"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Makin' That Jam...(More Good Neighbors)

Today the kids and I went over to Boxx Berry Farms (on Northwest Road) and picked 25 pounds of strawberries in about twenty minutes. I've been working at the migrant worker camps lately interpreting for some folks, and so I knew that the strawberry harvest officially began on monday. And some of the people I spoke to told me that it's always best to harvest strawberries at the beginning of the season rather than waiting. The quality is much higher. I would have gone yesterday, but it was raining.

Boxx's U-pick strawberries are all organic, and the price is $1.75 a pound - up from $1.50 last year, but still a pretty good deal. There were plenty of beautiful, perfectly ripe berries. The 25 pounds we picked was about three full flats. After eating as many as we could all stomach, Rowan and I lightly washed them - just to get the dust off. These organic berries don't need much scrubbing. Nor can they stand it; anything more than a quick shower and they would turn to mush. Then we de-stemmed them, laid them on cookie sheets, and froze them solid in the chest freezer. I still have to bag the frozen berries. If you are in a major hurry, you can simply bag and freeze, but then they will lose coherence and freeze in one solid lump, which you will later have to break up with a hammer and chisel. Discrete berries are much nicer.

Between eating and freezing, we polished off a flat and a half. We can't eat the rest of them before they deliquesce, so I am making some jam. I've never had much luck with jellies or jam. I just can't get it to jell. I've tried pectin, low sugar pectin, cut up unripe apples, just about everything, and I end up with syrup with fruit chunks in it. This time I am sticking with the good old Joy of Cooking recipe, which calls for strawberries and sugar and nothing else. If it fails to jell, I'll simply turn it into strawberry cordial by the judicious addition of 100 proof vodka and bottle it in small corked bottles for Christmas presents.

Oh I just realized I utterly forgot to write about my good neighbor Mrs. B. She and her husband live down the road and are an old time local farming family, mostly beef cattle. Last fall we bought a half steer from them and were delighted with the quality. Mrs. B. is a fine seamstress as well as a farm wife, a pillar of the local community, and a very nice lady.

This morning she stopped by for a dozen eggs. Normally she has her own, of course, but as it happens this year she started over with new chicks and they won't be laying until about September. I only had about eight eggs, for reasons I shall enumerate in another post (damn broody hens!), and so I just gave them to her. "Take them," I said, "there aren't enough to charge you for."

"Are you sure," she asked, "won't you be short?"

"No, no," I said, "I haven't gathered yet today. I'll have plenty."

"Well allright then," she said, and headed out the door. But she turned back on the porch and asked me, "would you like some canning jars? I have a big box in my garage that I'm not using."

Well, a lady can never have too many canning jars. I have a fair supply, mostly wide-mouth quarts, but like I said, there's no such thing as too many. I accepted with gratitude and now I am the proud owner of some forty small-mouth pint jars. Which is great! Especially for today - you can't can jam in quart jars. Well, I suppose you can, but pints are much nicer.

Now if my jam will ever thicken, I'll be in business.


Olive said...

When my jam doesn't jell Aimee I cut up a lemon and boil it with the jam mixture for a while, It usually does the trick but I'm not sure if it would work with strawberry jam.
Isn't it lovely to have nice neighbours?

spinnersaw said...

Have you ever tried Pamona Pectin? You can use as much or as little sugar as you want with it. Looks expensive first glance, but you can put up about 3 batches of jam with each box. Check it out when you have time, you might like it. I find it on line and at Whole Foods.

TH in SoC said...

I got your comment on my post on earth construction. Thank you very much. If you don't mind my asking, is your family planning to move permanently to Mexico? What do you think the prospects are for average citizens in the United States over the next several years? Does your husband have any thoughts on the relative health or dysfunction of present-day American culture?

Aimee said...

Those are complicated questions except for the first - no we don't plan to move permanently but we want to spend a couple of years while our children are young (they are 7 and 6) so they will know their Mexican family better and be truly bilingual and bicultural. As for the rest, I will write at more length later- do you have an e mail address you'd like to send it to?

Anonymous said...

No-pectin is definitely the way to go! 3 qt berries + 3 c sugar + 1/4 c lemon juice. Just cook it until it's thick - to check, just put a drop on a frozen plate, wait thirty seconds, and tilt the plate. If it's still runny, cook a little longer.