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Mm-mmm good!

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.

8 Comments

  1. CB
    CB June 13, 2017 7:09 pm

    Putting up anything like that is a total win! Come winter you’ll enjoy a burst of summer.

    I’ve been overwhelmed with strawberries and other berries too. After the batches of this jelly or that jam with varying results, I usually end up tired and just cooking berries down with some sugar.. calling it syrup or something. No one seems to care. They all get opened, put on bread or something and enjoyed.

    Worst case, just freeze them. They’ll taste great regardless of the form.

    Good job Claire!

  2. StevefromMA
    StevefromMA June 13, 2017 7:56 pm

    Sat is our annual church Strawberry Festival here in Podunk. I, of course, am not a member but go like everyone to have a shortbread cake, real strawberries like you describe picked locally, and real whipped cream. Almost makes me want to join!

  3. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty June 14, 2017 3:21 am

    I certainly envy the availability of strawberries there! My sister in Simi Valley, CA. had a good number of such farms nearby for many years, and I’d load up each visit. Strawberries, incredible sweet and tender corn, tomatoes to die for, and so much more. The urban sprawl has now, of course, put massive new houses and so forth on most of those farms, so she must travel farther out… but she can still find road side farm stands for now.

    I could almost live on berries… I have lots of strawberry plants, but only a few berries so far this year, in spite of the exceptional amount of rain we’ve had. I over fertilized the entire berry patch (strawberries, raspberries and blackberries) last year, and so I’m getting massive plants, but expect little fruit. Next year should be good. The concord grapes, in the same area, seem to be setting out lots of fruit by contrast, but as always it remains to be seen if there will be enough hail to destroy most of them… as usual. The grapes seem to be more vulnerable to wind and even heavy rain than any of the rest of them. Such is life here in the wild west. 🙂

  4. Comrade X
    Comrade X June 14, 2017 8:01 am

    One of my favorite memories is taking the kids berry picking and watching them come home with more on their faces than in their pales.

  5. ellendra
    ellendra June 14, 2017 8:10 am

    It’s strawberry season here, too! I’ve been picking a colander full about every other day from the backyard garden. Tomorrow I’m hoping to get out to my land before the heat sets in and pick from the big patch. Even the overripe, bug-eaten ones are getting used this year, the chickens go nuts over them!

    The jury is still out on whether or not I’ll get to try making wine with some of them.

    If you freeze the berries, you can still make jams from them later when it’s convenient. I like freezing them for pies and muffins. It’s too hot to bake now, but they’ll be a welcome treat in the winter.

  6. Pat
    Pat June 14, 2017 9:24 am

    Strawberries are getting big, juicy and ripe in the Middle Atlantic states, too. That Strawberry Vanilla Jam recipe is close to what I eat naturally. I mix some plain whole-milk yogurt (Stonyfield Organic brand with no tang, but has a sweet yogurt flavor) with a tinge of vanilla extract, and plop it on top of a bowl of fresh ripe strawberries. No cooking, and no guilt or worry over added sugar. Delicious!

  7. laird
    laird June 14, 2017 10:24 am

    It’s strawberry season here in South Carolina, too. All local, all picked at peak ripeness, bought at a local produce stand. This is the only time of year I buy strawberries in quantity (although sometimes I get a few if we’re having a party). Mostly I just eat them, although when the mood strikes I’ve been known to put up some preserves. After having fresh local strawberries the “imported” kind from CA or Mexico are hardly worth eating!

  8. Paul Joat
    Paul Joat June 14, 2017 2:57 pm

    I just helped cut up 80 lbs of strawberries for wine, 2 lbs per gallon, 10 gallons of it mine.

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