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As a kid, my family would go strawberry picking in July at a nearby farm. Our family would arrive in a multiple car convoy, with my grandmother leading the way. Each grandchild would be handed a basket and unleashed on the fields. We would spend the next few hours contently picking berries. More often than not, the majority of berries we picked ended up in our stomach rather than the basket. Our more disciplined parents and grandparents had more success in actually picking berries, so we would return to our cottage with mountains of ripe, juicy strawberries.

The challenge was to do something exciting with all these berries. Our family was always up for the challenge – we froze berries whole for later use in the summer, we whipped up frosted strawberry desserts, we baked numerous strawberry pies, and we cooked enough strawberry jam to last us the year. We lived in strawberry heaven for a few weeks before raspberry season arrived!

Today, the farm has been converted into a golf course, but we continue to jam using strawberries from the Farmer’s Market. Making jam is not particularly time consuming or difficult. The trick is in making sure you follow directions for the pectin crystal and avoid any risk of botulism by properly sterilizing jars and instruments. There are a variety of pectin crystals on the market – my mother really likes CERTO light because it is one of the few that uses more fruit than sugar.

Hulling the strawberries

Hulling the strawberries

Your fingers, counters, and bowls are at risk of being stained by the strawberry juice, so I recommend hulling berries over newspaper and using a dark colored or metal bowl to crush the berries. As for the jam pot, note that the jam will nearly double in volume while cooking, so be sure it’s large.

Sterilizing our jamming instruments and transforming our crushed berries into jam!

Sterilizing our  instruments and transforming our crushed berries into jam!

The fresh jam is delicious on breads, but also over icecream or eaten straight from the jar with a spoon!

 

Strawberry Jam

Makes ~8 cups of Strawberry Jam
 
Strawberry Jam
 

Ingredients:

6 cups washed, hulled and crushed strawberries
4 ½ cups granulated sugar
1 box CERTO light pectin crystals

Appropriate number of jars, rings, and lids (either four 2-cup jars or eight 1-cup jars). If the berries are particularly juicy, an extra jar may come in handy!
 

Directions

Sterilize jars by placing them in the oven at 225oF for 10 minutes. Keep warm until filling time. Boil utensils in a pot of water for at least 15 minutes and lids at least 5 minutes before use.

Place crushed strawberries in a large saucepan. Combine the CERTO light pectin crystals and ¼ cup of the measured sugar. Add to strawberries.

Bring the strawberry mixture to a boil over high heat. Add the remaining sugar. Return to a rolling boil (i.e. one where you cannot stop the pot from boiling when stirring hard) for 1 minute. The jam will nearly double in volume at this point and start spitting. It is also highly susceptible to burn at this stage, so continue to stir hard!

Remove jam from heat. Continue stirring jam for 5 minutes. During this time, skim foam off jam.

Pour jam using sterilized utensils into warm sterilized jars to ¼ inch from rim. Cover with lids and screw rings on tightly. The jars should seal overnight. Occasionally, one does not, so store it in the fridge and eat this jar first.
 
NOTE – this is the 2013 CERTO Light recipe – they occasionally change up the crystal formulation, so be sure to follow whatever recipe is listed with your pectin crystals.

Bon appétit!
 
– Catherine

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I have long-held a love/hate relationship with this dessert.  When ripe strawberries are abundant in early summer, our family takes full advantage of dessert possibilities.  Between strawberry shortcake and tarts, pies and jam, cooked desserts often preside.

A frosty strawberry treat then is a delicious variant.  This cool strawberry topping is reminiscent of home-made strawberry ice cream, bursting with flavour and perfectly smooth.  The crumble adds complexity to the dish, with a subtle walnut crunch.  As my grandfather declared upon finishing his piece, “Well, that certainly slips down quite nicely!”

On the other hand, this dessert is incredibly labour intensive. It is technically easy to assemble, but requires large amounts strawberry hulling and beating of egg whites and creams. At the best of times, you hold the beater for five, six, seven minutes before suddenly  the two egg whites somehow defy belief, when they nearly quintuple in volume to form the base of the tasty strawberry topping.  Our cottage’s electric hand-held beaters may even pre-date the birth of my parents, easily doubling the time required to whip the egg whites into shape.  It’s definitely worth every second to make, although I am now lobbying for new electric beaters (or dare I say a KitchenAid?) at my cottage!

Frosty Strawberry Squares

(Makes one 9 by 13 inch pan, or 12 generous servings)

Ingredients:

CRUMBLE

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup melted butter

3/8 cup brown sugar (6 tablespoons)

3/4 cup chopped walnuts

STRAWBERRY TOPPING

2 egg whites

1 cup white sugar

Generous 2 cups sliced strawberries

2 tbsp. lemon juice

1 cup whipping cream

Directions:

Combine crumble ingredients until mixed thoroughly.  Sprinkle evenly over a cookie sheet to form coarse crumbs. Bake at 350 F for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until crumbs are lightly toasted.  Allow to cool slightly.

Beat the egg whites, sugar, strawberries and lemon juice until soft peaks form, about 10 to 12 minutes.  (Use an electric hand-held beater, or even better, a KitchenAid). Whip the cream to soft peaks and fold it into the strawberry mixtures.

Layer two-thirds of the crumbs at the bottom of a 9 by 13 inch dish.  Pour the strawberry topping overtop.  Decorate with remaining one-third of the crumbs and extra strawberries.  Freeze for 4-6 hours before serving.  Bon appetit!

– Catherine

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A favourite summer cottage dessert has long been rhubarb delight.  Featuring a strawberry-rhubarb base with a cake topping, I have yet to meet a friend or family member who does not polish off this dish.  What always amazed me is how delicious this dessert tastes despite reminding me of a 50s cookbook: the secret ingredient is strawberry jello.

If your garden is overflowing with rhubarb, this is an easy recipe to provide delicious comfort food.  Rhubarb delight a la mode was a wonderful way to polish off a bbq dinner on my cottage dock!

Rhubarb Delight

(makes a 8 by 11 inch pan – about 12 good-sized servings)

Ingredients:

4 cups chopped rhubarb

3/4 cup sugar

3 ounce package of strawberry jello

1 package white cake mix (single layer)

1 cup water

1/3 cup margarine

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Place the rhubarb in a greased 8 x 11 inch pan.  Sprinkle sugar over rhubarb, followed by strawberry jello powder.  Sprinkle cake mix over jello.  Pour water over all.  Dot with margarine.  Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.

Cool and refrigerate for 2-3 hours (or serve warm). Delicious served a  la mode on a lazy summer evening!

– Catherine

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