Not my mother in law. Though it's possible I haven't heard that story yet. My mother in law (actually, 'mum'), Hazel, is visiting from Ireland so I've taken the opportunity to slow down and walk the paths around our house with her, instead of rush through my standard run. I should be honest; what I did was rush through my standard run and THEN walk it with her, but I'm thankful to her that I did. The double loop allowed me to first, notice the plethora of Salmonberries, in all shades of jealousy, ripe for the picking, and second, to spend the afternoon picking them with Hazel and to enjoy her tales of being a youngster let loose to berry pick in the wilds of Ireland. We came home with nearly eight cups, juices oozing, our legs sore, and scratch laden arms to evidence of our inability to resist even a lone jewel berry dangling over the ravine. Salmonberry, she is a temptress.
And how could she not be with all those darn colors -- from salmon egg yellow, candied apple red to marionberry purple, I've never seen a berry with such versatility. Evidently, it's all due to the variation in water the plant receives while developing. Water is topical, to say the least, when you live on a rock in the ocean; these multicolored gems speak to the huge fluctuation in water access on Orcas, even in one four mile loop. This shouldn't surprise me; I've noticed similar divergence in my garden alone (the wet cabbage bed versus the dry tomatoes). It's generally a pain, and often a major headache. Our well isn't great; we have a man made pond to collect rain throughout the winter to be used for outside irrigation come summer. We also use rain catchment to supplement, but we could still use more water. This speaks to a much larger issue; but the rich spectrum of Salmonberries in late spring is a small but welcome consolation.
You notice I said Salmonberries in spring. We're just about caught up to late Spring weather-wise here in the Pacific Northwest, and these little riches are typically the first of the wild berries to ripen. I'd never heard of Salmonberries, which are quite common in Alaska, prior to moving to Orcas. Their texture is more resilient than your typical blackberry and the flavor is tart and mildly bitter. They needed sugar; I immediately thought of a cobbler or homemade jam. I opted for the latter as I'm working on my water bath canning skills (hark back to the days of old !). It's old fashioned, but it beats anything I can buy in the store and I love the thought of having berries on hand for cooking adventures into the winter (and the jars are original Mama Query wedding gifts - how's that for reuse).
These beauties produced an excellent jam, though I was disappointed the colors didn't hold. Next time around I'll use pectin, which I didn't have on hand at the time, to reduce the cooking time and salvage some of that salmon egg yellow. (for another day: did you know you can make your own pectin from apple cores?) 'Jamming' with sugar alone requires an extra long cooking time, enough to bring the temperature to 220 degrees to yield a gooey jam effect without the pectin. The result is stickier and more candy like due to the extra sugar needed and how thoroughly the berries have been cooked down. The result is great on toast but I am salivating over the thought of it peaking through a vanilla layer cake or spread and baked into a buttery tart shell. And why stop there? Roasted lamb drizzled with salmonberry jam mixed with stewed onions and rosemary? Salmonberry, she is a temptress.
Just wait for blackberry season.
Salmonberries, picked over and lightly rinsed
3/4 the amount of berries in sugar
Zest of one Lemon
1 Tblspn Unsalted Butter (to keep the foam down..and why not ?!)
Mix the berries and sugar over medium high heat, stirring constantly, until the berries break down. Use a candy thermometer and cook until the mixture reaches 220 degrees. Remove from heat. Sterilize jars, lids and bands (I am a dishwasher fan). Ladle hot jam into jars, place lid on and screw until fingertip tight. Process in a water bath for ten minutes. Remove from water bath and allow to cool on countertop sitting upright. Once cool, check that lids have sealed (press the middle... if you can press down the lid has NOT sealed and will not keep in your pantry). To avoid this issue altogether, once cooled, freeze the jars. Use for sweet, use for savory, enjoy.