One exception to this was my father’s blackberry jelly. He made it every year, and that was the only time I can remember him getting near a stove. In fact, my mother was not a huge fan of letting anyone else grace her kitchen with their presence. Especially not an excessively chatty, constantly underfoot, prone-to-mischief-making little girl. That would be me.
After the blackberries were picked on our farm and the process of checking everyone for ticks and briars was complete, all bets were off. Mom would assemble the mounds of cheesecloth, the bags and bags of sugar, and every single stock pot in the house and then quickly evacuate the building because she couldn’t stand to look at the mess that was about to ensue.
Then I would have my daddy all to myself, and it was better than Saturday morning cartoons. He would pull up a little stool for me, hand me a wooden spoon, and after several reminders to stop jumping around and act like I had some sense, he would work his magic. The deep purple concoction would finally be poured into jars — ignoring all the splatter and sticky — and came out beautifully every single time. This jelly was so sweet and wonderful that it would make your heart ache, and several of my childhood friends still speak of it with the same fondness as I do. I know my mother had to be a little curious as to why my friends would turn down a perfectly good home-cooked meal for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
It must have had something to do with the love.
5 cups crushed blackberries (do not puree, crush with a potato masher) 7 cups sugar 1 (1¾ ounce) package dry pectin (I use Ball but Sure Jell will work )
Carefully measure out the berries and strain through cheesecloth-lined colander then pour seedless juice into a very large pot (8 quarts). Carefully measure sugar in a large bowl. Add the pectin to the juice a little at a time, stirring constantly. Heat on high, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a full boil. Add sugar all at once, stirring. Bring mixture back to a full hard boil, stirring constantly. Boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and ladle into clear, hot 8-ounce jars, leaving 1/4 inch space at the top. Wipe the rim of the jar and put canning lids and rings on fingertip tight. Place in canner with very hot water, make sure water is 1 inch above jars. Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Remove and set them upright on a towel to set for 12 hours.
Sharon Little is a community contributor for the Kingsport Times News.