Friday, May 23, 2014

Strawberry Fields Forever

Strawberry Fields Forever
There is no surer sign of spring turning to summer than when the red tidal wave of strawberries hits.  This week we’re getting strawberries!  Can you tell I’m a little excited?  Every year, I buy ridiculously more than I’ll ever need or use.  Why?  Do I really need to answer that?  We all (my wife, 5-year-old son, and I) eat them until we’re pretty much sick.  Let’s just say, during strawberry season, vitamin C intake isn’t a problem for us.
But when you do have more than you can use, or in my case way more than you can use, what are your options?  Preserves!  I know, I know, everyone’s intimidated about preserving.  I was at first, too.  Causing my family a slow, agonizing death by food poisoning isn’t high on my list of things to do, either.  With a little care, and follow the rules, your jars will fill with deliciousness and not disease.  For some basic reading, Ball’s website (they make jars) is very helpful.  There are a number of fantastic canning blogs around, too.  My favorite is Food In Jars.  Lots and lots of good recipes.
First, you need some jars and lids.  They’re easier to come by than you think.  You can get them from Amazon, or two really good local sources are the Ace Hardware in Old Town and the Shoppers right near Nalls.  For fruit preserves, you will mostly want half-pint jars, but pint jars work as well.  I don’t know about your house, but to eat a quart jar of preserves would take the three of us forever.  I also like using the Weck jars, which are popular in Europe.  World Market has a good selection.
Remember that everything needs to be sterilized before putting food in it, preferably as close to the time you fill them as possible.  To do this, the jars need to be completely submerged in water at a rolling boil for at least 10 minutes.  After filling, the jars are sealed by again immersing them in boiling water.  For most fruit preserves, 10 minutes is enough to seal the jar, but follow the instructions in the recipe.
My favorite way to make strawberry preserves is a just plain old-fashioned strawberry jam, with a little vanilla added to it.  Here’s the recipe.  (By the way, I bought the tall pot mentioned in the article and it’s one of the most useful things in my kitchen!)  I always make way more than we’ll eat, but they make great gifts.  My coworkers really appreciate a little flavor of summer as a Christmas present.
There’s an old saw that says, “Bakers can’t cook and cooks can’t bake.”  In my experience, there are very, very few who are both talented in and passionate about both.  I definitely fall on the cooking side, but I keep trying and trying.  Maybe one decade I’ll get the hang of baking.  But my strawberries went to make a “strawberry galette,” which is basically a free-form strawberry tart.  It was pretty easy and fantastically delicious.  I guess I just need more practice in rolling out dough and making it even and circular…

So what are you doing with your strawberries?

1 comment:

  1. I buy a flat a week and usually gift my neighbor or my nephew's family with a couple of baskets. The rest we slice and eat on pancakes, in salads, with yogurt and homemade granola, or if we get really ambitious we make some kind of shortcake-usually chocolate and grain-free. I never get tired of fresh strawberries! Also have a wonderful strawberry-carrot Bundt cake recipe that is always a hit. Great blog post!