Monday, April 13, 2009
It was my intention on Saturday morning to go to the Sweet Berry Berry Farm and pick some fresh strawberries. But it seems I was about a week too late - when I checked their website they warned that picking might be slim, not a lot of berries were ripe this week. I decided it was not worth the risk nor the hour-plus-drive to get there. I ran down to the farmer's market instead, where I found a farmer happy to sell me several pounds of fresh, ripe, picked-just-this-morning-berries.
Incidentally, I also found some tiny green garlic, a few greenhouse tomatoes, and a fresh baguette, to which I added some basil from my garden for the best darn bruchetta I think I've ever eaten. I also saved myself enough time that I was able to visit a few of the stops on the Funky Chicken Coop Tour. But my bruchetta and my fascination with urban hens are different stories I shall save for another day, or not.
I needed the quantity of super-fresh berries because I had reserved Easter Sunday for jam making - my first solo effort at jam making. I've been wanting to learn to can for just about as long as I can remember, or at least as long as I've been gardening.
I have tons of fond memories of the canning process. My mom used to preserve the harvest, as did my aunts and my Grandma Ruth. My dad still does. I can remember the kitchen getting steamy from all the boiling water, and the deep sweet smell of the berries cooking, or the sharp savory smell of dill, depending on the harvest. I remember the "pop, pop, pop" of the lids as they sealed themselves and the tiny thrill I got as a kid counting all the "pops" to be sure the whole batch had sealed. It was my job the next day to press the center of each lid and make sure there was no failed jars.
I love those memories. I also love the taste of samples I get when I visit home - hot pickled veggies, salsas, raspberry jams, and old-school dill pickles. There are so many memories in each and every bite. Not just the distance memories of my childhood either. But also the fresher, more recent recollections of summer in Minnesota - when the weather was perfect and the garden overflowed.
Nostalgia is a big motivator for me, as is my new kitchen garden. The time has come for me to learn to can. This past week I did what I almost always do when I want to learn something new; I get a few books, read like a maniac, and give it a go.
That's how I spent my Easter - in the kitchen with a pile of fresh strawberries giving it a go.
The results are fantastic - 9 half pint jars of strawberry vanilla jam and 7 half pints of strawberry lemon marmalade. Both recipes are from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving (see link in the sidebar). My first endeavor into canning was wildly successful. I had just one jar that didn't seal of the marmalade, which of course I started eating today. It is a brilliant shade of red, and the tiny bits of lemon peel give it a bright, sunny taste. And while it was delicious this morning, I can only imagine how delicious it will be come December.