Saturday morning I woke early, made myself a cup of coffee and ventured out to a local you-pick farm to gather strawberries. Nestled at the end of the valley, surrounded by the foothills of the Bridger and Gallatin mountains, I filled my baskets.
Picking strawberries is like a treasure hunt — gently folding back lush foliage to find clusters of jewel-red berries nestled in the shadows. And even though my baskets overflowed, there were more and more and more glistening in the sunlight, luring me down the rows. I finally had to pull myself away, collect my bounty and head home. I froze the majority — capturing sunshine for midwinter smoothies.
But almost of their own accord, one batch of berries hopped into a pot to become jam.
It’s more of a compote than a jam — loose, full of chunky berries, and not too sweet.
I have a jar of wooden spoons on the counter next to my stove and each has its own personality — just right for certain jobs. One of the spoons came from my Grandma’s old kitchen when she moved into her current home.
Whenever I use it I think of all I’ve learned from her, of all the deliciousness that has come from her kitchen, and everything I make with it tastes better because of it. I love that it is slightly asymmetrical from stirring and that it’s just the right size and length… just right for tasting strawberry preserves, still warm, straight from the pot.
If you’re interested:
Summer Strawberry Preserves
8 cups strawberries — de-greened, small ones left whole and larger ones quartered
3/4 cup sugar
* Combine in a non-reactive pot, stir gently, cover and let sit for 30 to 120 minutes. This gives the strawberries time to release their juices so there is no need to add any liquid and dilute the berry’s flavor. It gives you time to hang a load of laundry on the line or read a chapter in your fun-summer-reading book or play a game with your dog or child or significant other…
* Turn heat to med-low, uncover and let simmer until thick. I am notorious for forgetting about jam and mine went from about 8 cups to about 3 cups in quite a few hours (like I said, I lost track of time), but it is thick and rich and lovely. You can let yours cook until it is just right for you, but on low heat, expect to let it simmer for at least an hour or two. It is very low maintenance — I think I stirred mine twice.
* Preserve preserves in jars (you’ll want to boil the jars for 10-15 minutes to seal them), or freeze, or eat over vanilla ice cream, or in a tart, or with a spoon. This recipe can be scaled in either direction and, as always, adjusted to suit your tastes.
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This year I got tired of sullying my jewel-like preserves with scrawling labels scribbled on the lids with sharpee, so I made some labels of my own. They’re in the SHOP for you as well!
September is my big preserving month, but I know it’s coming soon for many of you in warmer climates. If you are elbow deep in canning and looking for the perfect labels, look no further.