Thursday, May 16, 2013

It's My "Berry" Favorite Time of the Year! Freezing and Preserving Strawberries

Each flat contains 12 pints.
Strawberries are my favorite fruit and they are in season!  The second largest strawberry farm in Mississippi is nearby and we stopped by their stand and picked up two flats (24 pints).  I spent today capping and slicing the berries for freezing and for preserves.  I can remember helping my grandmother with canning and preserving, but these are the first I've made on my own, at least to my remembrance.

Many recipes call for pectin which will help the preserves jell more consistently, but I chose to forego the pectin and count on the syrup to set up on its own.  The preserves will be more "soupy" but I like the clear, clean flavor of just the berry, sugar, and lemon.

Wash the berries through several changes of water.
Rinse strawberries thoroughly.
Remove the cap from each berry and slice into 1/4" slices.
Don't forget to compost the caps.
Two pints after capping and slicing.
The first 6 pints I "sugared down" to make preserves (10 cups for 6 pints of fruit).
Stir until well-mixed.
Set aside for 3 or 4 hours.
Go ahead and put the strawberries and sugar into a stock pot.
Meanwhile, I sliced and capped the remaining berries and "dry" packed (no sugar) them into zipper freezer bags, 2 cups at a time.  After removing 6 pints for the preserves, I was able to freeze 13 pints of sliced berries.

Don't forget to "burp" the air from the bag!

Once the strawberries and sugar have macerated, add 2/3 cups of lemon juice to the strawberries.
Fresh lemon juice is perfect for the job!
Cook until berries are translucent and sugar is dissolved.

Stir often.
Choose a large pot as it will "foam up" about
three times its original volume before the foam recedes.

Spread into a flat pan, and refrigerate uncovered for 12-24 hours.

Sterilize 12 half-pint jars in boiling water of a water bath canner.
Use the boiling water bath canner
to sterilize jars.

Reheat strawberries, then spoon into sterilized half-pint jars, leaving 1/4" head space.  

Be sure to clean the jar lips with a wet cloth
 to ensure a good seal.

Seal with two-part lid and process in water-bath canner for 20 minutes.  
The rings should only be finger-tight so that air may escape from the jars.

Makes 12 half-pints.

Tighten the rings after removing the hot jars from the canner.
Two days' work for 12 half-pints of strawberry preserves.  Was it worth it?  Each jar, including the cost of fruit, sugar, lemons, and jars/rings, cost $2.30, which is comparable with the ready-made found in the grocery store.  Not included in that cost is the comfort of knowing exactly what is in my food, and the satisfaction of making my own food, even if I did not grow it myself.  Definitely worth it.  

So, the canning season has begun!  Check back for more adventures!

What's cooking in your Savory kitchen?


Consult the Ball Blue Book
for more information.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Nesting Season: Taking Time to Take Care

Kale going to seed
Early mornings are my favorite time here on the farm.  The silence wraps around me like a warm hug, while the occasional chirps, chips, and trills make me smile.  It's Saturday; and this is the first Saturday in a month that I've been able to sleep in a bit, then wander from window to window, peering out at the flowers and the birds and the waving grass.

A flash of color on the back porch catches my eye:  a mockingbird.  Their reputation for just plain meanness is well-justified and there's one sitting in a basket on the second shelf of a baker's rack.  It's within a yard of the back door and I peer at it, my movement flushing the ornery bird.  As I look closer at the basket, the scraggly collection of twigs poking out of it tells me it contains a nest.  If there are no eggs in it, I think I might move it or even destroy it.  It's been hard enough to live with nesting pairs of amiable barn swallows on top of the porch's ceiling fan for two seasons; I just don't think I could live with protective mama and papa mockingbird dive-bombing me every time I step out of the back door.  Besides, nestlings and fledglings are tasty spring treats for snakes, and I do not want to remind them that my porch is a source of fast food.

After a lifetime of proclaiming I can't draw,
I've determined to learn.  Here
is a drawing of a houseplace
in northern Mississippi.
Enough of today's existential crisis, and back to my reverie.  The to-do list is long today, and I know I'll not finish it since it begins with capping strawberries to freeze and make preserves.  Strawberries fresh from Brownlee Farms is a special spring treat, and I expect to gobble as much as I preserve!  Two flats should keep me busy, don't you think?

I so enjoy the drifts of red clover along the highway!
With the busy schedule we have had, the kitchen table has become the "go through later" repository.  Since it's piled so high that things are now sliding off (sadly, this is not an exaggeration), I think "later" has arrived, so I can do that while "occasionally stirring" the strawberry preserves.  Actually, I need to organize the whole house, which has suffered from our "drop it and run" schedule of the last month:  perhaps after planting season, but before the weeding really ramps up.

There's always so much to do, that I can neglect to take time to just be.  I am too busy to stop and enjoy the fresh spring breeze cooling my sun-warmed face.  I am too busy to snuggle up next to a warm dragon while he snores.  I am . . . tired.

So, the breeze beckons, the songbirds sing, and the dragon drowses:  it's time to go enjoy them.

Barn swallows are tolerable, but mockingbirds?
How are you living your Savory life?


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Rainbow Bright

I wonder if there were two pots of gold?
I almost missed it.  I was sitting in the living room, resting a bit, when my daughter called me to the window to view the most vibrant rainbow I've ever seen.  The picture does not do it justice.  It fairly glowed in the blue sky after a long two days of rain.

And I almost missed it.  I'm doing that a lot lately--missing things, the important things.  I spend so much time worrying about what I'm not doing that I don't get around to actually doing.  I must stop--worrying, that is,--and start doing.

My life is fast becoming like the Kathy Mattea song:

Time passes by,
People pass on,
In the drop of a tear,
They're gone.
I've always been a person who looked far down the road, and I plan to continue that, but I think I'll pause more often to savor the sights and people along the way:  blue chicory, red clover, and a tremendously patient Dragon.

What about you?

How are you living your Savory life?