Sisterhood of the blackberries

I had one of those dreams that you wake up from shaking your head and thinking about the effects of what you ate before bed. I dreamed that my grandmother’s old house in Statesville, N.C. had been turned into a sorority house, and the girls wanted me to teach them to cook sweet-potato latkes on the old gas stove. Coincidentally, the next morning, I discovered an email from my cousin, who was trying to recall all the things our grandparents grew in their backyard garden.

She remembered that it was at least two acres (I agree; it was big), with corn, tomatoes, green beans, potatoes, cucumbers, shelley beans, spring onions and beets. I remember wild blackberries way in the back. I saw a big limb once while picking them, thought it was a snake, ran for the house and refused to go back. Much as I would do today. My cousin remembered how much she loved the blackberry jelly our grandmother made, and it’s still her favorite kind of jelly. That was enough for me to make good on my threat to make my own blackberry jelly.

Blackberry jam really isn’t good. Too many of those little seeds. And I’d never made jelly from fruit before. I have made jelly from bottled juices and herbal tea-like infusions. The hardest part was mashing the berries through cheesecloth. I see why people use jelly bags. But after that, it was a breeze. I can’t swear it tastes like my grandmother’s – does anything ever taste the way you remember it? – but it’s pretty good. I’ll have to send a jar to my cousin for her verdict.

“Funny how that’s what people seek out now – homegrown and preserved food – and all we wanted was store-bought,” she wrote.


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