I spied them first in the fall of 2004 with their deep red color enriching the fall landscape. And then last fall my friends from Walatoola found a jar of autumn olive jelly which I devoured this spring. So I thought perhaps I should try my hand at making some myself.
I have never canned anything in my life. I don’t own any canning equipment. But I decided there’s a first time for everything.
I walked out on a sunny morning last week. The air was still and the berries glistened in the morning sun. As I made my way into the high grass, wet with the morning dew, the smells of wild mint wafted up as I crushed the grasses. I carried a paper bag and would take berry laden branches and lean them into the bag and strip the berries. Soon I had eight cups.
THE FIRST ATTEMPT
Now this part was interesting. First I had to separate the berry from its seed. So I added 2 cups of water to my berries and cooked them for about 20 minutes. I then put the mash through a sieve and had a little more than 5 cups of pulp. It looked like I would be making jam, not jelly. Just in time I received an email from my friend Jim (canner extraordinaire) and he provided two links that helped me decide on how to craft my own recipe. (see below)
Well I will spare you the details, but my jam did not set. So I was left with 7 jars of what I call “Autumn Olive Coulis.” It is actually pretty good … How does this sound for an over the top menu description? “Fresh local lamb chops rubbed with garden mint and fresh rocambole garlic, grilled over mesquite and served on an autumn olive coulis.”
IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED
So on Sunday I went out again to gather berries. This time the wind was howling and the branches flailed as I tried to tame them into my bag. BUT the 5 extra days of ripening made a significant difference in the size and sweetness of the berry.
This time I read the directions on the Sure-Jell BEFORE I started and I believe I have five nice jars of Autumn Olive Jam to show for it.
Recipe for Autumn Olive Jam
Gather 8 cups of ripe autumn olive berries. (For me in coastal
Add 1 cup of water to the 8 cups of berries and bring to a boil then simmer for 20 minutes. Run the mash through a sieve and you will have about 5 cups of pressed fruit.
Measure out 3 ½ cups of sugar. Take ¼ cup of the measured sugar and mix it with the contents of a package of no-sugar-needed Sure Jell. Mix it in with the pressed fruit and bring to a rolling boil. Add the remainder of the sugar to the boiling liquid and return to a rolling boil and let it boil for one minute.
Then can according to canning directions and cool.
I ended up with a little more than six 8 oz. jars of well set jam. Nice and tart.