Monday, June 14, 2010

Better late than never

Strawberry season is over in these here parts, but I'm still going to talk about them. See, I took pictures and jotted notes for a post on the little lovelies but then time turned tail and ran and when I finally caught up to it, strawberries were done.

But these days I'm kind of frittered in my head, not sure what/how/why to write, so I'm going to toss out this little bit of old news any-old-how, in hopes that it gets my brainy (ha!) juices a-flowin'. Once I get this strawberry load off my chest, I hope I'll feel freed up to talk about other things, like, um, all my deep dark secrets (shh), or maybe just peas. (Which I picked this morning, after a spat with Mr. Handsome and before my coffee, and after all that I was rewarded with only a few pathetic handfuls of shelled green goodness. I'm feeling dubious about the whole pea-growing endeavor, so tell me, is it crazy to grow peas? Discuss, please.)


In the strawberry patch


Jam
My favorite recipe for strawberry jam is the basic freezer jam recipe, the one that comes in the pectin box.


I, however, buy my Dutch gel (same as sure-jell) in bulk and use ½ cup for each recipe.


This year I kept up my relationship with traditional jam and flirted with danger. My mother gave me two packs of low-sugar stuff to make freezer jam: the recipe called for four cups of mashed berries to 1 ½ cups sugar. The resulting jam was more preserve-like and less sweet (duh), but very delicious. Because it’s softer, it’s a great addition to plain yogurt, stirring in like a dream. (I forget the official name for The Stuff, thus the reason for my weird, hush-hush behavior.)

Freezer jam


Freezing

I employ three methods. All good, all different. Thus the reason there are three of them. See?

1. Crushed: mash up the berries, stir in a bit of sugar (one or two tablespoons per cup), spoon into containers (leaving room for expansion), label, and freeze.

2. Whole: spread topped berries on a rimmed cookie sheet that has been lined with wax paper, freeze for an hour, then dump all the berries into a big bag and return to the freezer. The berries don’t taste that great thawed but are excellent tossed into fruit smoothies in place of ice cubes.

3. Sliced: my favorite way to freeze berries is to top and slice them, pack them into plastic quart-sized containers, and sprinkle a scant quarter cup of sugar over top.


I label the lid “fresa” (Spanish for "strawberry") because it's faster to write and because I'm in no mood for making extra strokes by the time I'm packaging up the food.


And that's it for strawberries. One year I canned some (the resulting berries are gross-looking, only good enough for smoothies, but the juice is spectacular, dark red and clean-tasting), and I usually dry some---a full dehydrator load yields 2 1/2 quarts of dried strawberry slivers, delicious on granola or in baked goodies.


About one year ago: Swiss Chard Rolls.

11 comments:

  1. Oh YUM!! I *love* strawberries!! Our season is really short...like about 3 weeks...and it's just begun! YAAY!! Alas, none of said berries grow in our yard...I so totally want to change that unfortunate fact! :) ALL those lovely berries of yours look fabulous...do enjoy!

    Have a great day!
    Camille

    ReplyDelete
  2. 17 boxes of icecream? please explain.

    ReplyDelete
  3. What do you do with the sliced berries?
    I'm freezing crushed berries for the first time this year - going to follow ThyHand's suggestion and put it on top of baked oatmeal in dark winter.

    I've never grown peas, but I do think fresh peas are lightyears better than the frozen bags from the grocery store. Make them with new potatoes in a white sauce and a bit of ham. Oh my heavenly goodness. Recipe in More with Less. And I did blog about it too - http://thriftathome.blogspot.com/2010/06/perfect-spring-meal.html

    ReplyDelete
  4. All excellent ideas for fresa.

    The peas are grown for the children, mostly, no? I say give them free reign in the pea patch--it's the best snacking food they could have.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Dr. P, You'll have to ask her yourself, but I think the reason was pretty basic: the ice cream was on sale and she wanted to stock up. I do believe she succeeded.

    Margo, To use the sliced berries, I partially thaw them (they get all juicy from macerating in the sugar while on their way to freezing) and then spoon them over cereals, oatmeal, puddings, and ice cream, or add them to smoothies. Sometimes I'll use them to make a sauce, adding some more sugar and a little thickener prior to cooking.

    I've been thinking about peas and potatoes...

    Aimee, If it was a small crop of peas, yes, but I planted three loooong rows---way more than what can be consumed by four marauding children.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I'll weigh in on the pea question.
    I just finished picking my two rows and If I didn't know better, I would never grow them again!
    poor crop, hard work, depressingly small results.
    But I do know that some years they are marvelous so I keep plodding along. I put them up on wire this year and that was definitely a step forward- easier to pick.

    S-

    ReplyDelete
  7. I'm putting off the pea patch at this very moment. I can be soooooo industrious in all kinds of ways when there are peas to pick. I froze 3 quarts on Monday and we ate a good 6 cups along with a nice amount of new potatoes that I grubbed from the mother plants. Oh my!

    Now off to the pea patch on this overcast day. Can't get any nicer conditions for picking.

    Aunt V.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Peas: fun for kids to pick,shell, and eat off the vine (or eat the tendrils). Then there aren't enough for me to bother with, and I'm quietly grateful.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I'll weigh in on the pea issue. I planted 1/2 pound of hull peas and 1/2 pound of what was supposed to be sugar snap peas. The supposed snap peas grew much better than the hull peas and the flowers were a beautiful lavendar. Then they started producing and I found out that they too were hull peas. Not only that, but the grey in their name means that they turn a not so nice off green color when they cook and the cooking water is a dark brown. Sigh, I won't trust the sales person next time. I think I'll pull them all out on Monday. Oh and my other half pound sprouted and grew sporadically, so I'm not sure that I'll try again. But I do like fresh snap peas and it's nice to have a few packs of hull peas in the freezer for something different over the winter.

    On the upside, my children enjoy helping to shell them.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hi Jennifer Jo, font of wisdom and knowledge. It's the end of May here in San Francisco and my supermarket has fabulous strawberries at great prices. I've never done freezer jam -- or any kind of jam -- and thought I'd give it a go. Three questions:

    1. Can I use glass Ball jars? What about using a large plastic bowl?
    2. What do the sliced sugared strawberries taste like? How do you use them?
    3. How much freezer space do you have? Me, I have the freezer that lives on top of my fridge. So . . .

    Many thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  11. 1. Yes, just leave some extra space at the top so the jam has room to expand when it freezes. And yes, you may mix up the jam in a plastic bowl.

    2. Delicious! Over granola, cake, oatmeal, baked oatmeal, strawberry shortcake, ice cream, pudding, yogurt, etc.

    3. One over the fridge, an upright, and a chest.

    ReplyDelete