I’ve been having a lot of fun at the community garden, with kale and mint joining the precious handful of strawberries that I used for a strawberry rhubarb jam. I gleaned a few stalks of asparagus at the start of the season, and in exchange I exercised all sorts of back and shoulder muscles planting vegetables in heavy soil and puling up large, aggressive weeds. Thistles have amazingly deep roots, and they prickle through gardening gloves.
But now it’s berry season, and the sun-drenched garden has a sprawling patch of tiny black cap raspberries, a fruit that the internet tells me is a native plant that grows wild across much of North America (Quebec to North Dakota, and as far south as Arkansas and Georgia). I’m assuming our little patch is one of the many cultivated varieties of that wild plant.
The fruits look like baby blackberries rather than raspberries, but they come off the stem just like a raspberry does and the taste is much more raspberry than blackberry — sweeter than a raspberry but more delicate as well. But the stems are covered with an extraordinary amount of vicious little thorns and I’ve got a mesh of scratches on my arms and my legs to show from two days of picking. But I’ve also got four jars of almost black jam, with another batch of fruit just waiting to be jammed up. No need for pectin with these babies — the jam set almost too firmly, if such a thing is possible. If I get nothing else from the community garden all year, I’ll be happy.
The recipe, in case there’s anyone else out there with access to black cap raspberries. My recommendation: wear long pants, and a heavy duty, long-sleeved shirt. Not much you can do about the scratches on your hands.
Black cap raspberry jam
6 generous cups black cap raspberries
4 skimpy cups sugar (I think I will cut this a little next time)
Juice of two limes (the store was out of lemons)
Put all the ingredients in a big pan and heat gently until the sugar is melted, and then bring to a rolling boil until it sets — I let it boil for about 10 minutes, and that was perhaps a minute or two too long. Bottle in sterilized jars. Water bath for 10 minutes.
Perhaps too precious to give away. But perfect with plain yogurt, ice cream, bread, cake or thumbprint cookies.
Rating: 4? (out of 5)
I’m conflicted on how to rate this one. The taste is wonderful, although it’s a solid set and a sweetish jam, which might point to less sugar or more lemon next time around. But there are an awful lot of seeds.