Red Gold: Of Strawberry Jam and House Hurricanes

On Tuesday, still half sick and under the constraints of my No-Frills Five, I went to the farmer’s market. List in hand, I dutifully got eggs, milk and beets. As for a treat (I’ve cultivated the bad habit of always getting us a treat there) The Toddler got a free sample of chocolate milk from the dairy folks.

I was quaffling on strawberries, in my head, knowing they’d be there. My No-Frills concept does not exclude grocery shopping, but it does limit me to things that are on my list of staples. Fruit is a staple. Local, in-season fruit is even noble, right? But we did already have tangerines and a pineapple (not local, but fair trade! was on sale at Whole Foods) at home to use up….

Then I saw the strawberry stand. My eyes instantly lit to the price sign, I’ve been waiting for the price to come down, end of the season style. Uh-oh. $12 for a flat?! Last week it was $28! Holy Shicksa baby!

Can’t pass that up, and why should I? That’s why I don’t believe in strict rule following. You’ve got to be open to opportunity!

In addition to the whole flat, I also finally got to do me some dumpster diving, of sorts. One of the stands I regularly buy from had a tub behind the counter, obvious culls. I asked if they were throwing it away, and whether I could take them. “Still good for cooking!” I said brightly. I offered to pay a small price, but they just let me take them. Sadly, they didn’t seem very happy about averting their waste stream. Oh well. Enthusiasm would be nice, but hey–I’m not proud, I’ll settle for permission. I dug out all the strawberries, and even a big bunch of green onions and a rutabaga.

Home, still half sick remember, I surveyed the contents of my compulsive hoarder larder. Entire flat of strawberries, plus a few extra pints. Onions needing cleaning. Heap of collards still in the fridge from the garden needing cooking, maybe even some for freezing. Beets for roasting for salads. Eeep. I’m gonna go take a nap.

Fortunately the strawberries needed a day to ripen up. Then I took two days to complete the jamming project. Wednesday I cut ’em all up (pureed half, diced the other half) and yesterday I set out to Jam.

Now. Citrus is all new to me. Marmalade might have me confounded Sunday through Monday. But berries, I know. It felt nice to do something I know. And, praise somebody-er-other, Whole Foods even had my beloved Pomona’s Pectin, which I hardly want to jam without.

The magic about yesterday though, was the kiddlets. The Toddler slept till 10!!! She normally gets up at 8. Not sure why this happened, but hey, why look a gift horse in the mouth? The Babe did his part by taking a two hour nap in the morning. There wasn’t much overlap there, but that’s okay. The Babe is the main speedbump anyway, Toddler is usually good to play at my feet for hours in the kitchen. Especially if I figure ways to let her help. She loves measuring stuff, turning the mixer on and off, and eating dough.

In my classic way I had thought it through like so, “Okay, gonna make jam. So, well, I might as well make granola, cuz we’re out, and then the jars can sterilize in the oven while the ‘nola bakes. And, I guess since the oven is on, I may as well make bread, cuz we’re almost out, and it’s getting so hot lately, this might be one of the last days I can really run the oven. But before I do anything, I’d better clean up the kitchen….”

So, by noon I was sitting down to lunch. I had made a shit-ton of jam, strawberry syrup, a double batch of granola and two loaves of bread. Now before you go thinking I’m some kind of One of Those People, let me inform you that the house, and especially the kitchen, were a complete disaster. It looked like a hurricane had hit, And I don’t mean that figuratively. I don’t mean like, oh I haven’t mopped yet, and there’s a sink full of dirty dishes. I mean, every single square inch of counter space stacked three things high. The floor a pathway through precarious piles of toys, laundry, empty boxes, pots and pans pulled out by the Toddler, shredded toilet paper. The sink was full of cooling jam (where else was there to put it?) amidst dirty dishes. The stove slopped with sticky bright red cooked on goo. The counter, and floor beneath, a roach trap of spilled granola thanks to the Toddler’s “help.” The dining room was also breaking into Aisles Through Piles territory since I had moved all the crap out of the kitchen to make a space to work in.

(Our kitchen has lately developed an ‘island.’ I don’t mean a useful variety, with a nice bench-top or a bar sink or anything, I mean a line-up of the Babe’s excersaucer, the Toddlers kitchen stool, and a variety of toys. They all get shoved into the middle of the room, so’s us “groin-up” folks can get to what we consider the useful kitchen stuff around the outside. Needless to say, our kitchen is not properly sized for an island…)

I surveyed the hurricane wreckage around me, and counted my jars. 17 half pints of gorgeous red gold. Plus two pints of syrup, and two pints of berries in the freezer. Screw the house, I feel victorious.

4 thoughts on “Red Gold: Of Strawberry Jam and House Hurricanes

  1. I made strawberry jam this week too. Couldn’t pass up the low strawberry prices. I keep giving myself congratulatory pats on the back every time I see the luscious color it turned out. I keep wondering why the store bought stuff doesn’t have this vibrant red color–it’s not like I added coloring! My kitchen does look like a bit of a disaster, too, though. I suppose I should think about finding someplace to put the jam besides the kitchen table and see about putting the canner back away (if sticking it on top of the pressure canner box and pushing them against the front wall counts as put away!!)

    1. hi there jenny!
      unfortunately, i have to warn you that the color fades to a dull, brownish pink over time. i added some lemon juice to mine this time, and plan to keep them in a dark place (i normally keep my canned goods out where i can see ’em and use ’em up). hopefully the incredible jewel red will last a bit longer.

  2. I’m just counting the days til the Pick-your-own strawberry farm near us has ripe strawberries. Last year was a wash-out because of way too much rain! The year before, my daughter Melina and her son Julian, (now 7 years old), and my friend Norma and her granddaughter Savannah and I, made a day of it, picking loads of beautiful berries. This year I plan to make Jam and freeze lots for smoothies too! Got to get me some of that pectin too, as I’m trying to cut out sugar……I used a little honey or sucanat last year in my fig preserves and apple butter…….mmmm good!

  3. you should feel victorious…it’s always refreshing to hear that someone is choosing to do stuff over keeping it all clean. my hubby and i tend to do that more often than not, but we’re doing something and not just sitting enjoying our clean spaces. and don’t get me wrong, i enjoy when things are clean, but sometimes sacrifices have to be made in favor of experiencing the world around.

    oh, and i can’t wait til strawberries up here get going…i’ve never made my own jam (just helped my mom). to be honest, it scares me, but i’m gonna do it this year

    good work!

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