Location: Saltwater State Park
I picked raincoat pocket full of salmon berries while walking past the just mowed portion of Saltwater State Park. The campground section on the east side of McSorley Creek is lined with dense salmon berry bushes that carried massive loads of suddenly ripe berries.
I often walk asphalt drive on the park and then cross the bridge at McSorley Creek that passed under a tall maple tree onto a gravel road that edges along a muddy slope restrained by Douglas fir, old logging stumps, and brush. A flowering plumb had fallen at the end of the gravel road where the bridge crosses the creek. It has been flowering for weeks. I walk on the gravel road, along the edge of the steep slope. A massive Douglas fir tree grows on the road there. It has gnarled grey bark, and massive gaps in the roots that always suggest that animals live there, or that maybe there is some passage that would lead down into a system of tunnels and caverns under the forest. Faux mother of thousands crowed the forest floor in the spring. The damp clefts where streams start support Devils Club. The camping spots are empty during the week and when it rains. The road passed around back to McSorley Creek again and I cross another bridge and I’m back on the paved road. I walk to the very end of the paved section to a turnaround under 16th Ave S which passed over the creek and the forest on a bridge supported by several massive cement pylons that collects graffiti and then splotches of grey paint to cover the signs. I can hear traffic noises at the street level, above the forest. I can see the edge of a subdivision, and then I walk back and this time the slope on my right is more visible to me. It is covered in sword ferns and then back in the main part of the upper campground, I pass a muddy slope with sword ferns, and those tiny leafy plants with a stalk that has tiny bell shapes pods. As a child I would pull my hand along the length to harvest handfuls of the pods. This time I found salmon berries that had ripened in the last week and the forest was full of then when I began to look for them. I would walk through the forest looking for them, and I wasn’t really aware of how damp and leafy the valley of the McSorley Creek was before. If I fell down, I would fall through the layer of foliage on the mucky forest floor and no one would be able to see me.
I pulled the salmon berry from the bushes. Some of them were salmon colored, yellow or slightly pinkish, and would come of in a thick sheet of berries. Most of them were a bit larger than a quarter. However, a few were huge like commercial strawberries and filled the palm of my hand. When I pulled them from the bush, they released a fragrant smell of vegetation. Salmon berries smell like the forest, woody, and they taste the same, except for a very faint sweet taste that always seems to me as though it should lead to more, but doesn’t. They are related to raspberries and blackberries. I have never been able to do much with them when I pick them except eat then When I eat them I always find myself ruminating on their elusive taste. I sometimes eat handfuls thinking, that they seem so bright and raspberry like, shouldn’t they taste better? And now the taste, too, reminds of the beginning of summer and damp Junes. The berries taste more like a leaf then a berry. I picked an entire pocket of them to bring home. And then, I brushed against a stinging needle and this was a faint memory of a sensation of pain, a nostalgic pain, like losing a tooth.
At home I looked up a recipe, and this is the one I followed. The recipe didn’t use pectin, and I didn’t follow the sterilization method I remember from my mother making actual jam when I was growing up, so it won’t keep. The jam had that elusive flavor, but since it was mostly sugar it was a faint, citrus flavor like a marmalade taste without the citrus bite. It also had a tremendous number of seeds that I liked, but would probably strain out next time I make it.
Salmon Berry Jam
This creates a cooked, but not sterile jam meaning it won’t be properly sealed in a jam jar. But the jam is kind of faintly citrus and berry flavor and excellent as a flavoring for ice cream, on bread, and with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
- 2 cups crushed salmon berries
- 1/2 cup sugar
- I washed the berries, and found I’d picked an earwig. It ran down my sink drain, so it may come back sometime.
- I used a handheld blender to puree the salmon berries. Next time I make it, I think I’ll strain the puree to remove some of the seeds.
- I put the berries and sugar into a pot on the stove.
- I set my burner to high and boiled the sugar and berries on high for 5 minutes. At the end of the boiling period the entire mixture has become kind of frothy.
- I then reduce the reduce the heat to medium-low and simmered for 20 mins. I read somewhere that the fluid should begin to “sheet” and toward the end of the twenty minutes I noticed that the jam clung to my spatula in a jammy like glob. I guess that is beginning to “sheet.”
- I put in the fridge to cool for a couple of hours, and then spent the next couple of days eating it.