Blackberries and Killer Jam
On arriving in Tasmania at the end of summer, I was constantly intrigued as to why there were so many abandoned cars lining the roadsides.
In Tassie, the countryside becomes semi-rural very fast when driving out of any large city such as Hobart or Launceston. Roadsides are neat, there is no rubbish, prickly vines line the boundary fences – and then there are these abandoned vehicles; BMWs and luxury cars, SUVs, family sedans, small vans and pickups – all hastily parked on the verge. What is going on?
Well as I have now discovered, this is the blackberry picking season and most locals are well prepared should there be ripe blackberries on the roadside. Drivers of all ages spot the ripe fruit, jump out and start roadside harvesting.
I have had plenty of time staring out the back window of Klady’s car and have been able to spot what most of these crazily parked vehicles typically carry:
A fellow dog – great companionship but keep him or her on the lead when picking!
A clean container to hold the fruits of your labour
Gloves or hand protection against those loathsome prickles
A pair of sturdy shoes – or even better – strong walking boots because you will be clambering among the vines and will need to make a lot of noise and stomp around to scare away the snakes. I love watching Klady do her ‘stomp’ and yes, I even saw a tiger snake on my first blackberry hunting trip – not good news for me as all three types of Tasmanian snake are highly venomous!
Some wet wipes to clean the blackberry juice marks from around your owner’s mouth.
This brings me to what to do with Klady’s bountiful 2020 roadside blackberry harvest.
Following an intense picking session, Klady decided to make some blackberry-infused vodka. “Surely that’s not too hard,” I heard her say. She cleaned the berries, bought a bottle of vodka, added blackberries with a trickle of sugar so it would be more like a liqueur and then sealed the bottle.
Bad homemade recipe. Bang, crash, boom – fermented, bubbling blackberry vodka all over the kitchen.
Needless to say, she tipped out the lot without even a tasting (or giving me a lick)!
Her second culinary effort focused on making blackberry jam and it was a huge success, to the extent that our household has enough product to generously cover thousands of scones for the next decade.
And while exercising, I believe jam must be the most popular use of these berries as recipes are hotly discussed between the humans on our local beach. It’s funny, but I have never heard any human actually offering to share or swap a jar of their jam with others. Except for one man.
This man of mystery walks our beach twice a day, gaunt, red bearded, always covered with a sweater and thick jacket and wearing a beanie. I generally run up to him just to say hello and give him a little tail wag. In return he usually gives me a pat but doesn’t acknowledge any other beach goers except for today.
Today he stopped Klady on the beach, unzipped his jacket, reached deep into a pocket, pulled out a jar of jam and offered it as a gift.
Now I thought this was a little strange but quite nice. Klady however, took a look, stepped back, said no thank you, and walked off in the opposite direction wishing him a nice evening.
At the time I didn’t realise that the jar had a very strange label. While he claimed it was the best jam in the world (but he didn’t make it himself), it was boldly labelled, KILLER JAM in creepy crawly writing!
KILLER JAM doesn’t seem to me to be a great product name. Maybe that’s why he hasn’t been able to rid of any of his 36 jars!