

harvest: salal jam

I'd read that native americans in the pac nw harvested salal berries and dried them in massive cakes (like 10-15lbs. per cake) for a winter foodstuff. Why, I wondered, did no one seem to eat them today, if they are so abundant? (And believe me, they are EVERYWHERE, with plump berries unpicked!).

Well, I learned that part of the reason may be the sticky experience of picking them. They are covered in a kind of gummy coating that stays on your hands after picking, even through scrubbing with soap and water. I finally resorted to my pumice stone in order to get that crud off my hands!!

Next, the rinsing is difficult, for the same reason - that stuff is STUCK. ON. So I washed them, but decided to go ahead and make a strained jelly rather than a jam, as I figured I'd be hours getting all those berries perfectly clean - why not just boil and strain?
so I did just that. Put the moderately-cleaned salal berries in with a bit of water and boiled them awhile. Strained through cheesecloth. Isn't this shot great? Just another Saturday night at home, squeezing what looks like an organ through a sieve. =)

my, I'm getting brown - my own plains indian heritage showing through... a little sun this summer, as we're headed to the deserts of utah for some biking in september and I'll need the extra protection (plus spf 50+) on the trails there...

I ended up adding pectin because despite all these so-called high-pectin berries, I never seem to get them to gel properly without a bit of the boxed stuff. Ah, well. Added a bit of sugar, a bit of pectin, a bit of lemon juice, cooked until thickened (maybe? Still seems kinda thin to me). About 3-4 cups of berries yielded these tiny 4-oz jars. That's it.

We'll just have to go pick more, sticky fingers and all!


Anonymous said...

The pectin is in the skin of the berry so if you strain it - you loose it!

fleur_delicious said...

Grace - I *never* knew! At last, it all makes sense! Thanks so much for filling me in! =) Here I was, stirring and stirring, saying "where's the pectin, berries? thicken already!" never realizing I'd left the pectin in the cheesecloth! ha - live and learn! (or as Sam Beckett wrote, "Try again. Fail again. Fail better.")

Pammy11 said...

Nail polish remover gets the sticky stuff off of your fingers. I go for jam, unable to remove the best of the berry in the straining process. I also add a couple of tablespoons of chia seeds instead of pectin. In checking the thickness, I use a frozen plate method. Always turns out great. Not sure why more people aren't interested in this very fabulous berry.