Saturday, July 9, 2011


By the time it gets to berry picking here in Maine I've usually sort of forgotten how good a real strawberry is.  The ones from the grocery store are so tasteless we never buy them, and although we store and use frozen berries all winter its not really the same thing.  So by the time June rolls around and the berries are ripe I can feel kind of nonchalant about the whole ordeal.  I am usually fixated on restocking our jam and frozen berries for smoothies and set right to filling the baskets without even tasting a berry.  But, sometime about halfway through the first basket I pick the perfect berry.  Deep red, full-- but not too big.
After one its hard to stop.  On the car ride home I eat one after another, jam be damned.  Fresh is the way to go.  But, of course there is a limit to the number of berries one can eat in a day (there's always tomorrow!) and even the kids start slowing down after day two.
Sandhill Farm, Somesville, ME, pick your own organic strawberries

All of my attempts at picking sans children were futile-- even so we managed to bring home a good haul.    
Berry picking with my kiddos has not always gone as nicely as it may sound.  But this year, although I was the only one actually picking, everyone kept themselves happily entertained long enough for me to fill the two baskets I brought.  It helps that the older kids can now understand the logic:  the faster mama picks, the sooner we leave.  This means much less fuss about not being able to eat berries from my basket
(if you're over 2 you can pick your own!) and more cooperation throughout the entire morning.  Key to our success was picking on sunny mornings with a cool breeze, meeting up with friends, and getting to see a nest full to the brim with baby barn swallows almost ready to fledge.  Not to mention all the yummy berry goodies we've been eating:  strawberries with cream, strawberry shortcake, chocolate cake with strawberries and whipped cream, strawberry smoothies, strawberry popcicles and strawberry pancakes.  They even agreed to go back a second time to get enough for jam.

Wylie wanted to use the Squeezo for the jam.  Whats that?  You've never heard of the squeezo?  Well, let me introduce you.  This amazing contraption takes whole fruit (or chunks in the case of large fruit such as apples or even pumpkin) and miraculously removes skin, seeds, and core leaving you with amazing fruit puree.  Rob found this beauty on Craig's List for my birthday last fall after we'd borrowed one from a friend for two years in a row.

Of course strawberries are not real hard to mash and I was prepared to do them by hand, but Wylie can be fairly persistent (understatement of the year), and really who wouldn't want to Squeezo if you had the chance?  So I took it down, we assembled it and we went at it.  Let me say the child is brilliant.  Give the berries a rinse, dump them in and turn the crank.  I did half a basket then had to put Kale down for a nap.  When I came downstairs Wylie had finished the rest of the berries on his own.  13lbs. of berries in about 10 minutes.  Amazing.

The jam recipe did warn against processing the berries as it will affect the texture of the jam.  After going through the Squeezo our jam has no chunks of berries in it--but really that's OK by me.  It turned out great.  We did two batches of freezer jam and a batch of regular jam.  I use Pomona's Low Sugar pectin and followed the All Fruit recipe, using apple juice for a sweetener, along with a bit of honey.  Breakfast this morning--warm popovers (gluten free) and fresh strawberry jam yum!

Tomorrow maybe strawberry sorbet...

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