I CAN’T WAIT for Blackberry Jam!

I CAN'T WAIT for Blackberry Jam!Anyone who tried to grow tomatoes last year knows it was a bad season. For optimal growing conditions, tomatoes need hot days and cool nights, and last summer was cold. This year, I swear I can feel it, will be much better. If I will it, it will be. So I took a week off in April for spring break and ordered three cubic yards of soil–this is a lot of dirt, and I moved it by myself. The kids putting dirt in a sand bucket doesn’t count. I did it all by myself. Uphill. Both ways.

I have now planted 3 pounds of potato seed, 5 rows of carrots, an Ambrosia melon, 12 varieties of tomatoes, pickling cucumbers, lemon cucumbers,

3 chilies, 3 peppers, garlic, various herbs, Rouge Vif D’Etampes pumpkins, and Butternut squash.

So far, three of the tomato plants have died. I have four theories about this:

1) The soil was still composting, so it was too hot.

2) They were organic plants. This may sound strange but I think their organic-ness made them wimpy…and none of the “conventional” plants died. Coincidence? I think not…

3) They were freaked out by the huge, venomous viper we found while moving the barrels. (Okay, it was 6 inches long and wanted to get away from us more than I wanted to get away from it, and it wasn’t venomous, but it had scales and no legs and that shouldn’t be part of the gardening experience.)

4) Something’s going to die; it’s just the law of averages.

Needless to say, said plants have been replaced, all is back on schedule, and all plants are growing well. The tomatoes have lots fruit. We harvested the first of the cherry tomatoes last night, all 3 of them, and it looks like I am going to need to invest in more canning jars. The carrots are almost ready; I can see their orange and purple tops peeking out. And of course I have been a pickle making machine since the cucumbers are going crazy.

Last year we had pumpkins in August, and it looks like we will again this year IF I can keep my chickens away from them.

The most exciting thing for me though, is my blackberry bramble. It’s loaded with berries. Alas, they’re all green but a few more weeks of warm weather and it’s game on, baby.

I CAN’T WAIT for Blackberry Jam!
(Old Fashioned Blackberry Jam)
Makes about six 8-ounce (250 ml) jars

Ingredients
9 cups crushed blackberries
6 cups granulated sugar

Directions
Prepare canner, jars and lids. Chill two or three small saucers in the freezer for gel testing.

In a large, deep stainless steel saucepan or dutch oven, combine berries and sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly to dissolve sugar. Boil, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens. Remove from heat and test the gel by placing a teaspoon of the jam on one of the chilled saucers and placing it back in the freezer for 1 minute. Remove the saucer from the freezer and push the edge of the jam with your finger. If the jam has set, the surface will wrinkle when the edge is pushed. If the jam has reached the gel stage, skim off the foam. If the jam has not reached the gel stage, return the pan to medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, for an additional 5 minutes and test again.

Ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding more jam. Wipe rim. Center lid on the jar. Screw the band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.

Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.

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