Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Yes! We Can! Strawberry Jam!

This last Sunday, I took a lovely drive out to Carnation, WA to Harvold Berry Farm for some strawberry picking. The boyfriend was busy fixing the oil pan on a Volkswagon, so I took Olive, The WonderDog, out for a drive in the "country".

When I was a kid, Carnation was in fact all farm land. Actually, a good portion of that area is now suburbs and Microsoft campus and bedroom communities. A lot of the farm land has gone away and it the city/town councils fight over how many chickens people can have in their backyards because of density. There are a couple of larger berry farms in the same area, but they feel like farm theme parks than actual farms to me, so I never go to them. They have train rides and picnic areas and petting zoos. All very geared towards bringing the families who don't really care what a farm is, but would like a good family outing. Great marketing, but not for me.

So I took the boyfriend's dog for a drive and headed to Horvald's to pick some strawberries. Maybe a bit early in the season, they should sweeten up more as it gets warmer, but they have a good flavour for canning if not the sweetness. 
 Harvold's has none of that fancy stuff, it is just a huge strawberry field with a couple of weigh shacks and slightly surly farm hands. They aren't really there to have a conversation with you, they are their to point you to a good picking spot and then to wiegh your berries at the end.

They are pleasant. But friendly, nope. Which works for me, I am not there to chat, I am there to pick berries. I leave Olive in the car with the windows down, since dogs are not allowed in the fields. She may be a chihuahua but she is also all teeth if she doesn't like your looks. I was also close enough to see the car if she were to get into any trouble. I could here her bark from the bed I was steadfastly clearing of berries.

The berries smelled like heaven and there were quite a few families out busily picking. Children in their Sunday best were squealing with joy about finding the most biggest, most beautiful, red ripe strawberries! Parents lugged their huge cameras about and took faux candid shots of their kids, eating a strawberry, picking a strawberry, trampling a strawberry, having a tantrum in the dirt.... But I digress.

Anyways, after about 50 feet of toil and 30 minutes of sweat I had my flat of berries. I do not know how farm labourers do it and I give much props to them for doing so. My knees ached for the rest of the day for that short amount of time of work and the thought of someone doing it for 10 hours a day made them scream. I appreciate those who go out and pick these so that I might enjoy them.

Picking your own berries is less expensive than buying from your local urban grocery store. Twelve pounds of fresh picked strawberries cost me
12 dollars. Ok, the drive to the country may have cost me another 8 dollars in gas, but I got to enjoy a lovely morning driving on an idyllic stretch of road.  The drive down the Fall City Carnation Road is a curvaceous split through mostly farm land and when heading north spits you out into lovely Monroe, WA. Home of the Evergreen State Fair and gateway to Leavenworth, WA.  It is a nice drive and makes for lovely daydreams about farm life.

There are quite a few farms that are open to the public for pick your own and educational farms like Oxbow Farms.

Oxbow Farms teaches the public about environmental stewardship and sustainable food practices.

You can find most of the produce provided by these farms at many of the Farmers Markets in the urban area. In the Seattle area you can find information on those farmers markets at Puget Sound Fresh. Quite possibly one of my more favourite web sites. You can find a listing of farms in the area that provide to your local CSA.

Harvold's Berry Farm's Strawberry Field
I can go on and on about the glory, greatness and goodness of the farmers, and I will at some point. But for now I am going to have to tell you about making strawberry jam!

Strawberry Jam

Eight Lbs of freshly picked strawberries
Four (or more) cups of sugar
Juice of one Lemon
2-4 Tbsp of Pectin

Place berries into a large pot with sugar and mix so that they are covered. Allow the berries to throw off their juices for an hour then turn on the to medium high.

Sprinkle in the pectin according to the instructions on their box and allow the jam to come to a full rolling boil.

Add the juice of one full lemon to add some acid to the jam.

As the jam boils a foamy skim will form on the top, scrap this off and discard.

You can check the cooled thickness of the jam by placing a plate in the freezer for about a minute then drop a tablespoon of the jam mixture on the plate and put it back in the freezer for another minute or two.

Once cooled it should give you a true idea of the thickness of the jam.

Pour the jam into sterilized jam jars and process per your preferred method. You can find more information on canning at the National Center for Home Food Preservation

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