Come spring and summer, our neighborhood is a showplace, with myriad multi-colored blossoms decorating front yards and back. Aside from the crocuses, tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths, our yards bloom with magnolia, azalea, rhododendron. And dogwood.
And of all the flowering trees, it turns out that the dogwood produces edible berries, a fact I only learned about ten years ago. As an avid wild food forager, I feel stymied every year that I can’t get enough berries to do anything constructive with that knowledge. Now I can’t tell if, up ’til now, birds have been eating the berries or if the trees just don’t feel like delivering every year. But for the first time ever, this year the dogwoods on my little street have produced a bumper crop of these bright red spiky orbs that resemble — sorry, folks — big coronaviruses.
So, this past bright and sunny Sunday morning, neighbor Dale (a really good sport) and I brought out our buckets and loaded up a couple of gallons from the tree in her front yard.
We did all this with the intention of making jam. I had found a recipe online and was thrilled to know I had all the ingredients on hand, including pectin. But the recipe called for seven — SEVEN — cups of sugar. I cut it down to four.
The jam turned out tasty, but way too sweet. And it was not jam. It was syrup.
So, back to the internet I went. Apparently, pectin needs lots of sugar. But SEVEN cups?? Not gonna happen.
Then I had a hunch.
I just happened to have some clear, unflavored gelatin in the house. So, as an experiment, I poured the runny stuff from one jar into a pot and added some gelatin powder, heated, and stirred until the gelatin dissolved. I then poured it into a clean jar and said a little prayer.
The next morning, it was actually jam.
It’s still far too sweet, but if we ever do get dogwood berries again, I’ll be all set — as will the jam.
Photo by Dale Valena