I love salmonberry season. In the Tlingit language we call them was’x’aan tléigu. I know they aren’t everyone’s favorite because they are not too sweet. For me, seeing them brings up lots of memories of my childhood growing up here in Southeast Alaska. Salmonberries remind me of cousins, grandparents, aunties, and uncles. Salmonberries remind me of camping, talking story around the fire, and berry pancakes in the morning. I love their beautiful flowers in the spring. I love the taste of the first berries that pop up, and the dark berries that have ripened on the bush. I love the orange salmonberries. I love the red salmonberries. I love them all. I am so happy it is salmonberry season.
I have to admit I’m OCD about them. I carry at least two buckets with me when I pick. One for the orange berries and one for the red berries. I also try to pick them where it is clean and try not to pick them where there is dust. This way I don’t have to wash them since they are so fragile. I also keep extra buckets in my car so that if I pick so many they start to flatten the ones on the bottom, I can transfer some to another bucket to save them from getting anymore crushed.
I also like to bring them home and immediately freeze them individually on a cookie sheet. Part of me does this because it allows the berries to freeze in their original beautiful shape and doesn’t become a giant solid cube of frozen salmonberries. Another part of me does this as soon as I get home because if I don’t do it as soon as I get home my lazy side can catch up with me after a whole day of picking berries, and I don’t want the berries to sit for too long because they begin to go bad in a couple of days after picking them.
There are so many things you can make with salmonberries. Salmonberry jam and jelly are great to make. Not everyone likes the numerous seeds in salmonberry jam and prefer to have jelly instead.
4 cups of salmonberries
1 cup of water
Combine ingredients in a medium saucepan. Heat the berries and water on medium and immediately begin to simmer when you reach a low boil. Mash the berries to release more juice. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Strain out seeds. I use a cheese cloth in a colander. You can now freeze or can the juice. You can also use the juice to make a jelly or syrups.
Salmonberry Simple Syrup
1 cup of salmonberry juice
1 cup of sugar
Bring salmonberry juice to a rolling boil. Add sugar. Stir until sugar dissolves. Bring to a rolling boil and turn down to simmer until desired thickness. 1-10 minutes. Pour into jars. Let cool on the counter and then refrigerate. Tip: a teaspoon of butter will help keep the foam to a minimum.
Salmonberry Rich Syrup
• 1 cup of salmonberry juice
2 cups of sugar
Bring salmonberry juice to a rolling boil. Add sugar. Stir until sugar dissolves. Bring to a rolling boil and turn down to simmer until desired thickness. 1-10 minutes. Pour into jars. Let cool on the counter and then refrigerate. Tip: a teaspoon of butter will help keep the foam to a minimum. A rich syrup has a longer shelf life than a simple syrup because it has more sugar.
4 cups of salmonberry juice
1 package of powdered pectin
5 1/2 cups of sugar
Measure sugar and set aside. Measure cold salmonberry juice into a large saucepan. Add pectin and stir until dissolved. Over high heat, bring the mixture to a full, rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. Immediately stir in sugar. Bring to a full rolling boil again. Boil hard for one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and quickly skim off foam. Immediately pour jelly into hot canning jars, leaving 1⁄4 inch headspace. Wipe jar rims and add prepared two-piece lids. Process 5-10 minutes in a boiling water bath. Cool jars on the counter overnight and check the seals the next day. Tip: add a teaspoon of butter when boiling to help it not foam so much.
For those of you that don’t mind the seeds.
2 cups of salmonberries
1 ½ cups of sugar
Combine ingredients in a medium saucepan. Heat the berries and sugar on a medium heat. Mash berries to release their juice. Stir until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil then turn heat down to a simmer. Simmer until the consistency thickens. Immediately pour jam into hot canning jars, leaving 1⁄4 inch headspace. Wipe jar rims and add prepared two-piece lids. Process 5-10 minutes in a boiling water bath. Cool jars on the counter overnight and check the seals the next day. Tips: a potato masher is what I use to mash the salmonberries. If it takes a while for it to thicken you can add a tablespoon of pectin. And if the berry mixture foams up too much while boiling it, add a teaspoon of butter.
1/2 cup of salmonberries
2 tbsp cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
4 tsp raspberry vinegar
3 tsp salmonberry simple syrup
½ tsp sea salt
Mix the salmonberries and raspberry vinegar in a blender. Strain the seeds. Stir in simple syrup and sea salt. Slowly drizzle olive oil while whisking to make sure that it emulsifies. Pour into mason jar and store in fridge for up to two weeks.
There are so many yummy things to make with salmonberries. For us, each season is another season of opportunities to make memories with friends and family picking berries and making soul food. Tlingit Elders consider our traditional foods the soul food that connects us to this beautiful place for thousands of years. Make sure to pick respectfully so we can all enjoy these berries for thousands of years to come. You just got to start experimenting with recipes. We have given you a few recipes to try at the beginning of salmonberry season. Have fun!
• Vivian Mork Yéilk’ shares the Planet Alaska column with her mother, Vivian Faith Prescott.