Thursday, August 12, 2010

Homage To The Humble & Glorious Blackberry

... Watering & Grazing ...

Breakfast this morning was a handful of raspberries, a half-dozen cherry tomatoes, and one smallish cucumber, gathered from various spots in my garden while watering in preparation for the coming heat. Fresh fruits of the vine and the inevitable cup of coffee: the best breakfast I've had in a good long time.

Lately, I've taken to making enough coffee when I awaken to provide myself with a large, icy latte in the afternoon. Nice. I'm going to miss being so hot that I want to cool off with coffee. However, there is plenty of time to grieve the loss of summer heat when it's actually gone. Not wise to do so in the season where staying cool is a full-time commitment.

... Perfection & The Seeking Thereof ...

I had a recent conversation with a perfectionist friend who spent an hour getting the cut right on a fascia board for his summer deck project. It took him four tries, so he said. He was bemoaning (great word) the fact that the first three tries simply were not "good enough".

I can relate.

I have my own perfection-seeking patterns. Most creative people do. The trick is to make the drive for perfection work for us, rather than letting it run us into the ground.

I can always tell when I've slipped into the latter. I've tried many times to push through it and, without fail, end up making things worse in the process. It's better, I've learned, to recognize when I'm at the crossroads of Frustration and Exhaustion, and give up the struggle and go home, at least temporarily.

The wise woman knows when it's time to quit. Sadly, I'm not always wise. I am, however, learning to pay attention to that grinding tone of frustration that my spirit emits when faced with a temporary setback.

... Nuts & Bolts & Alchemy ...

A recent project with a definite striving for perfection is the five-gallon batch of hoped-for blackberry wine, just now beginning to ferment in my laundry room.

Now, I've made blackberry wine before, and with great success, actually. (It was so good that it deserves a second "so".) Heavenly, honey sweetened, richer than the finest Port, from the ripest hand-picked wild-grown blackberries Oregon has to offer. I have the scars to prove it.

I've had a hankering to repeat the process. And, since this is blackberry season, I've been thinking about it almost daily, to the point of having a vivid dream about it this past Sunday morning. With that, I decided that I could no longer resist and would again venture into the realm of home-brewing.

The very next afternoon I bought all new equipment and the necessary ingredients, including canned blackberries this time. Having lost my previous carboy and paraphernalia in a divorce some years before, this was an expense that was only twice as expensive as I had expected.

Nuts and bolts lead to the alchemy. Alchemy is where the fun happens: heating the water, letting it cool to 75°, pouring in the blackberry slurry, estimating how much blackberry honey is just the right amount to create a not-too-sweet wine, and adding the yeast 24 hours later.

This mix of ingredients, the "must", is already starting to smell winy, although I can tell that I may need to add blackberry concentrate at the end of the process to get it closer to that rich, deep, and sumptuous blackberries-in-summer quality that I'm working to attain. (The drive to perfection surfaces and resurfaces.)

... Blackberries & Bastards ...

No question: blackberries are most definitely weeds. Weeds with which I have a passionate love|hate relationship. Keeping them from encroaching from the field behind my garden and into my garden takes vigilance and easy access to tools all summer long ... sweet-tasting, willful bastards.

Blackberries, however, are unquestionably superb in any edible form, be it a pie, jam, ice-cream, wine, or in that extraordinary state when hands, lips, tongue, and teeth are stained deep purple from hot, falling-off-the-vine, so-ripe-they're-already-half-wine, fresh-picked, fragrant and heavenly berries. Wild Oregon Blackberries out-pace and exceed in flavor even the best hybridized, bloated, and "perfected" Marion Berry.

Dang! There's really no substitute for the original, is there?

I'm thinking that my seeking of perfection will once again deliver me hot, scratched, stained, and satisfied with a morning's picking. With that, I can start a second batch of blackberry wine ... .

I'll let you know how it turns out.

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