Pioneer Potluck: About the abundance of berries this year

Pioneer Potluck: About the abundance of berries this year

When we arrived in Alaska in 1967, one of the main summer occupations was picking wild berries.

  • Ann “Grannie Annie” Berg
  • Tuesday, August 27, 2019 11:28pm
  • Life

I am lucky to have a daughter that really enjoys picking berries. Daughter Gail kept us (me) in raspberries all summer. They are my dessert for breakfast. Her raspberries are big and juicy; she says they are dessert berries. They certainly are!! She progressed to blueberries, and other berries. Thank you for the time you took to pick and GIVE to me!!

We have a wild current bush up next to Bob’s Cave-shop. It was over loaded with hanging down branches full of large currents. I juiced them and have 16 cups of juice frozen. I use some of the juice for the base of other jellies. We did not have lots of rhubarb again this year. I picked and diced and gave them to Gail for her stash of berries making jelly and jams.

My strawberries set on very well but they are in the ground not in hanging baskets, so I put bird net over them and watched them bloomed away! They put on little green berries and I kept an eye on them waiting for the first red one! My friend Momma moose parked her twin babies under the purple leaf tree, not very far from the strawberry bed, to have a nap. The next morning when I got up, they had had a breakfast of green strawberries, leaves and new blossoms. EVERYTHING was gone. My hanging baskets with a new verity of strawberry from Fireweed Green House, are safe on the deck and I enjoy them as a treat when they get ripe. NO strawberry jam this year!!

When we arrived in Alaska in July of 1967 and was adjusting to the way of life in this great state, one of the main summer occupations was picking wild berries. My favorite place to pick wild raspberries was along both sides of the road leading to the end of the road that is now a paved road and entrance to Captain Cook Park. They were across the bridge at Swanson River. When they put in the new bridge and paved the road all those wonderful bushes were destroyed.

Bob and I have picked our share of currents in places around the Capt Cook Park but they are gone now too.

When we built our home, Bob located bushes of currents under the cottonwood trees on our property. We have had some years of good quality currents. When he built his Cave-Shop there is a bush that he did not disturb, and it has survived beside the Cave. It is his pride and keeps it watered and fertilized every year. Some years it is not so productive but this year it made up for it.

Also, beside Bob’s Cave is a row of raspberries that have survived for several years in that sunny spot. They are from starts that grew wild on the Coulter Homestead. My morning walk for breakfast is to go hunt for those ripe berries.

I have not seen many watermelon berries this year, but I am sure they are full and ripe right now. When the kids were young they thought the greatest find in the woods was ripe watermelon berries. But sometimes certain little kids would eat the green melons, saying they tasted like cucumbers.

We had the pleasure to go pick gooseberries at John and Marty Ragan. They are big and plump! I plan on making a gooseberry pie in memory of my Dad. He loved gooseberry pie — but on the farm in Colorado, they wild ones were little green and bitter. Mom used a ton of sugar making them taste like a gooseberry!! Now we have three bushes growing our yard. Thanks John!!

Blueberries are not supposed to be picked before the first frost — at least that is what some homesteader told me. BUT now if the round blueberries are seen they are picked before the next person sees them. Our blueberry patch is up on the corner, just a skip from us. BUT as I have written about before, as far as I am concerned it belongs to the big brown bear who lives in the blueberry patch! There are certain people who brave the area with a gun strapped to their side. NOT me!! I will just go somewhere else.

High- and low-bush cranberries are abundant most years. I want to make some catsup with them. They are a good base for other berries that you do not have enough of to make a full batch of jelly or jam. And if you are lacking the cranberries or other juices, apple juice will do to the stretch the last batch of berry juice.

For many years a generous man we call Mr. Ed, had located every berry bush in Alaska. He picked and gave them to me for the return of some jelly and jam. Unfortunately for many of us, including me, we are not capable of doing that any more. His knowledge of berries and where to pick them is endless. His generosity is much appreciated.

Fall brings smoked salmon and canned salmon. I spent many a year of my 52 years in Alaska canning salmon. Gail does an excellent job at smoking salmon, also. I still can some salmon but I am the only one that eats it. I love it in potato soup and as I have stated in other articles do not EVER put salmon in Bob’s potato soup. He likes broccoli in it once in a while. If you ask him what kind of soup he wants, He always says “POTATO.” We have a row of potatoes on a piece of our property that was dug up for a phone repair. It is fine topsoil. Never mind we have to walk or take the pick-up to water them, Bob never forgets and HIS potatoes look very nice this year.

Through the years we have grown potatoes as they grow so well in Alaska. One year, not having a place to grow them, he hauled in saw dust and planted our starts in it. Great potatoes and a good memory of what you can do if you want something like a potato to grow.

I so appreciate the art of making jelly and jams and do hope it is not going by the way side of things you can do for yourself with the abundance that Mother Nature gives you.

FIRES: Sadly, we are still under the cloud of smoke from the fires in this state. It has continued to concern everyone. Do what you can to keep your place and the safety of others by keeping your place free of brush and dry material. And PLEASE, PLEASE NO fires! We not only are responsible for the safety of our own home but for those that surround us, and the jeopardy of the people who fight those fires. Our heart felt thanks for work they do!

Thanks for the suggestion from daughter Susan Jordan for this article.


It is almost to late to make this fine jelly.


8 cups of fireweed blossoms, no stems.

1⁄4 cup lemon juice

4 1⁄2 cups water

2 package of Sure-Jell or other powdered pectin

5 cups sugar

Pick, sort and wash carefully and measure the fireweed blossoms.

Add lemon juice and water.

Boil slowly for 10 minutes — strain.

Return to the liquid to the kettle and reheat to lukewarm.

Add the pectin, stir and bring to a boil.

Add sugar and bring to full boil. Boil for JUST ONE minute.

Pour into sterilized jars and seal.

This is a pretty pink jelly that I like to use for Christmas presents.


This makes three quarts.

21 ( 5-inch) gherkins (cucumbers)

1⁄3 cup salt

10 cups water, divided

1 cup vinegar

2 tablespoons pickling salt

1 tablespoon pickling spices

Fresh dill

6 or more garlic cloves

Wash and drain cucumbers. Place in a 4-quart glass bowl.

Cover with brine made of 1⁄3 cup of pickling salt and 6 cups of water.

Cover and let stand for 24 hours.

Drain and wipe cucumbers dry.

Combine vinegar and 4 cups of water, 2 tablespoons of pickling salt and the pickling spices in a kettle.

Boil 5 minutes.

Place a bunch of dill and a garlic cloves (or more) in each sterilized jar.

Pack cucumbers tightly in jars.

Place another bunch of dill on and a clove of garlic on top.

Cover with the boiling pickling brine. Seal.

Makes three quarts.


This is the same recipe to make tuna noodle casserole. First made with Cod, then when canned tuna came along in 1903, it was made with béchamel sauce.

With the invention of Campbell’s Soup company in 1934 and the introduction of Cream of Mushroom soup, it became a weekly casserole to feed the family.

1 can of cream of mushroom soup

1⁄2 cup milk

2 cups hot cooked noodles, drained

1 cup cooked peas, optional

2 tablespoons chopped pimento, optional

2 cans (6 ounces each) tuna drained.

Or 1 pint of canned salmon with dark pieces removed makes this a wonderful Alaskan dish.

2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs

1 tablespoon melted butter

Mix soup, milk, noodles, peas and pimentos and tuna (salmon).

Pour into buttered 1 1⁄2 quart casserole dish.

Mix the crumbs and the butter and sprinkle over tuna.

Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.

Bake in 350 degrees oven for 20-25 minutes, until crumbs are nicely browned.

Makes 4 servings.

By Ann “Grannie Annie” Berg

For the Peninsula Clarion

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