One day while staying at the monastery, I left to run errands and came across this strawberry stand. That’s all it sold. Just strawberries — straight from the field behind the tiny booth. On the outward leg, I noticed the place was mobbed. Half the residents of the area seemed to be there, not just buying pints but flats and flats.
On the inbound leg, all the local residents seemed to be there. It took five or six clerks crammed inside the tiny stand to wait on everybody. I stopped and picked up a half-flat for the nuns.
When they served them at lunch, it was … OMG! I’ve already told you the food at the monastery was simple, but impeccably fresh and delicious. They cut these strawberries up and put them on the table without a lick of added sugar and I was bowled over.
It occurred to me that I’ve probably not had a farm-fresh strawberry in my adult life. I’ve grown a few feeble specimens and enjoyed whatever the infamous PNW slugs left of them. But real strawberries? No.
So on my way home last Friday, I grabbed another half-flat to share with Furrydoc and Neighbor J, gabbling at them about how unbelievably, almost supernaturally good these berries were.
Turned out Furrydoc knew of them. Their grower is PNW-famous among foodies. The family grows nothing but berries and they open their booths only during the short time each type of berry is in season. They pick at the peak of ripeness. They sell only what they pick on any given day, and run out in short order. But! Better and better, when Mother Nature says the moment is right, they open subsidiary stands and truck that day’s pickings as far as an hour from their farm. Get ’em while you can, ’cause the remotes are open unpredictably and for even less time than the farm stand.
Luckily one of those stands is in The Place I Jokingly Call the Big City. The whole neighborhood placed their orders, and this morning a full flat of farm-fresh strawberries landed on my kitchen counter.
OMG, what am I gonna do with all these? What I did was make strawberry-vanilla jam. And strawberry balsamic black pepper preserves (which are better than they sound — though this recipe sounds better yet; less sweet and more sauce-like). I froze a few, too. Don’t like frozen berries, but by then my back was cramped and I was getting desperate. I’ve still got five pints to deal with. Maybe I’ll just have to … eat them. 🙂
Unfortunately my canning equipment is all lost in the chaos of house reconstruction, so I had to make freezer versions that aren’t easy to share. The balsamic preserves, which are loaded with added pectin and sugar, are being slow to set up while the vanilla jam, which has zero added pectin and very “lite” sugar, set up just fine. Oh well.
Lotta work, though, and a reminder that while I love strawberries I don’t particularly enjoy home preserving.
I certainly won’t enjoy going back into that kitchen to clean up. Maybe house elves will slip in tonight and take care of that.
Oh, wonderful, wonderful strawberries! But their season is far too short. This year I’ve got a few more of my own, though. These are a local everbearing variety whose name escapes me. Although I’m having trouble finding time to plant them, they seem to be putting up with me anyhow and already have a few red berries of their own. A fact our vast and teeming slug population so far hasn’t discovered.