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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.

blackberries–“luscious” doesn’t begin to describe these berries

You have heard me sing the praises of my own red raspberries, yes, and I’ve long enjoyed the wonderful blueberries that cover the hills in South Glastonbury, CT, but never  until this week have I experienced berries that were positively decadent.

on the way to the blueberries

We were at Belltown Hill Orchards, one of my very favorite PYO (pick your own) places in my area, with our grandsons, planning to pick their fantastic blueberries.  Usually we get to hop on their trailer and get a fun ride to the blueberry patch, but this day we were picking close to the store and just needed to wend our way through the blackberry patch to get to the blueberries.

row of blackberry bushes, beautifully tended, easy to pick

It was there that I was ambushed by a sight of such opulent abundance that I was stopped in my tracks. The blackberries were such as I had never seen, having only been exposed to the wild ones, which are large berries in their own right — certainly larger than red raspberries. Well, these cultivated blackberries looked like a snapshot taken from the Garden of Eden. The berries averaged in size easily over an inch and were dark, sweet, and sensuously juicy with almost a smokey undertone. Pop one in your mouth and your tongue is flooded with flavor. You pause for a moment and wonder if you are in an orchard or a vineyard for wine tasting.

so easy to pick!

I walked past the blackberries to make my way to the intended picking target: blueberries. They were wonderful as usual. In a short 30 minutes, the four adults and 2 children gathered about sixteen pounds. But I couldn’t resist the call of the blackberries. While the rest of the group stayed on task, I returned to the store for a different picking bucket and headed to the rows of blackberries.

a riot of berries

What a treat! Even if I didn’t ever eat any of them, just looking at them was a joy. How nature could produce such a joyous overabundance was amazing. But I did pick; I did eat; I was happy! I will return for more and have plans for a blackberry jam. Stay tuned.

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