If you haven’t already gotten out to pick some Blueberries or Huckleberries, the bushes are seriously calling and you should put down your smart phone and go.
I believe this is going to be a berry season we talk about for years to come in Juneau. Having just bought my first home (condo), I finally have a space to call my own. And knowing I won’t have to pack up and move in a year I am happy to fill my pantry and freezer with summer goodies. Having lived in Juneau since I was a year and two weeks old, I have never seen our blueberries so massive. Like, I’m almost a little confused by it: they are as big as the ones you get in the store, but they actually taste like blueberries!
From my super-secret berry picking spot right along the Eaglecrest parking lot (that’s me in the silver Subaru), I have already plundered about 51 cups of berries. Never before have I filled a gallon bag more than once in the same little spot. But this season, it’s totally possible, and I can do it in about two hours. And though picking berries is a cathartic exercise in finger dexterity and eye-hand coordination for me, I am also excited to have the taste of summer for months to come – though I think one of my shirts may be stained for much longer.
This is the perfect season to learn to make jam with all the berries we have. My first two batches of jam turned out to be more of a lumpy syrup (ha ha ha, funny thing, if you decide to add only one cup of sugar instead of the eight cups the recipe calls for it won’t set right, because after doing some internet research it turns out that the sugar chemically binds with the pectin in the skin of the fruit to make it ‘set’), and my third batch of jam is more of a paste (so, don’t add an extra two tablespoons of pectin because you aren’t adding all the sugar). But now my fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh are perfect. I got a low sugar recipe from my friend Joann, as I want my jam to taste like blueberries and not a Jolly Rancher – which is a sentiment she shares. But if you don’t have domestic genius friends (because let’s face it, if everyone was a genius then we would just call it normal), my kitchen’s favorite felon Mrs. Stewart has several delicious recipes you can easily find online to try. Try adding ¼ teaspoon nutmeg and allspice, or some fresh squeezed orange juice and pulp. Try mixing it up! And worst case scenario, you have some jam that doesn’t turn out (or about four batches for me), so you just mix it into pancake batter and then you make killer pancakes.
But if making jam really isn’t your thing and you just vacuum seal them (I do three cups at a time, as pies and muffin recipes usually need three cups), you will be able to have the taste of summer stain your lips well into the winter, when we long for our glorious days of berry stained shirts.
Courtney Wendel has lived in Juneau since she was a year old, her parents being farmers from Iowa. She has a twin brother and an older brother, and learned to enjoy the outdoors at a young age by following the boys into mischief. Graduating from JDHS in 2006, she attended UAS to receive her Literature of the Environment, BA English degree in the spring of 2011. She is proud to call Juneau home, with her beloved cat and dog. When not at work for the Department of Transportation, she spends most of her time on the diverse trail system hiking, running, or camping with her spotted pooch and adventure buddies.