I don’t know what came over me, but I had made up my mind that I was going to make strawberry preserves. It could have been the preemptive email from the farm that is hosting my CSA saying that members would not be getting any fruit this week in our box because “strawberry season has ended and we are waiting for the blackberries and blueberries to ripen.”
Wait….what? strawberry season has already ended?
The pick-your-own farm that I have frequented on many field trips with my kids didn’t even open until May 25th, so how can that be so? I visited their web site and was delighted to see that strawberry picking was, at present, fair. The web site also stated that strawberry picking was expected to end next week. My mother and I used to make strawberry preserves together when I was growing up. I have memories of picking berries together in our younger years. In later years, I would do the picking and we would make the jam in her kitchen together. A labor intensive affair of constant cleaning, hulling, and stirring at the stove top-all which must be done within 24 hours or so of picking so that the berries don’t go bad. The last time I picked strawberries to make preserves, my mother was sick with cancer. I kept my oldest daughter out of school to help me and we picked two large boxes, only to have them rot when my mother passed away later that same day. After twelve years, I decided this was the year to continue the tradition.
I headed out to the farm as soon as I put my youngest on the bus. It was already 83 degrees on a day that promised to reach 95 degrees. I started picking, an elderly man in the next row moving much more efficiently than I since he scooted directly on the ground up the row whereas I was afraid of bugs (I saw not one, not even a bumblebee!) and bent down on haunches. I lost steam quickly this way, in the heat, but managed to pick 5 1/2 pounds. My car smelled heavenly on the drive home from the farm.
You don’t have a strawberry huller from Williams Sonoma? Well, good grief, you must have one if you love strawberries and make lots with them. This inexpensive tool grabs the stem and pulls it out in three seconds. I hated hulling the berries when I was younger, but I always chose that job versus stirring the cooking preserves because I could sit down to hull. Yep, I
was am lazy.
I used a lower sugar pectin to make the preserves, and followed the recipe on the box. I had some thought about eliminating the sugar altogether and using something else, such as agave nectar, but apparently the sugar is necessarily to the whole “jelling” process so I felt that if I could at least cut some of it…well, that was something. I used a paraffin seal on top of the preserves-a process my mother taught me. This eliminates the need to boil the jars or use a pressure cooker.