Friday, August 9, 2013

Summer Fruit

Nora Blackbird from Nancy Martin's Blackbird Sisters mysteries

Before my parents went bust and fled the country for a warmer climate where they could practice their ballroom dancing---and avoid prosecution for tax evasion---we lived in luxury at Blackbird Farm, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.  There was always champagne on ice in case a party broke out.  Romantic candles were kept on hand and hastily lit when friends dropped by—the better to hide peeling paint and cracks in the plaster. And Daddy always answered the door looking elegant in a moth-eaten dinner jacket that had belonged to his grandfather.

But when nobody was around to see, we practiced all manner of penny-pinching. In July, we cranked our own ice cream---peach was my favorite.  In August, we sneaked into the stern farmer’s field across our country road to find a few ears of sweet corn for dinner. During these hot weeks of summer, though, I am most reminded of the steam that boiled out of pots on the kitchen stove where Mama canned vegetables from our weedy garden (it was too much work to pull the weeds) or boiled fruit for jam. But first Daddy took my sisters and me on “adventures” into the woods where we played pirates and picked berries---wild blackberries and currants and wild strawberries. Daddy sent my sister Emma---the smallest of the Blackbird Sisters—to creep under a fence to scavenge blueberries from bushes dutifully planted by our country mouse neighbors. She always came back with a full bucket, grinning with delight at her crime.

This summer I am trying my hand at making jam—keeping on the right side of the law, however.  For some reason, though, it’s not as intensely sweet and flavorful at the jam my mother made.  Maybe I need to wear her Gucci turban to keep the steam out of my hair.  Or I should find the Revolutionary War-era wooden spoon she used to stir the hot concoction. Am I remembering my childhood as sweeter than the present?  Or have I simply not found the right recipe for the foods that came off the farm where I grew up---and where I now make my home again?

What’s the recipe you remember most from your childhood? I think mine is currant jelly. No, wait—maybe Mama’s blackberry pie.  Or the canned asparagus we used to make in the spring.  I can’t decide. How about you?


Read Nora Blackbird’s latest adventure in LITTLE BLACK BOOK OF MURDER, the 9th Blackbird Sisters Mystery, by Nancy Martin, available in stores now.  Read the first chapter here:

Or take a tour of Nora Blackbird’s world on Pinterest:


  1. I love this series. I discovered it a few years ago and couldn't quit until I finished the whole series. Then for a while there were no more....Now I'm in Blackbird heaven with another new one this month. :) Thanks Nancy

  2. Thank you, Sue! If not for reader agitation to write more, I might have stuck with the choice of ending the series. It was nice to hear from so many readers!

  3. Hi Nora!

    Welcome to Killer Characters. My dad and mom still put up veggies from their garden. I love the result, but am happy I'm no longer required to participate in the actual process. That was hard, hot work! ;)


  4. Skye, darling, long time no see! I was going to put on my apron and do some canning this month, but..........something came up. When can we have lunch?

  5. It's not a recipe, but garden tomatoes while they're still warm from the sun were especially delicious.

    1. Willow, I just hit the farmer's market this afternoon. Mmmmmm!

  6. Strawberry Shortcake!! and no recipe, but watermelon, icy cold and eaten in the back yard so we could spit the seeds.

  7. Mary, did you put salt on your watermelon? When I was a kid, we sat on the back porch (to spit the seeds) with a salt shaker. That seems ridiculous now, but---oh, wow!

  8. Mmm my mother used to make great rhubarb. What I buy in the store is never as good.