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small batch strawberry jam

I have no business writing a blog post right now. I’m up to my eyeballs in nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, Rachel Carson, and a solid debate on whether or not an abandoned orchard can be labeled as organic, thanks to the Stockbridge School of Agriculture.  Top that off with house prep (do thoughts about house prep count?), a full-time job with a lousy commute, a social schedule chock full of birthdays and weddings, and trying to fit being a mom and a wife in there (one that makes dinner and showers). This sounds like a whinge, but it is not. These are all happy things (aside from the commute, which is temporary), but a bit crazy overwhelming.

Sleep, some day you and I will get reacquainted. We’ll have quiet time together while the stars shine brightly, lingering well past the morning rays of sun cast on our comfortable bed.

Look, strawberry season is coming within the next week. This is important and worth a momentary break from thinking about the amount of phosphorus crops (berries included!) need and what kind and how soluble it is and where the best kind comes from (bones – ew). Insert a picture of crazy person here putting sticky notes up on the wall with the various elements and connecting strings illustrating their symbiotic relationships, A Beautiful Mind-style.

Real, cardinal red, juicy strawberries are coming to New England. Strawberries that make you ask yourself how on earth you’ve been eating the tasteless varieties from far away that are labeled organic and yet so deceiving, looking all shiny and pretty in the grocery store but white and mealy in the middle.

Eat the local ones naked and pure as a snack or add sugar and smother a biscuit with them to make strawberry shortcake. Add them to your pancakes and your smoothies and top off your yogurt and granola with them. Don’t stop, because this window is short and you’ll ache for it all year. You’ll overdo it. You’ll buy too many, maybe. Then what? What do you do with the ones that are looking less fresh, like they are doing the walk of shame?

walk of shame strawberry
Do not throw them away. Make jam.

First, cut any squishy parts off of your strawberries and quarter.

strawberry 1

Ingredients per one cup of chopped strawberries
2 tablespoons of water
4 tablespoons of sugar
1 heaping tablespoon of powdered pectin (this can be adjusted depending on how gelatinous you like your jam, but you really will need at least some pectin because this recipe is low on sugar)
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
one half of a vanilla bean* (pod cut in half and harvest the seeds inside)

* 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract can be used if you don’t have vanilla bean on hand, though I highly recommend keeping some around. It is addicting.

Add all ingredients except your pectin to a small pan. Let it boil and then reduce and simmer for a good ten minutes.

boiling strawberry jam

Add your pectin. Return to a low boil for a minute.  Pour into a jar.

You don’t need to process your jam if you are planning to eat it within the weeks following, but you will need to put it in the fridge right away. If you have enough to process, then you’ll want to increase the lemon juice a bit and follow water bath processing instructions, which you can find here.

If you are just making a batch for the fridge, then let me show you these beauties, which just arrived last week. I’ve become a complete canning geek and I’ve been obsessing over these Kilner jars. I finally caved in honor of strawberry season.

kilner clip top jar

DSC_0217

For those of you around Boston, here are just a few options for PYO, most of which are kicking off the strawberry season this weekend!

South
Sauchuck Farm in Plympton, one of the towns on our real estate watch list!
C.N. Smith Farm in East Bridgewater

North
Russell Orchards in Ipswich, which I’m partial to because the lovely farm manager took an hour from his life to let me interview him for my final paper last semester.

Boston Hill Farm in North Andover.

West
Tougas Family Farm in Northborough

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