Foodways

Agarita Jelly

Agarita is a Texas bush with sweet red berries protected by spiny leaves. The informant describes the family procedure for collecting and using the berries:

“To get enough berries to make jelly, you lay a blanket around the base, then hit the bush with a stick so that all the berries fall off. Old ladies used to then put all the collected berries in an apron, then toss them up to let the wind blow away all the debris, while the berries fall back down into the apron. My mom at some point decided to set up a fan on our porch, so we could just pour the berries from one bucket to another and not have to worry about tossing them. The fan worked much better.”

The recipe:

5 1/2 pounds agarita berries (late May)

1 1/2 cups of water

1 box of Sure-Jel

7 cups of sugar

Crush fruit with a potato masher, add water, cover, simmer for 10 minutes, and crush again. Strain, measure out 5 cups of juice, add 1 box of Sure-Jel, and bring to full rolling boil. Add 7 cups of sugar, bring to full rolling boil for 1 minute, then pour into jars.   Use water bath to sterilize jars and seal lids.  Yields around 4 pints.

Agarita berry collecting May 2010-2395 Agarita collecting 5-31-10-2381

This folk recipe is made from a plant which grows in a very specific geographic area, mostly in Texas, and it’s interesting that throughout time the practice has evolved with new technology available (the fan), allowing for more jelly to be produced. Even living in Texas I’ve never seen agarita jelly sold at the store, so it’s interesting that it’s mostly a small family process passed down, and was never commercialized.

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