Strawberries are in season – yay!May 29, 2007
Last Tuesday I bought four pints of organic strawberries at the Farmer’s Market. I find it a challenge to know when to buy local, pesticide sprayed produce and when to buy distant organic produce. I refuse to buy raspberries from Chile! How can we spend money on jet fuel to fly raspberries from the other side of the globe in the off season? So I am always happy when my own garden begins to yield vegetable delights and the local Farmer’s Market begins to gear up.
With those four pints we had strawberries and cream for breakfast a few days. I made a huge strawberry pie with a real butter and flour baked pie crust and whipped cream and we snacked on the left overs.
Today – feeling ambitious and a bit greedy – dreaming of winter, long cold nights with a fire in the fireplace – I bought TEN pints of strawberries to make organic jam. I made half-pints of freezer jam that isn’t cooked so the strawberries are ultra fresh. I used liquid pectin and tons of sugar to get it to jell. Then I made a batch with the low-methoxyl citrus pectin. My favorite brand is Pomona’s. What is so great about this pectin is that you can use no sugar, or you can use honey, or you can use sugar. It jells no matter how incompetent the cook! Fool proof!
Lifting those ruby jars out of the boiling water bath make me feel like a wealthy queen! Who needs jewels when the pantry has home made jam?
I learned about this low sugar method from my ancient Rodale’s book on preserving just about anything. After my son was born I canned everything from the garden – and also filled a 13 cubic foot freezer – and also dehydrated tomatos, onions, and peppers. I doubt it saved us any money – but it sure made being a full time mom a lot of fun. Work took a lot of the joy out of canning. When I worked – I used to can tomatoes on labor day. It was a running joke that on labor day – I labored over a hot stove.
The woman who really inspired me to make preserves is Anna Thomas – the Vegetarian Epicure. Her description of jars of bottled summer on her shelves made winter so much more friendly. She taught me to make Indian (from India) food. I learned of delicate tea sandwiches. She was so alive and real as I read through her recipes. The vegetarian epicure book two is one of my most cherished and well used cook books on my shelf. I have her newer books – but I just adore this version from 1978.
So if strawberries are in season where you live – why not preserve a bit of late spring and make some jam? In January you will be glad you did!