"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
About Bayou Bill
Wild Recipes



Pickin' and Twirlin' Berries
Copyright © 2008 by Bill Scifres

It may not sound real exciting for the outdoors set, but for little old jelly, jam and wine makers the outlook for a fairly good crop of wild black raspberries later this month is taking on a rosy hue. This bit of outdoor observance comes on the heels of last year’s bust in most areas of the state.

It is a bit early to make any hard and fast forecasts for blackberries (they bloom after black raspberries and ripen on the tail end of that season in late June--the two overlap some). The canes of the latter are fairly heavy with green berries now (they were questionable two weeks ago). The green berries will turn bright red, then black to maturity as they hit their peak.

Incidentally, a black raspberry cobbler (you will find a modern day type recipe on my web page, http://bayoubill.com, under “Wild Recipes”) requires only two cups of berries, and a pie only four cups. Jelly and jam procedures also will be found there, not to mention wine.

Actually, the old term, “Pickin' Berries,” is a misnomer of some magnitude. In reality, the best way to fill your pail with the sweet and succulent berries is to hold the cane steady with your secondary hand, and hold your primary hand under clusters of berries--the palm upward. Then, with thumb and index finger of that hand, you simply twirl the berries into your palm and put them into the pail. You can fill your palm with berries before placing them in the pail.

This method of using both hands, and holding the pail, can best be accomplished with a sturdy “S” wire hook that holds the pail by the bail and hooks into your belt. Thus, the pail is always hanging immediately in front of you, slightly below waist level for your convenience. But I warn you. The maneuver requires caution to avoid spills.

In the case of many species of berries--especially black raspberries--the white cane plants (young of the year, so to speak) will be the host plants for next year’s crop. Treat the white canes kindly. The older canes (purple or brown in color) are the bearers of berries.

Berries may be frozen or canned for future use. I use berries that have been frozen for many years . . . Usually I freeze them in two-cup packages (sandwich bags), wrapped in newspaper, after freezing. The newspaper wrapping helps avoid freezer burn.

Another good method of freezing berries for jelly or wine is to juice them and freeze the juice in sturdy containers. Frozen, the juice will be useable for many years. Freezing, I am told, helps the juices escape when they are used.

My berry-pickin' bucket is a two-Pound Hills Brothers coffee can, (very old) with a homemade bail of strong wire, with a hook. When it is filled (less than a gallon) I transfer the berries into a larger pail (for storage in the shade) and start over. 

FISH CHANGES--The flood waters of streams and rivers may not show much difference in fishable waters as summer sets in, but Bill James, chief of the department’s fisheries section for some 30 years, says there will be changes in the waters. James adds that the anglers are going to have to adjust.

“There will be good holes that have been filled in by sediment, and new holes and pockets have been created (even driftwood drifts),” James says. But, contrary to popular misconception, our fish are not all swimming in the Mississippi River now, says James.

He does say that the bottom nesting sites of some fish may be relocated now, adding that fish are pretty resilient.

Changes in standing waters may be more subtle, but they may still be there. So, if one is wading in any waters, a great way to fish now, the watchword is “CAUTION,” use a wading staff, to keep your hat on your head . . . not floating.

NATURE NOTE--If you see two birds together, one shaking wildly and being fed by the other bird, it is an adult feeding a fledged young.

Adult cardinals often feed fledged cowbirds because the female cowbirds often lay their eggs in the cardinals’ nest. They put them in the nests of some other birds, too. 

Click on thumbnail image for larger view.

berrycan.jpg (57197 bytes)
This is my berry bucket.

All columns, essays, and photos are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author's family.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Scifres family, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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