Its that time of year again...I spend all winter pining for it and then, before I realize, Spring is nearly over and its time to make jam. All of a sudden my love of asparagus has lost its charm and is stinking up the bathroom. The rain stops and I actually have to go out and water the garden, the rhubarb crisps have come and gone at my favorite restaurants and now I have strawberry duty. Strawberries go bad quickly, so it is an urgent duty.
Every year we try to go to Eatwell Farm's Strawberry Day, as we did last weekend. We eat as many berries as we can hold and pick many more to take home. Each time I plan to make jam the very next day, or even that night, but it never happens. Except for the one time my French friend Laure came over and forced me to stay up late into the night to do it. Now on my seventh or maybe eighth year of making jam, I am mature enough to realize that sleep deprivation is no good, and that taking a few days longer doesn't affect jam quality too much - as long as I get the berries into the freezer in short order. But then, I'm no fancy pants jam taster either. I leave true judgement for the experts.
What I did learn from my late night friend is the best way to make strawberry jam. She learned this from her Father, who, for starters, recommends you not wash the berries before jamming. Perhaps it washes away the Terroir? Anyway, this is a practice I follow with restraint. If the berries have been grown organically or without pesticides toxic to humans, by someone I trust, then I follow the no-washing rule. Otherwise I wash them. Then, either way, it is important to check the berries and wash off any dirt you find, and cut away all moldy or brownish areas. There is really only a small chance either mold or brown spots will make you sick, but both most definitely taste bad. So its good to be selective and diligent with your berries. You should also cut off the green leaves, because nobody wants to eat those either.
For now, that is it. Clean your berries and put them in the freezer, in a big ziploc bag. I'll fill you in on how to actually make jam next post. Below is what five pounds of berries looks like. If you don't have your five (or ten or fifteen) yet, go ahead and get them. I'll wait until you're ready.