Monday, June 22, 2009

Strawberry Love - Part 1

I'm sorry I haven't written, almost a month! While I have been baking, I've had no time to really take pictures so there was nothing to post, but I think I'll more than make up for it with this weekend's activities. My sisters, my nephew and I went Strawberry picking! I've been researching different U-Pick sites in IL for weeks putting together lists of what I want to pick when and with whom and the first one on the list was the McCann Berry Farm in Woodstock, IL. They're located just a bit over an hour away from my sister's house and this past weekend was the middle of a very short season, so we got up early, packed up the car and headed out. We grabbed two baskets each and followed the guide to "our rows" and got to work. The bushes were chock full of beautiful ripe strawberries, so it didn't take long for us to fill up our baskets:

I remember going with my older sister a few years back to a farm in Michigan and I remember how she probably ate more than she picked and how excited she was every time she found a great big red strawberry, so I packed my camera to make sure I got lots of shots of my nephew having at least as much fun as she did. He was not disappointed. He had tons of fun "helping" find the best strawberries and was very serious about not eating the dirty ones until mom washed them from the bottle of water she brought. Here he is, intent and hard at work:

This abundance of strawberries practically demanded to be mashed and chopped and baked into yummy things as soon as I got the buckets home and what I realized pretty quickly was that I didn't pick nearly enough to satisfy everyone, but I was going to try.

When I went to Ireland last year, instead of souvenirs or four-leaf-clover trinkets I bought books. A few novels to read along the way and two great big cook books, one of which was this beautiful Apples for Jam. It's a beautifully written cookbook with a ton of great recipes including one for THE BEST STRAWBERRY JAM EVER! I'm not exaggerating or giving anyone undue credit, but this was a gorgeously red and delicious jam that really only had three ingredients: sugar, lemon juice and strawberries. No pectin, no gelling agents or food colorants, nothing what so ever that would take away from the beautiful fruit. This jam alone should send you out looking for your closest berry farm immediately, it's that good.

And while I think that you should also go and get this book, I'll share the recipe with you here:

1 kg ripe strawberries; washed, dried and quartered
2 cups sugar
juice from 2 lemons

1. Combine all ingredients in a non-metallic bowl and toss to coat. Loosely cover the bowl and put in the fridge overnight. This will make sure that the strawberries release some of their juices and maintain their beautiful color through the cooking process.
2. Pour all the juice and half the chopped berries into a deep pot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
3. Take the pot off the stove and blend the mixture into a smooth slurry. An immersion blender works great here, but a regular one will work just fine too.
4. Combine the blended berries with the reserved chopped ones back in the pot and bring to a boil again. Simmer for 20 minutes.

That's it! If you'd like to keep some for a while then prepare some jars by boiling them in some hot water and drying them in the oven on low temp, then fill with hot jam, seal and flip them upside down. While the jam is cooling the pressure will seal the jars and flipping them will help prevent condensation.

The next task on the agenda was to make ice cream, strawberry cardamom coffee cake and strawberry tartletts for father's day and to bring to work, but I'll put those into a separate post later tonight. In the mean time I'll leave you with this picture of the tart filling simmering away:

1 comment:

Truly Smitten said...

WOW! Looks incredibly delicious! Where did you go in Woodstock for strawberry picking?? I wanna go!