Agarita (Agarito,Berberis trifoliata, wild currant, or desert holly) is one of my favorite fruit producing bushes. One of the reasons I like it is that it is easy to recognize with its holly-like pointy evergreen gray-blue leaves. It can grow up to 6 feet tall and is found in Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. It is very common in the Texas Hill Country and South Texas so in a good year you will have no trouble finding plenty of fruit. This year I had to look harder for the fruit since the drought seemed to dry up some of the fruit. It seems that in many parts it is practically the most common plant since deer do not prefer its spiny leaves. It produces a tart red fruit in late April and May that makes a beautiful red tasty jelly, in addition to pies, and drinks. Some people use part unripe berries and part ripe berries to make the jelly without adding pectin. The big trick in making this jelly is picking and cleaning the fruit. Some people put old umbrellas under the bush and then hit the plant with sticks to make the berries fall. I use a large tarp, leather gloves, and a small plastic bag. I put down the tarp, put on the gloves, then pull the berries off while holding the plastic bag. The bag adds extra protection for the gloves and my hands. I then strip each branch of the berries. Obviously this only works well if the bush is loaded with ripe or mostly ripe fruit because everything comes onto the tarp, including insects, sticks and leaves. You will then spend time sorting out the insects, sticks, and leaves. You will need to rinse the berries several times to get out the small debris. Some people cook the berries with much of the debris but I don’t care to do that. With about 2 quarts of berries you will need to add enough water to cover all the fruit. Let it boil until the berries have absorbed the water. I then use my trusty potato masher to mash up the berries. I then place small amounts at a time into my food mill and crush the berries. The resulting liquid and pulp I pour into my cheese cloth/sieve. The result is 4 four cups of liquid.
3 cups sugar
1 box of No-Sugar Needed Fruit Pectin
Boil juice, adding the sugar. When it is back to a boil stir in the pectin. Bring to a full boil for a minute. Cool and pour into freezer containers. Freeze the jelly until you want to serve it.