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A year ago, around this time of year, I was with my aunt walking through San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park when I noticed how many blackberry brambles there were everywhere. And alas! There were also beautifully ripe berries! I snatched one and ate it as my husband and my aunt’s significant other cringed. “Are those safe to eat!?” It was tart and smaller than a conventionally grown berry, but there was something about wild berries. It was around the time I first got into canning and I declared that I wanted to come back the following year, when the blackberries weren’t coming to the end of their season and forage for them with my aunt. It was so… San Francisco. Foraging? For wild berries in the park? Very San Francisco.
A few weeks ago she emailed me telling me that on a bike ride through the Presido (another San Francisco park) she had seen the blackberries starting to produce and was I ready to collect some? We set a date and I headed up on a cool, foggy morning– because in San Francisco that’s what happens after a hot, 80-degree day– and with gloves, long sleeves and buckets, we went to work collecting the small but plentiful wild berries.
We collected about 11 cups of berries or almost five pounds. I used this Food in Jar’s Blackberry Jam recipe to make an extremely thick jam that was unbelievably time consuming thanks to the mashing of berries through a mesh strainer with a wooden spoon step. I may have reduced the jam a bit more than needed since I wanted to make sure it set after all the time spent on foraging and mashing. With the seedy mashed leftovers that didn’t go into jam I made blackberry gin and a blackberry shrub (or drinking vinegar) so nothing went to waste.
bowlofblackberiesComing off my blackberry jam success, I made a new recipe with some of the Meyer lemons seen in the top image and the zucchini (I have two more giant zucchini’s to go!) seen in the above image in the corner. I found a gingered zucchini marmalade recipe that sounded so unique I had to give it a try with the backyard lemons. I peeled the lemons and painstakingly removed the pulp only with a pairing knife. I made a cheesecloth bundle of the pectin-rich pith and seeds. Then I set everything to boil and occasionally stirred. It was time for dinner so I made myself a quick salad and sat down to eat not 10 feet from where the jam cooked away. The timer still had at least 20 minutes to go and I didn’t think twice about sitting down for a few minutes. When I got up to clear my dishes the marmalade was a caramel color and it was obvious I had burnt the whole batch. But I took my chances and gave it  a taste. A little bitter from the lemon pith, and maybe a little toasty, but over all it was mostly caramel. Lemony, gingery caramel. I made the decision to can it and process it anyways and changed the name to Caramelized Ginger Meyer Lemon Marmalade. When you’ve got lemons… turn them into marmalade?