Remember Stan? He's still out in the fields at Coonamessett. He's still fighting the good fight—still tying up tomatoes and weeding leeks and tending hens. And he's still innovating. A few years ago he had a pile of fowl he wanted to put on pasture, but nowhere with a fence. He also had plans to fence off and net an acre of blueberries. He decided to kill two birds with one stone, and these days, when you go into the field to pick, there are turkeys pecking at your shoelaces.
Luckily they're friendly, and they don't eat too many berries beyond the drops. Even better, they are Stan's very own army of two-legged mowers, weedwackers (see page 14, front and center), and insectivores. Hurrah for the birds!
In terms of pest control, Stan's not sure exactly how much the birds are doing. They could be eating winter moths or helping with fruit flies (see the bottom left of page 9) or even the new spotted fruit flies that attack the fruit before it gets ripe. All he knows is he had a bumper crop of berries this year, and he's also raising some pretty fine pastured birds. It's a win-win-win.
Which brings me to the jam. Last week our friends Teresa and Ed were renting out their house. That same week, Teresa received a 10 pound delivery of local berries from a friend. She didn't have a jam-ready kitchen, so she came over to use ours. I had to go to work, so she hung out with my parents and Sally while she cooked, and when I came home there were clean counters and five jars of anise-spiced blueberry jam. It is an experience I would like to have again.
Happily, I can relive it every time I eat the jam. Which will be generously and often, on hot griddle toast with butter-stained hands.
TERESA'S ANISE-SPICED BLUEBERRY JAM
I've never made blueberry jam. I learned from my mother, who makes strawberry and rhubarb and blackberry, and I guess it never occurred to me to put blueberries into anything other than crisps and pies and open hands. This is the jam to change that stance—sweet, big, with warm undertones of lemon and anise.
Teresa got her inspiration from the Blue Chair Jam Cookbook and the French confiture genius Christine Ferber. Finally, an interesting note about using unlined copper jam pots over here.
12 pints blueberries
5 pounds granulated sugar
1 and 1/2 cups lemon juice
2 "stars" of star anise
Combine the blueberries and sugar in a gigantic pot (alternatively, make two batches). Add the lemon juice and bring slowly to a simmer, stirring to be sure the jam doesn't scorch on the bottom of the pan. Once the sugar has dissolved, raise the heat to bring the jam to the boil. Let it bubble, stirring often. You can skim the firm foam that builds on top; as Teresa says, this gives you something to do while the jam jams. It takes about 15 minutes for the jam to begin to look less liquidy and for the juices to seem a little sticky. That's when it's done. Pack hot into hot sterilized jars.
Yield: about 20 pints.