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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.

don’t forget to look in your own backyard!

Comstock Ferre in Wethersfield, Connecticut

Comstock Ferre in Wethersfield, Connecticut

I was teaching my gardening class a few weeks ago for our town’s Parks and Rec department. The topic was “Banishing the Winter Blues, Dusting Off Your Green Thumb.” During the course of the evening, we talked about the various mail order seed companies. One student interjected, what about Comstock Ferre and Company? Wow, that was a major “Duh” moment. After lecturing about the importance of local eating and growing, how could I forget a treasure like the venerable (since 1811) local seed company in our own backyard. I’ve included a few pictures below from my visit yesterday, but my point here is to remind all to check for local resources and support them! Wherever you live, look around — ask around — Google around. What’s in your own backyard? Who are your neighbors who are producing and selling what you need. 

Comstock, Ferre & Co.

For those of you who are not from Connecticut, or who may not have heard of Comstock, this seed company was started over 200 years ago. It’s located in historic Old Wethersfield and is worth the visit even if all you do is look around and take in its Colonial ambiance. There are wonderful wide pine floors, wooden bins, and drawers full of seed packets and seed growing accessories, foods and crafts, and more. There’s a whole room full of antique equipment.  Here are a few glimpses of what you’ll find.

antique implements

antique implements

IMAG4186

and classes, too

seeds!

seeds!

Check out their website for their listing of spring classes. As a community service, nearly every Sunday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. they have a garden/food-related class. Topics are quite diverse and include themes such as organic gardening, spring greens, kitchen knives, lawn care, and more. And most classes are free! I went to one yesterday that they did in conjunction with Wind Hill Community Garden. Randel Agrella, Comstock’s very knowledgeable general manager, discussed “Everything You Wanted to Know about Seeds.”  It was great! Learned lots about heirloom seeds, seed starting, seed savings, and general gardening. He pointed out that with the right conditions (cool and dry) most seeds can easily last three years or more.

and more seeds!

and more seeds!

In the summer (August 4th) I’ll be doing a canning class there at 1:00 p.m. Be sure to come!

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