Category Archives: Berries

Spring Canning

Oh, that’s right. You read that right–I don’t follow the book. I can in the spring.

Well, not in this at least. Let’s just say “canning season” didn’t fall at a good time for me last year. I managed to do a little bit, but on most days with my infant son, it felt completely overwhelming and beyond my ability to deal with.

So when Hubby gave me an afternoon off parenting duties the past week, I took an hour or so to can some of the lingonberries that I picked with my son last fall.

Lingonberries

Lingonberries

I’ve never canned lingonberries before–well, let me rephrase that, as I haven’t done much canning ever. I’ve never had an interest in canning lingonberries before. Usually I use lingonberries in my mother’s cranberry cream cheese bread recipe, but I haven’t made that this year, and it’s relatively unhealthy, and usually we use lingonberry sauce for lefsa over the holidays. (So, really, I should have canned these in the fall when I bought them and then we would have had homemade lingonberry sauce for the lefsa. Oh well.)

Regardless, I finally got my act together and did some canning the past week. The lingonberries were surprisingly simple to can, as I just made a simple jam type sauce with them. Basically a lot of sugar plus a bit of water and a lot of lingonberries cooked for awhile on the stovetop, then water bath canned.

Lotta sugar hiding those berries...

Lotta sugar hiding those beautiful berries…

For 8 cups of berries I got about 4.25 pints of sauce. The extra I canned anyway and put in the fridge to taste-test. I like it. It’s a lot denser than any of the store bought lingonberry jam/sauce that I’ve had, but it actually tastes all right on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. (That’s probably an unusual taste testing method, but…we were out of other jelly.)

The finished product.

The finished product.

So now this Thanksgiving and Christmas, I’ll have lingonberry sauce for our lefsa! I’m actually rather excited about that… might be worth making some lefsa before then…

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Here to Stay

Well, I think this snow is here to stay.

On Saturday, Fairbanks was dumped on, and again on Sunday, we had another five inches or so, to total about a foot now.

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How much snow can pile up on the porch railing? I guess we’ll see…

The roads are icy and the high temperatures are around freezing. Good thing they aren’t lower, or roads would be even worse.

I took my almost seven month old son on our first snow walk yesterday. I wore my Columbia boots (not great for walking, but with a foot of snow, I couldn’t very well wear tennis shoes), and he rode in the Ergo carrier in his little Seahawks snow fleece. There were a few dicey moments where I slipped on the loop around our house. But we needed to get out. The house gets awfully small when you can’t go somewhere, when roads are bad and the baby is young.

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My chokecherry tree still has leaves! (And some berries.) I hope it weathers through the winter all right, as it’s never a good sign when snow piles on a tree that hasn’t lost its leaves yet.

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Poor chokecherry tree… I can sympathize with its not being ready for winter; I’m not ready for winter either.

While on our walk we saw one car broken down/abandoned on the road, but otherwise no real evidence of accidents. The first real snow always brings several accidents along with it. Every year people have to remember how to drive on the snow and ice. And every year we have new military people here who have never driven on roads like this before. You can always tell those ones–they are the ones driving like roads are dry, and you can often find them in the ditch a short distance later.

Everyone has ended up in the ditch at some point here, or slid through a red light or stop sign because the roads are too slick and your tires too bald to stop on time. The trick is to plan for it. Have an escape route and know it for those moments when you begin to skid. And turn into the skid. Most importantly, just drive a bit more cautiously, especially turning. Do a brake check to test the iciness (make sure no one is behind you first). And if you aren’t comfortable on the roads, get off them. Don’t drive far below the speed limit, because no one else is expecting that, and you’ll be a danger to both yourself and others on the road.

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Although I find the snow-laden trees pretty, this is a temporary beauty that lasts only until the wind brushes the snow off. And it lasts around seven or eight months here…so the beauty of snow quickly wears off for me.

So while I sit indoors, occasionally glancing out the window and pretending I don’t see white everywhere, I steal a nap time to write this blog and upload my photos. Eventually I suppose I’ll have to face the winter and decide I need to pick up some winter sport or something. What could it be? Snowshoeing? It’ll have to be something to be done with an infant… Probably just playing in the snow this year and getting out of doors for ten minutes at a time. Maybe next year will be the time for winter sport exploration. Any suggestions? I still need to figure out the best way to bundle up my son for extended time out of doors. He weathered the walk fine yesterday, but I always worry that he’s not warm enough (even though I was sweating in my hoodie!).

The snow is beautiful...at first.

The snow is beautiful…at first.

It’s really only in Alaska (and perhaps other cold weather states/locations) where the temperatures dip below freezing and you still see people walking outside in T-shirts and jeans, no gloves, but perhaps boots on. While I attended UAF (University of Alaska Fairbanks), there was a student there who never wore a jacket. He’d wear short sleeves, shorts, boots, a hat, and gloves–even in -40F. Now that is a bit extreme, as if something happened and he was trapped out of doors, he’d lose a lot of body heat with his exposed skin and could easily come away with frostbite or hypothermia. It’s one thing to run out of doors for a minute dressed like that, but quite another to willingly foray into the cold up here in such a foolish manner. (I think he did it to stand out and be the talk of campus, really.)

I must remind myself to look for the beauty in snow...at least for the first six months or so...

I must remind myself to look for the beauty in snow…at least for the first six months or so…

Well, the baby will soon wake, and I’ve accomplished very little this nap time. I suppose it was a mental health break nap time for me, one I dearly needed after the past couple of night’s lack of sleep.

The First Frost

If I haven’t posted lately, it’s because several things have been happening at once. 1. It’s started snowing and more snow is in the forecast. 2. We got our first frost on the 21st. 3. I’ve been madly picking lingonberries (i.e. low-bush cranberries). 4. I’ve been unpacking. (One day, I do hope to be done with number four.) 5. I’ve been on the hunt for winter clothes for my baby.

The snow, thankfully, did not stick. But I was concerned for a little while there, as the flurries were fast and furious. There are still some trees with leaves on them, and snow now would not be kind to those trees. But those snows delivered the cold temperatures that brought the first hard frost to my backyard overnight, which is what I was waiting for in order to begin picking lingonberries.

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Have you ever seen anything more gorgeous than berries ripe for the picking?

Now, every nap time, I am to be found either outside picking more berries, or inside washing, sorting, and freezing berries. Berry picking is backbreaking work. And the actual berry picking is only a part of that. It’s nearly as time consuming (especially with an infant) to remove all the leaves, stems, bugs, and other debris out of the berries once you’ve picked them.

But, the carrot hanging down in front of me is all the things I can make with my lingonberries (and high-bush cranberries and chokecherries). My mother has a killer cream cheese lingonberry bread recipe, which I have fond memories of growing up with. It was a yearly tradition to wait for the first frost, then go out behind our property to a nearby lingonberry patch and pick until our hands were numb, or our bags were full.

I’ve missed that bread since leaving Alaska.

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Our backyard is covered in these little gems.

So about four hours of squatting in the leaves, kneeling on the ground, digging in leaves, sticks, and other debris, staining my jeans and hands with cranberry juice, chapping my knuckles until they bleed, and allowing my son to nap in the backpack carrier, led to about two gallon bags full of lingonberries in the freezer.

To someone from “Outside,” this may not seem like a lot. But lingonberries are much smaller than their Thanksgiving cranberry cousins. Perhaps 1/3 to 1/4 the size of the typical Ocean Spray fresh cranberries you find in Fred Meyer in November. And oh, so much better. It’s true that small fruits often pack more flavor, and these are flavorful little berries.

Although the demise of fall and the snow in the forecast makes me incredibly sad, I try to focus on the benefits of this first frost. The lingonberries are quickly falling off their stems and rotting, and so I return to the crisp days out of doors to pick some more, ignoring the pain in my knees and back so that I can stock up my berry supply. Because once that snow falls, it’s not leaving for a very long time.