Friday, August 5, 2011

A Berry Good Time

I took the kids blueberry picking for the first time on Wednesday. It was cloudy and drizzling a tiny bit and just over 70 degrees outside. Believe it or not, this was nearly ideal picking conditions as far as I am concerned. It wasn't too hot, it wasn't buggy, we didn't have to worry about getting too much sun, and there weren't too many other people picking (although there were more than I expected).

I have decided that if you are going to pick fresh fruit with young children, blueberries are the perfect choice. The bushes are just the right height for everyone to reach. There were berries low enough for Logan and high enough that I didn't need to stoop down. You don't have to lift children up to pick the way you would if you were apple or cherry picking. You don't have to worry about them trampling the plants as with strawberries and there are no prickers as with raspberries. Ripe blueberries easily cup off in your cupped hands and unripe berries are much tougher to pick, so it's hard to goof up. Oh, and the bushes are tall enough that you don't have to worry about kids sneaking away between the rows of plants.

After returning home, Mia and her cousin Eric helped me make Any-Berry Jelly using a recipe I found on page 82 of the August 2011 issue of "Disney FamilyFun" magazine. I couldn't find a link for this online, so I will share the easy-to-make recipe.

Any-Berry Jelly

Takes 15 minutes plus cooling time. Makes 3-4 cups.
  • 4 cups hulled and crushed raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, or strawberries (use a potato masher), or a mixture of any of these
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 pouch powdered or liquid pectin (any kind should work fine for this -- just ignore the directions that come with it)
  1. Put the berries in a large, heavy pot. In a bowl, mix the sugar and powdered pectin, then stir thoroughly into the berries. If you're using liquid pectin (we did), add it and the sugar directly to the pot of berries.
  2. Bring the berry mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly.
  3. Let the berries cook at a full, rolling boil for 1 minute, then ladle the jelly into very clean jars. Leave an inch of headroom for the jelly's expansion in the freezer, cap, cool to room temperature, then store in the refrigerator for immediate use or freeze it for later.
To Die for Blueberry Muffins:

I haven't made any muffins yet with this batch of blueberries, although I know I will. We ended up with 3 1/2 pounds, and I have the most delicious recipe for blueberry muffins with a cinnamon streusel topping! You will definitely want to bookmark this one. You will come back to it again and again.

Before heading out to pick some berries, make yourself this "hands-free" berry holder. Okay, it really is hands-free if you remember to take your belt, which I obviously did not. The directions come from the same issue of "FamilyFun Magazine." Cut the top third off of a clean gallon milk jug, avoiding the handle. I used permanent markers to draw strawberries and blueberries on our berry bucket. Now, find your nearest berry patch and get picking.

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