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you can buy your local strawberries

you can buy your local strawberries

 

hurry, season almost over!

...or pick your own as I did with my granddaughter

…or pick your own as I did with my granddaughter

Okay, no excuses here. Somehow the month of June has — or is — slipping past me all too quickly. Strawberries here in Connecticut were a bit late this year due to the cool spring. Then, the past week, we’ve had tropical summer temperatures. According to local farm stands, the berries will disappear within the next few days. So, here’s something that you can do to quickly capture the local strawberry experience all winter long. I stress local because in my taste bud’s opinion, there is simply no point in strawberries unless they are local and in season. The others may be beautiful, but they are generally all for show. Bred to be large, beautiful, and easily transported. Okay, enough sermonizing. Here’s the plan: strawberry freezer jam!

strawberry freezer jam — kid’s play

This really is a great activity to share with your favorite little one!

This really is a great activity to share with your favorite little one!

In my Can It! book, I have a recipe for strawberry freezer jam and tell how I used to make this with my kids when they were preschool age. Well, now I’m making it with my preschool grandkids. It’s that easy. I made a batch last weekend and timed myself. From start to finish — including all prep and clean up , everything back in its place and six lovely jars of jam waiting to freeze — took me about fifty minutes. That’s less time than going to the store to buy some jam. And the flavor of freezer jam is amazing. Because you don’t cook the berries, they keep their full, fresh, just-picked flavor. (Sounds like a commercial, doesn’t it, but it’s true.)

recipe for strawberry freezer jam

Yield: 5-6 half-pints Ingredients:

  • 2 cups mashed strawberries (just about a quart)
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1 box (1.75 oz.) dry pectin (such as Sure-Jell or Certo)
  • 3/4 cup of water (or the amount required on the pectin that you purchase)

method

  1. Thoroughly wash and rinse freezer containers. Straight-sided plastic in one- and two-cup sizes are best, but glass jelly jars can also be used as long as you leave sufficient head space, i.e, room at the top for expansion.
  2. Thoroughly wash berries and remove and compost stems. Cut in halves or quarters to make mashing easier.
  3. Measure exact amount of sugar.
  4. Mash the strawberries and measure exact amount. Do not use a blender, a potato masher is perfect. You want the jam to have some texture.
    4b: Here are the berries mashed up

    4b: Here are the berries mashed up

    4a. Mash the strawberries, one layer at a time. here I'm just starting.

    4a. Mash the strawberries, one layer at a time. here I’m just starting.

  5. Add the sugar to the mashed strawberries; stir until it’s mixed together, and let it stand for ten minutes.

    5. Stir until the sugar and berries are completely mixed. I've still got a ways to go here.

    5. Stir until the sugar and berries are completely mixed. I’ve still got a ways to go here.

  6. Dissolve dry pectin in water and boil for one minute.
  7. Add the pectin/water mixture to the fruit/sugar mixture and stir constantly for three minutes. The sugar should be pretty well dissolved, though you may see a few grains.

    8. Pouring jam into my jelly jars. I use my canning funnel to make it easier.

    8. Pouring jam into my jelly jars. I use my canning funnel to make it easier.

  8. Put the jam in straight-sided freezer containers, being sure to allow one-half inch headspace for expansion when frozen. Put top on containers.
  9. Let it stand at room temperature until set, usually twenty-four hours.
  10. Label and date. Store in refrigerator for three weeks or in freezer for up to one year. Trust me, you’ll eat them way before then! When ready to use, thaw in the refrigerator. When you spread it on your morning toast, you’ll be transported back to summer.
9. Let stand for up to 24 hours, until jam is set.

9. Let stand for up to 24 hours, until jam is set.

before

before: green tomatoes at the end of the season

Unless you are much farther south than I am, you’ve already had a killing frost. Hopefully, whether on the vine or on the window sill/vegetable bin/basement you have a cache of green tomatoes. While not the main ingredient, it can be one of the more challenging ones to find — if you don’t grow your own tomatoes or if you, like me, had a blight wipe out the tomatoes before the peppers were in full season. This year, against my conscience, I actually bought green tomatoes. The day before the first killing frost, I begged my local farm stand to get some of the green tomatoes for me.  I have made this relish, a recipe that I got from my sister, Suzy, many years ago, nearly every year. No matter how many jars I make, they are always gone at the end of the season. With their mixture of green and red peppers, they are perfect for holiday giving.

after

after: one of about 20 half-pints of green tomato relish

I’ll be honest. This is not the easiest canning project that you’ll endeavor. It takes two days: grind all the veggies the first day. Salt them and let them sleep covered in the basement. On day two, you rinse out the salt, make and can the relish. But this relish tastes just as good — possibly better — than in looks. Most definitely worth the effort. I have a nephew who has never asked me for anything, but unabashedly he asked that I give him the relish for Christmas. This year I did 1 and 1/2 recipes in hopes on not running out.

during

grinding the red peppers

There are two key cautions about the process of making the relish:

  • Use a meat grinder to grind the vegetables — NOT a food processor. It will build up your arm muscles and spray/drip vegetable juices all over your kitchen, but keep your mind focused on the end product, because it WILL be worth it.
  • On day two, rinse the vegetables very well with cool water. I put the relish in a large 16- or 21-quart pot and fill with water, then drain three times to make sure all of the salt is removed. Then I put the relish in an oversized cheesecloth and wring it out until practically dry. This ensures that your relish will not be too watery.

recipe for Aunt Suzy’s sweet holiday relish

Yield: 9 pints

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs yellow onions (4 C. ground)
  • ½ large cabbage (4 C. ground)
  • 10 large green tomatoes (4 C. ground)
  • 5 lbs total green and red bell peppers, about 10 green and 5 red (7 C. ground)
  • ½ C. pickling salt
  • 6 C. white sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. celery seed
  • 2 Tbsp. mustard seed
  • 1 ½ teas. turmeric
  • 4 C. cider vinegar
  • 2 C. water

Method

  • Wash and grind all vegetables in food grinder, or chop very finely. Do not put in food processor. Measure to stated amounts; drain excess liquids.
  • Place all vegetable in large pot, mix together. Sprinkle with salt; cover loosely with towel; set overnight.
  • Rinse vegetables thoroughly 2 times to remove all salt, draining well each time; place in several layers of cheesecloth and squeeze out water; set aside.
  • Combine remaining ingredients in large pot; boil 3 min; add drained vegetables; return to boil; simmer 3 min. Remove from heat.
  • Ladle hot relish in jars leaving ¼ in. head space. Add small amount of liquid if necessary to ¼ in. head space
  • Process 15 min. in boiling water bath

more great recipes and canning instructions

You’ll find this and other great recipes in my book Can It! published by BowTie Press, Inc.

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