When you eat seasonally, you begin to look forward to simple pleasures such as fresh picked asparagus and sun-ripened strawberries with childlike anticipation. And for us, the ripening of the strawberries also marks the beginning of the season of “putting up” when we squirrel away food for the coming winter.
We have hopes of expanding our strawberry patch at home to meet our family’s needs, though our weeder geese thwarted the last attempt by going along a 90 foot row of newly planted strawberry plants and neatly plucking out every one. Permacultural glitch. We’ll try again.
So, we made our annual pilgrimage to a local PYO strawberry patch. In recent years, Green Truck Farm in Markham, Virginia has become our favorite. Brian and Georgia Green maintain one of the most beautiful strawberry patches I’ve ever seen, and the picking is great! That is important when you are trying to get a lot to put up. I’ve been to farms where the strawberry patch was so weedy we had to hunt for the berries, and once I was not vigilant enough and got to the patch late in the season when it was quite picked over. It’s no fun to spend hours just trying to get a few quart boxes filled. This year at Green Truck, the kids and I were able to pick about 100 lbs of juicy, sweet strawberries in about 3 1/2 hours–now that was fun, not drudgery.
When local fruits are in season, it’s serious (but fun) business for us to get them picked and put up. We came home from our strawberry picking adventure and the kids helped me freeze strawberries for winter breakfast smoothies, can strawberry jam, and dry strawberry fruit leather. Soon it will be time to do the same with blueberries, peaches, raspberries and blackberries, and then apples. Local fruit is awesome.
Here is our favorite simple recipe for strawberry jam:
2 heaping quart boxes of Strawberries (about 3 lbs topped & washed or 6 cups coarsely pureed)
1/4 cup Lemon Juice (preferably organic)
2 tablespoons Pomona’s Universal Pectin & 2 tablespoons Calcium Water
1 cup Sucanat or 2/3 cup Honey
This recipe can be doubled, but don’t make a batch any larger than that or the jam may not gel properly.
Fill canner 1/2 with water and start heating. Wash 6-8 half-pint jelly jars and new lids and place them in the oven set to 225 degrees. Wash strawberries and remove the leaves. Coarsely puree them in a blender or food processor. Measure 6 cups of strawberry puree into a stockpot. Add the lemon juice and calcium water and stir well. Heat to a boil while stirring frequently to prevent scorching. In a separate bowl, combine the sugar and pectin, then add them to the strawberries and stir to thoroughly dissolve. Boil, while stirring, for 1-2 minutes. Turn off heat. Carefully take the hot jars and lids from the oven. Use a canning funnel to fill each jar up to 1/4 inch from the rim. Wipe rims clean if needed and screw on lids (while wearing oven mitts). Place hot filled jars into boiling water in the canner, making sure the tops of the jars are covered by at least 1 inch of water. Once the water has returned to a rolling boil, process the jam for 10 minutes, then remove to cool. Once jars have completely cooled, remove the lid bands and check the lids for a proper seal (store the jars without the bands on). Rinse and dry jars, label, store and enjoy within 2 years.