Partridgeberry Jam: Partridgeberry Pucker is what Emily Mardell calls hers!
Partridgeberry Jam. Oh, my. My first introduction to Partridgeberries was unforgettable. They are as unique in flavor as Saskatoon berries, but completely different. Vanja and I were in Newfoundland in May of 2014 staying at the Artisan Inn at Trinity. It was dreamy. Romantic. Sparse. Unabashed in its naked beauty. And every breakfast presented a vintage china saucer mounded with bold plump glistening jewel-like magenta berries, alert and tart, bursting with an irresistibly fresh and nourishing appeal. I later came to know this as homemade Partridgeberry Jam. I could have eaten the entire saucerful with a spoon, and some mornings, I almost did.
However, I consistently forgot to take my camera to breakfast every morning, thus no Partridgeberry Jam images from the Artisan Inn. However, Vanja and I went on the most profound and deeply moving tour with Bruce of Rugged Boat Tours in Trinity. At the half way point, we stopped in his old family home in what is now a ghost town. One of many in the area since the Cod Moratorium of 1992. His wife’s homemade partridgeberry muffins slathered with her homemade partridgeberry jam were the bright flavour I now identified with this sacred place.
When Emily told me her mother, Joy, was headed to Edmonton from the Corner Brook area of Newfoundland to make Toutons with us, I was beside myself. That conversation morphed into three generation cooking, as it should be whenever possible and Emily asking her mom to bring some groceries! Emily’s loved ones know that if coming from home, Partridgeberries must be in the back, “or back you go!”
I completely get that. They are that special.
This Partridgeberry Jam is topping a scrumptious freshly buttered hot Touton that we made immediately after the jam.
Cooking with Emily, her mother, Joy, lovely daughter, Cela, and meeting local publicity guru, Catherine Bangel, kiddies also in tow, was such a pleasure on this day celebrating three iconic regional Canadian Newfoundland recipes. This is my kind of fun!
Partridgeberry Jam: Meet Emily Mardell from Choose Food First at GetJoyfull!
It was with the passionate launch of Emily Mardell;s “GetJoyfull: Fill up on Family Time” project and site via Social Media in February 2017 that I first took note of this energetic gal and her little daughter, Cela. The more I followed her, I began to realize, she was singing my song. Of course, older, so out of tune, and in partial retirement, I found it rejuvenationg to watch Emily connect with so many local Canadian food heros within our community as she worked on her goal to educate, empower and inspire Cela, and all of us to “Fill up on Family Time” and have a joyful relationship with food. I am her new number one fan. The thoughtful work she is doing is so important. She is making it happen.
Emily grew up in a closely knit family focused on living an active healthy lifestyle in Gillams Newfoundland, near Corner Brook. Time in the kitchen with her grandmother, “Gigi”, and her mother, Joy, were cherished moments for her as she loved her grandmother’s family stories and kitchen secrets. As her mother, Joy Burt, is a two time World Power Lifting Champion and the first female inducted into the Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer Hall of Fame, Emily learned goal setting, discipline and perseverance from a very young age. She also witnessed the powerful affect that living an active healthy lifestyle has upon a child within such a family, and has been working to promote exactly that through her newest venture, “GetJoyfull: Fill up on Family Time” .
She attended Memorial University in St. John’s, first studying biochemistry and neuroscience. After graduating with her Degree from there, she went on to complete post-graduate studies. Eventully, the compelling trifecta of her three loves – food, science and education – propelled her into her present career: Registered Dietitian.
Landing, feet firmly planted on the ground, in Medicine Hat, Alberta, at her first Dietitian position with Public Health, Emily fell in love with community work and dedicated herself to sport and family nutrition. A few years later, with the amalgamation of the Alberta Health Regions, she relocated to Edmonton and met Alex, also a world-class powerlifter, whom she married in 2013 and they now have daughter, Cela and son, Remi. To further nourish her community aspirations here, Emily started to develop her own brand: Get Joyfull.
Please make some time to pop over to her sites; she will inspire you to engage in your own joyful relationship with food!
- GetJoyfull @getjoyfull
- Welcome to the GetJoyfull Adventure, here.
- Bison Skirt Steak with Chef Chartrand, here.
- Carrot Raisin Softies with Cela, here.
Partridgeberry Jam: A Little About the Newfoundland Partridgeberry
The Partidgeberry spells H-O-M-E to Newfoundlers almost as much as the codfish. It is the crowning jewel crawling across marshy floors and bogs throughout the region in the fall. There is even a children’s book written about it: Partridgeberryies, Red Berries, Lingonberries, too! Of course, I bought the book. It still hasn’t arrived, but I cannot wait until it does!
First, thank you so very much to Sander, from Newfoundsander: Life in Newfoundland for sending me his Partridgeberry picking photos. It is not easy to find any images of the plant to see how it grows. I found a small photo on his site, but fortunately, he had more. Above, berries he has plucked by hand. Below, the berries sitting low to the ground near the bushes the berries were just harvested from. Though ripe in September, there is a Partridgeberry or Lingonberry Fruitworm that infects the fruit, and the locals “theoretically” wait until the worm dies from the cold of the first frost. usually around the 12th of September every year. However, there are some local rebels, present company included, who venture forth to get their bounty before the “Official Government Announcement” that it is now “safe to pick the Partridgeberries”. Yes, there is even a government Partridgeberry picking announcement. These berries are as special to Newfoundland as the Saskatoon Berry is to the Canadian prairies sans government guidance. “They are not easy to pick, either,” Joy adds. You can’t shake them off on a blanket the way we pick blueberries. Like the blueberry, they grow low to the ground, but in marshy bogs and must be individually plucked off the branch. Different from picking Saskatoon berries as they are easily released in clusters from the branch and not backbreaking. Berry picking, no matter level of difficulty, is always a labour of love. The Partridgeberry, this jam, the regional Canadian food traditions within Emily’s Newfoundland family, are most definitely steeped in love.
I truly did not imagine they would be so low to the ground. Mind you, I hadn’t see wild blueberries until I was in Tatamagouch, Nova Scotia, in 2014, as well. Though not in season at the time, just seeing the bushes was novel. These little berries cling tenaciously to their stem. They do grow in small clusters, yet when plucking, it is a one by one process. Joy said that a good haul would be 5 gallons if there were 2-3 of you picking. Considering that would take a good few hours and they sell for 10-15 dollars a gallon out of the backs of cars in parking lots and the like, many people no longer treck out for the experience and family time. Fifty to seventy-five dollars for 5 gallons of berries versus a good few hours of hard work? Some clearly choose to buy them.
Me? I’m a berry picker. Born and raised. When it’s the season, I’ve got to be out picking berries. However, I don’t have nearly the stamina I used to have, sadly. But desire? Oh my. I have a few truckloads of that. Wish I could pass it on to the next generation! There is very little information about this berry available. The Dark Tickle Company which is impossible to miss when visiting Newfoundland, as every gift store sells their jams, writes: “Partridgeberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea). Partridgeberries are internationally known as lingonberries. This relative of the cranberry family is a low mat forming evergreen shrub with tiny rounded leaves. These berries grow in the dry, acidic soils of Newfoundland and Labrador’s barrens and coastal headlands. Their flowers have a pinkish hue in bud then turn white as they bloom in mid-June to mid-July. The flower ovaries gives rise to a single dark red berry ripening through September’s frost. Tart in flavour they are high in vitamin C, tannin, anthocyanin, and antioxidants. ” I also learned through reading that some prefer to pick the berries in the late fall, as frosts creates a sweeter berry. Sander prefers picking in the Spring as “the berries are almost pure juice.” Below, you will view an incredible video Emily took with her daugher Cela while visiting home in the fall of 2017, after we made our jam together.
Partridgeberry Jam: Project 2017, Valerie in the Kitchen with you!
Some women like to shop or go to the spa. I love to cook in my kitchen with a friend – or someone learned who has a recipe to share, and a story to tell. Essentially, I want to glean heritage and traditional recipes – the best of the best – from our oldies and goldies that have so much experience in their heads. I want to cook with our babas and nonnas and grandmas and grandpas and learn to make what they are known for, or famous for, and share it with my readers. This is not exclusive to our elders, but definitely with them in mind. Of course, many, many younger folk, like me, for example, have much to share, as well.
Emily Mardell is participating in this project. It all started with her posting something about Toutons on her Instagram page. “Toutons! I want to learn to make them! Can you teach me? Will you participate in my project?” Oh, I sounded so needy and desparate, I am sure. I was. I visited Newfoundland in 2014 and have wanted to learn how to make them, Partridgeberry Jam and fry Cod Tongues, as well as a host of a whole other Newfoundland regional delights ever since. There she was. Right in front of me on my phone. Didn’t know her at all. Clearly, completely undaunted. Her response? So warm. So positive. I was dancing. But, that is only half of this story. She wrote to me when I was in Salt Lake City right after precious little baby granddaughter Eleanor was born this past Spring to tell me her mother was coming for a visit and “could she participate in the Touton making”? Participate? Yes! What else can she teach us? Can she bring Partridgeberries? The rest isn’t just history, but the beginning of a beautiful friendship with Emily’s mom, Joy. What fun we had in the GetJoyfull Kitchen at Kanvi Homes together making the Toutons, this jam and – yup, Cod Tongues, too! Just you wait!
If you would like to, please let me know!
- Project 2017: Cooking in the Kitchen With… Completed Project Posts here.
- Project 2017: Cooking in the Kitchen With… Cooking Schedule is here.
- Project 2017: Cooking in the Kitchen With… PARTICIPATE!
Partridgeberry Jam: Making the Jam
Mis en place, above. Three simple ingredients: berries, water, sugar. No pectin required.
I love you, Joy Burt! You broght a big bag of glistening frozen Partridgeberries on the plane to Edmonton from Newfoundland! Thank you! Thank you! What a long awaited reintroduction to this precious Canadian berry. The one I popped into my mouth immediately knocked upon my Newfoundland memory door. I was back in Trinity. Just for a moment. A wash of calm deeply seated nostalgia sizzled through to my last Partridgeberry taste memory and awakened it. HELL-O! Yes. YES. Oh. MmmmMmmy! Closed eye savor. Lip smackin’ lovely. Thank you, dear Joy.
Unless you have been there, it is difficult to understand the power of this berry. There is little frame of reference for those never tasting this berry to discern its flavour and its appealing sparkly unique berriness. I have described the flavour of our Saskatoon berry with much greater finesse, but I have much more experience with its taste. Yet, the powerful taste memory of this berry brought me such joy that it left me longing and yearning for a reunion.
Six cups in the pot. About half the bag Joy brought with her. In Newfoundland, “They go for about 10 to 15 dollars a gallon,” says mom, Joy. “Oh, and there’s 12 cups to a Newfoundland gallon!”, we joked, as there were 6 cups in the pot and she said it was about ½ a gallon with 20 cups in a true Canadian gallon.
It was the Touton that got this ball rolling, but it is the Partridgeberry I am showcasing first, as it is Emily’s favourite gift from home, my greatest regional taste memory from my time there, and certainly an iconic Canadian berry that deserves more than a little national hoop-la!
Emily’s mom, Joy Burt.
Above, Emily snuggles into mom Joy, peaking over her shoulder as she so rarely gets to cook with her now. They are definitely a team, and you can see in Joy’s expression that she’s not too sure if Emily’s there to learn from mama or to offer her some input. Ha! I am all too familiar with the evolution of the mother-daughter relationship in the kitchen with my own two adult gals. Either way, cooking in the kitchen together is such fun and so meaningful. Passing cherished family recipes on to those you love creates that strong family identity and the stories that inevetably accompany the experience or evolve through it are retold throughout the generations, binding those that came before to us through our family food.
Joy has only 2 tablespoons of water and her berries in the pot working to bring them to a boil.
She is the Partridgeberry Whisperer.
Some of the berries have burst, the liquid is bubbling and thickening. Time to add the sugar.
Look at that consistency. It is a loose gorgeous mass.
She put a little in a cool bowl just to be sure the consistency was right for adding sugar.
The berries are extremely puckery at this point. Emily likes her jam to be sweetened very moderately. Joy thought 2 cups sugar to 6 cups berries would be the right amount for Emily’s Partridgeberry Pucker and knowing jams are often cup to cup sugar to berry, I was certain she was right.
However, it was perfect. A little puckery, but not the kind Emily was hoping for. Less sugar for “The Pucker”.
Ah, proud mama! Emily at the helm, sporting the apron she cherishes from grandma, Gigi. It used to be her grandma’s and was given to her. A precious family heirloom that she wears whenever making a “Gigi inspired” family recipe.
Done. The berries look a little lifeless above, but you have seen how plump and precocious they are on the Touton. Give them a minute.
Partridgeberry Jam: Potting the Jam
Steaming hot into sterilized jars through the funnel. Easy.
Be sure to follow the proper instructions if you want to preserve and store this jam. We are just making it to use right away, yet ours will last properly sealed up to 6 months, if refrigerated.
Now the magic happens. This is the time that Joy passes her regional family recipe, and one of Emily’s very favourites, on to Cela through their time potting the jam.
Mom and daugher are focused and completely immersed in this experience that has likely been part of their family for generations.
Now, Joy shares her childhood Partridgeberry making stories with Cela, and so it goes…. already, she is also completely smitten with the berry, the experience, the story and the family time together. The sense of accomplishment I used to feel after a couple of days picking and preserving is what brings me back to this process at this time of year, year after year. I am certain that I can see into Cela’s future… and making Partridgeberry Jam with grandma Joy during each of her visits will likely become a family tradition, if it isn’t already. Then, eventually, with her own children, just as mommy Emily has done.
Six cups of berries and 2 cups of sugar yielded 6 cups of jam and Emily very generously sent me home with the 2 large jars. I really didn’t put up much of a fight.
Oh, my. Look at Nans Bread! It is definitely ready for us to make Toutons, but first, let’s taste the jam!
Partridgeberry Jam: Tasting the Jam
Of course we could not wait to make the Toutons to taste this jam! Food made together and at home is so gratifying. I love tastings, too. Great little vocabulary lessons for kiddies.
Oops! Maybe it is a little bit puckery after all?
I don’t really think so. The tasting was so much fun, the first jar was almost emptied before the Toutons were even made!
Partridgeberry Jam: Preserving Our Canadian Regional Food Culture
And so it goes. From mama to daughter to daughter… and grandma to grandaughter. How blessed we are to have the bounty we do in our great Canadian landscape. My heart is with Joy. My daughter and grandchildren live so far away, as well. When we cook together, it isn’t everyday, anymore. These moments are precious. Cherished. And memories that will be shared and passed on through the generations with those we love. At least, that is our hope. That is why we do what we do.
Recipes from Project 2017: Cooking with Emily Mardell
Homemade Partridgeberry Jam
Add Partridgeberries and water to heavy saucepan; heat slowly till berries begin to burst and release juices.
Cook over medium-low heat till thickened; about 10 minutes); add sugar.
Stir till dissolved; Increase heat to hard boil for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly and skimming foam.
Test thickness on a plate: ladle into sterilized mason jars and seal; refrigerate until ready to use.
Instructions for the Thermomix
Weigh berries and water into TMbowl; heat for 10 minutes at 100F Reverse speed 2 with the simmering basket over the hole in the lid
Weigh sugar into berry mixture inside TMbowl; heat for 5 minutes at Varoma (so the berries are boiled at Varoma for 2 minutes) Reverse speed 2 with the simmering basket over the hole in the lid
Test thickness on a plate: ladle into sterilized mason jars and seal; refrigerate until ready to use.
In the "old days", when you and I were young, these berries were made into vast batches of jam and canned fruit to be preserved over Winter. Now, they are fast frozen freshly picked, and small batches of jam are made, as needed.