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Ten Meter Diet

By now just about everyone who is even vaguely aware of trends in food production has heard more than they needed to about the concept of eating locally-produced food.  The movement strikes me as beneficial because, I hope, it causes us to think more about our food and perhaps while we are considering where our food comes from we will also spend more time considering how it tastes.  Like other political/philosophical movements the hundred mile diet begins to lose its relevance when it is taken to levels of dogmatic orthodoxy.  We are not going to destroy the Earth by consuming the occasional piece of imported chocolate or bottle of wine and it doesn’t really matter whether an apple comes from 80 or 120 miles away.  I think the most important suggestion of the locavore movement is that we should be growing or harvesting some of the food we eat within the space we live in every day.
Serviceberries on the bush in my parents front garden.

Serviceberries on the bush in my parents' front garden.

Luckily my parents have a serviceberry tree (these plants have a pack of other names but are second-best known as saskatoon berries)  in their front yard that is literally six steps from the front door.  This tree-bush ripens a crop of small- to medium-sized berries (pomes, technically) at the very end of June and into July.  To get a useable harvest you have to beat the birds to the berries before they have the chance to strip the entire bush.  The season is upon us now.  Serviceberries have flesh that tastes like a sweet-ish (though never very tart) blueberries but the highlight is the black cherry flavour that the seeds release when chewed.  I wonder what it is about early July that produces that flavour (actual black cherries are ripe now as well)?  Has evolution taught fruit-bearing trees that for some reason the birds they need to spread their seeds like this flavour now?

The typical problem when harvesting in-season produce is finding an application for the bounty.  Just a single bush produced more berries than could ever be dealt with one handful at a time in pancakes or on top of ice cream.  The obvious answer at this time of year (and for the next three months) when nature produces a bounty is to preserve what can’t be eaten now for later consumption.  Pemmican would be an interesting experiment but I don’t know where I’d get enough deer or moose fat so I decided to turn this crop into jam.

Mashed serviceberries, lemon juice, and sugar after macerating in the fridge

Mashed serviceberries, lemon juice, and sugar after macerating in the fridge

I am in the process of thinking and reading about jam making and I’m attracted to the idea of using less pectin and therefore less sugar–many jam recipes call for twice the volume of sugar compared to fruit.  For serviceberries, and I imagine all other wild berries,  the one trick is to realise that a little force is necessary to free the juice and pulp from the skins.  Most recipes call for using a potato masher for this step and I suppose that would work alright but I find that a pastry dough cutter with its sharp blades works even better.  Aim to leave between a third and half of the berries relatively intact so that they provide texture to the finished product.  I added a cup of sugar and a tablespoon of l emon juice to the four cups of mashed berries and let this sit overnight in the fridge.  The next day I strained the juice, added about half a packet of pectin to it and boiled it for three to four minutes.  The berries can now go into the juice and the mixture is brought back to a boil for another minute.  After being poured into clean jars the jam is ready to go into the freezer once it has cooled overnight. 

Serviceberry jam cooling in jars before going into the freezer

Serviceberry jam cooling in jars before going into the freezer

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  1. mochapj says:

    Oh, I am SO jealous that you have access to a saskatoonberry bush. I love those!

    I have to buy from Forbes in order to get my saskatoonberry jam fix because I’ve yet to find them at the farmer’s market.

    You’ve been pretty MIA as of late… been up to anything interesting?

  2. foodwithlegs says:

    Thanks, Foodie. It is definitely convenient.

    I notice that you call them saskatoonberries. I’ve always called them serviceberries because my mother does and her mother was from Saskatchewan. Not that one is more “correct” than the other I just wonder what causes the difference. Maybe to those from the Sask calling them saskatoonberries would be like us calling peameal bacon “Canadian bacon”?

  3. [...] is my first full-bore preserving experiment since the marmalade that I made last winter (the serviceberry jam from earlier in the week was a freezer version).   Canning is one of those processes that stands [...]

  4. mochapj says:

    Hmm, to be honest, I’d never really thought about it.

    I only discovered saskatoons a few years ago, and it was shortly after I tried them, when searching for recipes to use them that I came across a page (I think on wiki) that referred to them as both saskatoon and serviceberries.

    A friend of mine from work whose grandmother lives on Manatoulin Island calls them sandberries, though I’m not sure why, and have never met anyone else who does, either.

    I agree with the analogy though, it is most likely how the dual name came about. No matter, by any name they are definitely one of nature’s treats!

  5. [...] With Legs – David follows the 10 meter diet… out to the backyard and the berry [...]

  6. Kat says:

    This jam is absolutely AMAZING on warm brie and baguette.


  7. foodwithlegs says:

    Thanks, Kat. I think in general that cheese on bread is an overlooked medium for jams, jellies and even fruity mustards.

  8. [...] Serviceberry jam:  This early creation that used fruit gleaned from my parents’ front yard has been popular–both with friends and family and with Google searchers.  The overnight soak with lemon juice succeeded in rendering powdered pectin redundant.  The texture is jam-like though not as perfectly consistent as store-bought but I’ll live.  The freezer has worked out as a preserving aid because it means less cooking (no need for heat-processing to kill bacteria) and so far no significant taste degradation.  Next year: Larger batch. [...]

  9. Barbara says:

    I live in SW Ontario and am trying to find a place to buy ready made Saskatoonberry Jam. I found it in quart jars at a superstore a few years ago but no longer. I was born in Saskatoon and raised in various towns and cities in Saskatchewan so I am familiar with the best berries in the country. Please help me find my jam!

  10. foodwithlegs says:

    I’m afraid I can’t help you, Barbara. I’ve never seen saskatoonberry/serviceberry jam in grocery stores. Best bet might be one of the excellent farmers’ markets in your area. I’ll definitely let readers know when they’re in season this year.

  11. [...] Serviceberry Jam: All the rain this May made for a lacklustre crop (I think in part because the birds were squeezed out of some of their preferred berry sources) so I only got a couple handfuls worth and therefore no jam. There’s always next year, though. [...]

  12. I. Moyer says:

    I have recently discovered a treasure trove of service berries in our yard…very sweet berries…I had not noticed them before. In fact, they were on a bush I had been begging my husband to let me cut down for the past 4 years…lol.

    What I want to know is, do you have to strain the seeds out before making jam? And it might be preserves I am wanting to make, I’m not sure. What I want to do is, boil the fruit, mush it up, and add pectin and lemon juice, can it, and call it done (lazy cook here). Is that going to be ok? Thanks!

  13. I. Moyer says:

    Oh, and sugar. LOL. And is there any way to tarten it up just a tad?

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