And so it begins.
We went strawberry picking on Monday at Vollmer Farm, a local organic pick-your-own strawberry farm. It was kind of chilly and rainy, but we braved the weather for the promise of friends and endless buckets of berries. We were rewarded in spades, with bellies full of strawberries, lots to bring home, and a fun day with friends.
Somehow I have not a single picture of anyone picking berries or even the fields of berries themselves. Let’s blame it on the drizzle and the thrill of just being in a field of fruit for the first time this year. In spite of the weather, it truly felt like the beginning of summer…the first cycle of bountiful seasonal produce, eating until we can’t eat any more, putting up as much as we can manage.
Maggie was very clear about her plan for the strawberries. She picked a bucket-full (about 6 pounds), and made sure that I put those aside for making her very own jam. Well, actually, her plan had been to eat that first bucket and then pick another, but her enthusiasm for huge amounts of berries outlasted her energy for picking. So I handed her a bucket she could eat out of, and put aside “her” berries for making jam.
I hadn’t really planned ahead–this was a rather spontaneous outing–so I was glad to get home and find all the supplies we needed on hand. It was late in the afternoon before we got organized for jamming, and Maggie settled in to get the fruit ready. She was determined that she would do it all herself. She even tried some fancy techniques to move things along more quickly.
Meanwhile, I did a little of the non-food preparation…collecting jam jars and lids, putting water in the canning kettle, etc. As well as prepping trays of berries for freezing.
As I have said before, the actual making of jam is not that complicated, but it is very hot and needs to be somewhat quick. Maggie and I talked over the steps before we started, and she plunged right in. When I started to explain what a rolling boil was, she cut me off and did the explaining herself. So there was heating and stirring and timing and finally some ladling–
(and yes, she is in different clothes now…we did the actually cooking and canning right before bed.)
I did my best to step back and keep my hands to myself. In order to get it done quickly, we worked together on the wiping of the jars and securing of the lids; Maggie was frustrated at first that she wasn’t doing it ALL herself, but seemed mollified when I told her that canning was really something best done together, with everyone helping out. Always a fan of teamwork, Maggie seemed to buy this. And was still able to feel like this was special jam that “I made all by myself!”
The jars are still lined up on the counter, awaiting their own Maggie-made labels. They will say, she tells me, “Maggie’s Hand-picked Strawberry Jam.”
So while we are still in the throes of emptying last summer’s bounty from the pantry and freezer, the first new goodies of 2009 have been added. Hooray!