Archive for ‘food preservation’

June 26, 2011

Savoring the Season: Berries

Summer arrived this week, and as it does every year, reminded me that it is berry season.  I got up yesterday morning and decided it was a good day to head to a PYO for some berry picking.  Strawberry season came and went in a flash this year. It was cut short by rain last month, but I managed to pick enough for 5 1/2 pints of strawberry jam, and 4  1-gallon bags full for the freezer.  Blackberries and raspberries are ready for picking in our area, and I was eager to get both.  I still have a couple of jars of blackberry jam left over from last year, but I really wanted to try making raspberry jam this year.  My raspberry dreams were dashed as I was disappointed to learn that rain has destroyed the raspberry crop. Guess I will have to postpone my raspberry ambitions until next year.

Every year, my husband and I do some marathon berry-picking.  An afternoon of both of us picking can yield a year’s worth of berries which can be packed away in the freezer. Blackberries and blueberries freeze well.  You can freeze strawberries too; however, they don’t hold their shape well after thawing, but will still taste deliciously sweet and will be perfect on top of ice cream.  As soon as I get the berries home, I wash them, lay them out to dry and then pack them into freezer bags.  I know I am breaking the rule that you shouldn’t wash berries until you are ready to eat them, but when I am trying to rush out the door to work in the mornings, it is worth it to be able to stick a container into a bag and scoop out some frozen berries and go.  By the time I get to work, the berries have thawed and are ready to eat.  That is later in the year though. For now, we will eat fresh berries until the season ends.  There is nothing better than eating fresh-picked and locally grown fruit!

There is no science when it comes to berry picking.  Although for blackberries, if you squat down and look up into the bush, you may find the biggest, ripest berries hiding under leaves that go otherwise undetected.  I would also advise bringing a bottle of water and wearing sunscreen and a hat.  Find a row and settle in to pick for a several hours or all afternoon. You’ll thank yourself later on some cold, dreary January morning when you pull out a container of blackberries at work for a little taste of summer.

Next up, blueberries…hopefully.

May 15, 2011

Weekend Jam

The weather in our area had been gorgeous all week.  A multitude of sunny days with 70 degree temps strung together is more than anyone could ask for, except for maybe just one more pretty weekend.  The weekend finally arrived and with it, wet weather.  So, what do you do when Mother Nature throws you a curve ball and messes up your weekend outdoor plans?  Make jam, of course!

Strawberry season is underway, and berry picking is just getting started in our area, so I got up Saturday morning and drove out to my favorite PYO (Pick-Your-Own). As I approached the farm, I could see the field filled with people already picking.  The cool, drizzly weather and muddy fields didn’t keep people away.  They understand just how fleeting and precious strawberry season is, and that you have to take full advantage of it while it lasts.  Two days of rainy weather made for a very muddy patch, so it was a good thing I wore my wellies.  On days like Saturday, when I am mission-focused, I just put my head down and muscle my way through the task at hand.  There are other, more leisurely times when my husband and I will spend several hours at a PYO, and pick berries for the winter freezer stock up, but that’s another day, and another trip. There was jam to make Saturday, so I needed to get the picking done quickly, plus it was drizzling and I wanted to get back indoors. Just 30 minutes of picking gave me enough strawberries for my jam recipe with plenty leftover for us to munch on all week.

For my jam recipe, I needed 2 quarts of strawberries for 4 pints of jam.  I think I started the cooking process with the heat a bit too high, and the strawberry/sugar mixture boiled over.  Luckily, I was close by and was able to stop it but not before it made a huge mess on my stove top.  I ended up with 3 pints.  No matter; I am happy with the results.  Maybe I will make another batch next weekend, weather permitting.  For now, I guess I better get the stove top cleaned up. Ugh.

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