Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Strawberry Picking

My annual Strawbery Picking Extravaganza was last Saturday, Day One of strawberry picking at Terhune Orchards in Princeton, NJ. I arrived at the farm around 1:30 after a lazy morning at home in anticipation of a long day of picking, cleaning and jamming. It had been so crowded at Terhune that the strawberry field was closed after we left: it was all picked out! But strawberries have a way of regenerating or ripening overnight, so Sunday and Monday's pickers had plenty to keep them busy.

Strawberry jam is the easiest to make, I think, because strawberries have lots of natural pectin in them that helps the jam set. Some of my recipes that combine strawberries with other fruits require a box of store-bought pectin, but my plain strawberry jam recipe from the original Ball Blue Book does not. Ball is one of the leading jar and lid manufacturers, by the way. I make lots of strawberry and blueberry jam every year mostly to give away as gifts at Christmas, and sometimes for a unique hostess or housewarming gift. I guard my latest stock fiercely, but if you hit me up for a jar of last year's product, I can usually set you up. My most popular flavor, at least with the family, is blueberry-lime, so you probably won't see leftovers of that flavor.

This year I made extra strawberry because I'll be traveling in July when blueberries are ripe. After starting the picking at 1:30, I worked straight through until 8:30 making strawberry, strawberry-banana and strawberry-rhubarb. When I was all finished there were 29 jars, mostly half-pints. They cooled on the counter for two days just as the Ball Blue Book directs, and now they are ready to be stored in a cool, dark place.

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