juneberries (also known as serviceberry, shadbush, and saskatoon). My tree was loaded down with small, sweet berries, so I did the only logical thing and preserved some of them in a small pot of jam.
I went out to the tree and picked berries for half an hour, craning my neck up into the green branches, getting a few squawking fly-bys from birds who didn't seem happy to have a poacher in their territory. I picked berries, all warm from the sun, and even though they seemed spread out and thin on the tree at first, this was deceptive. I pulled in handfuls, ending up with about a pound and a half of ripe juneberries. I took them inside and washed them, picking out the stems and a few withered berries. Then I cooked them down with sugar and a dribble of water. I overcooked them just a bit; these have quite a lot of pectin in them, so they didn't need to cook much. They made a sweet, rich jam, nutty with the small seeds in the berries, and tasting ever so slightly of almond, cherry, and apple. My husband slathered it on his toast the next morning; he has already made quite a dent in this batch.
This sweet, short jam-making adventure was a reminder again of how easy it can be to preserve a smidge of summer's bounty. When making jam, it's best to think small. Just make a little batch; just a jar or two won't take over your kitchen. I was lucky; this fruit was right in my front yard. Maybe you'll find some fruit hanging around the neighborhood, or a pint of extra-ripe strawberries for half off at the farmers market. Pick it up, cook it down — enjoy summer's sweet taste into fall. Are you making jam or preserves this summer? Related: Sweet Surprise in the Front Yard: Juneberries! (Images: Faith Durand)