Monday, June 29, 2009


On a walk through the fields a few days ago, I noticed a few blackberries starting to ripen, so today I went back and picked enough for a pie. Blackberry pie on the 4th of July was a Cebah tradition, as close to patriotic as she gets (We pledge allegiance to our food.) and I've kept it up. Usually it takes some scrounging about to find enough by the 4th, but the season for blackberries has changed apparently - for the past several years they've ripened a week before.

I'm intending to pick enough for several pies, of various types, and a lot of jam. We ran out of jam this spring (unheard of) and had to resort to buying some (very unheard of). I missed out on strawberries, so blackberries are going to fill in the gap.

It boggles my mind to think that years ago, after picking all the blackberries needed for pies and jams I would knuckle down and pick an additional 5 gallons to make wine with. (!) I wonder if 5 gallons could even be found now, with subdivisions sprawling where berry patches once thrived. It took a few years to figure out how to make the wine well. It's as easy as falling off a log really, but still... I was striving toward something like a dry French wine, dry as a stone, not the simple nectary sort of wine that is easy to make with berries. What I made was very good, a few weeks after bottling, and that's as long as the 5 gallons ever lasted. Some people liked it a lot, and every drop was swilled before any time improvements could take place. I always suspected that if it was made slightly sweet, it would improve wonderfully in the recommended 3 years.

While I was picking I realized that I've never made any music concerning blackberries, and I'm wondering now if I might manage that this year, in lieu of the wine.

Five Gallon Day

Wild blackberries are ripe.
The recipe calls for five gallons,
and, of course,
there aren't as many good patches
as way back
when Jennifer picked her treats.

"Sweet, sour, sour, sweet..."
she named them each, according
to their nature.
This year
it is almost as though the Old Summer
days came back,
swelling sweet and black
on the laden canes.

So let the Bacchanalia of
the wild yeasts begin!
Beneath a veil, crazed for days
on pure white sugar, an orgy
of bubbling froth...
Strain it off. What remains
is new wine.
Bottled and sealed
if will improve with time.

So pick them now! Pick the best!
There may still be enough
to get gloriously drunk!


Mary Beth said...

Each year as the wild roses bloom, I think of our neighbor Ann and her rose petal wine. Ann was quite old when we moved here over twenty years ago. While her husband Manuel still fussed over simple things like walnuts and tractors, Ann was enthralled with more exotic items such as elephant garlic and pineapple sage. Hummingbirds were mad for her sage! For years hers was the only house on the road where the hummingbirds swarmed in clusters. A devoted animal lover, Ann fed the deer, the kit foxes, and the quail. She was a gentle soul, attuned to the season and rhythms of the land. She was a tiny but tough little thing and flatly refused to leave her farm after Manuel past away. Finally, most grudgingly, she allowed a home heath aide to live in a trail beside the main barn. Each day I’d see her walking out to check the mail at the road, her long grey hair escaping her hastily made bun.

Ann’s Rose Petal Wine was pale amber in color and smelled like an empty bottle of Channel No. 5, yet it tasted much like brandy. Ann promised me the recipe yet could never remember where she'd put it. She’d become something of a pack rack before she died. Entire rooms were filled ceiling to floor with boxes of her treasures. When her nieces and nephew inherited the farm, they never even opened the boxes. They summarily chucked everything out. Three times the dump truck pulled up to her door. Then the antiques dealer hauled off the best of her walnut and rosewood furniture. The kids went back to Napa counting their money while the poor old farm house was locked up tight. A big, gaudy for sale sign was planted next to the road.

That was almost five years ago. The house still sits empty. With the price tag close to a million dollars, it's likely to do so for another five. The for sale sign has been gone since the kids told off the third unfortunate agent. The old house isn’t doing so well without an occupant. Children have tossed rocks through the windows. The remolding crew the nieces and nephews hired to tear off the leaking sun room have stopped coming by. No one seems to be interested in the place anymore. The pastures weren’t mown this summer and the price of hay is up with the drought on. Ah well. At least no one will chase off the bobcats and Kestrels that hunt in the abandon orchards. Ann’s spirit would like it that way.

Anonymous said...

I remember a beautiful sunday afternoon I spent reading each and every one of your recipes as you were posting them. Did not realize they were songs.

Apifera Farm said...

You are ahead of us, our's are still green, but maybe in 2 weeks I'd say, which is normal. It always amazes me how far ahead you in weather - I guess it is the South.Rasperries are out. I wish we could share pie. I'd spring for a fine Pinot, rather than homemade wine. No offense, we drink enough swill around here.