PICKLED-BERRY GIN & TONIC

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by Debra on August 6, 2013

Last summer we spent several weeks in the Seattle area with Shauna, Danny and Lucy; we were there shooting several video pieces as well as sharing stories, birthdays and some of the glorious foods of summer. It’s just a normal day when the Aherns gather friends around their table and open their home to an impromptu get-together; August 6th is Shauna’s birthday (that’s today – happy birthday Shauna!), the weather was spectacular with azure-blue skies and temperatures in the mid-80s. The entire island had been waiting for the blackberries to ripen for picking; jams, pies, buckles or eaten straight out of hand – it didn’t matter what the berries would be used for, what mattered was the gathering of friends.

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Children squealed at the sight of friends piling out of cars and tumbling onto the lawn; adults squealed at having other adults in the same room to talk with and check in. The antique wooden table groaned under the weight of each dish that found space on top of the bright yellow oil-cloth, speckled with pink flowers.

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I remember standing at the back door, camera in hand, surveying the children in varying stages of undress; bare bellies stained with streaks of watermelon juice, racing around that backyard barefoot, smiles as wide as the Cheshire Cat himself. Shauna’s berry cobbler was ceremoniously presented by Danny and Lu, candles lit, a wish made and then blown out; cobbler was scooped onto plates and eaten greedily. Another check of faces and bellies and I see crumbs of topping and berry stains have been added to the watermelon streaks. But no one cared – it was summer.

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And finally . . . about an hour before sundown . . . it was time for picking. On Vashon, blackberries grow high and wild along the dirt roads; 10-12 foot hedges of them where literally thousands of berries lure you into the tangled and thorny vines. Glistening from the warm sun, there’s always one or two berries tucked away deep in the brambles that taunt – ‘See me? Come a wee bit closer – I’m the best-tasting berry in this entire patch!’ they seem to say.

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Danny procured a couple of ladders and the picking began – plastic pails, bowls, tin cups and whatever else could be found were used to gather the sun-warmed fruit; and I remember thinking that the children looked like fairies – flitting from one patch to the next in search for the perfect, single berry that would be popped into a mouth, tongue crushing the sweet juice and a wide smile would appear.

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I’m sorry to be missing the scene I’m sure will be playing out today in that Ahern backyard; I’ve been watching my Instagram feed for pictures as to the progress of this year’s berry harvest. I’m betting there will be fairy-children flitting from one patch to another looking for that one, perfect berry.

© 2013, Debra. All rights reserved.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Móna Wise August 8, 2013 at 5:33 am

Yum. I have never pickled BlackBerries … we are getting ready to harvest a gazillion soon though so will try this. I am loving Bathtub Gin these days. Have you tried it? When you come to visit me we will have a Gin Swap . . ok? Lovely gorgeous colourful photos filled with life and love.

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Debra August 8, 2013 at 8:52 am

I’ve not tried bathtub gin Mona but if you say it’s good, then i’m willing to give it a go! i’m scheming a way to come visit and yes, i’ll come baring gifts of gin; do try the pickled berries – they were a nice surprise this summer and not only fantastic in this cocktail but they are terrific on a charcuterie board!

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BrendaB August 7, 2013 at 10:23 pm

The picture of the little boy with one blue and one brown eye is STUNNING!

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Debra August 8, 2013 at 8:54 am

Thank you Brenda – he really wanted his picture taken and he’s a gorgeous child so how could we say no?!

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Jenn Sutherland August 7, 2013 at 2:30 pm

Love this, Deb! I’ve been pickling, too, and while I haven’t made pickled blackberries, I did make blackberry vinegar by steeping leftover seeds from jam-making in some white vinegar for 2 weeks in the fridge, and we’ve been enjoying a spoon of the vinegar in fizzy water with a little mint. So refreshing!

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Debra August 8, 2013 at 8:55 am

these are one of the best things we’ve pickled Jenn – it’s been a pickling year for us too and i know we’ll really enjoy our labor this winter!

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