Strawberries evoke a sense of childhood, full of innocence and hope. Of youth, expectation of the luscious, red and sweet. A promise of summer and pleasure in it’s plumpness. Growing up on a generous dose of Enid Blyton’s children’s classics my early concept of this beautiful berry was one of mystery and wonder. Much later when I heard the Beatle’s Strawberry Fields Forever, it affirmed for me how ‘it all works out’.
I had not seen or tasted strawberries until I was about 11 years old. The year I went away to boarding school in Poona, a city close to Mumbai on the West Coast of India. The short strawberry season in the remote hills near Poona prompted pop-up businesses for a few weeks. Serving hand-churned ice-cream with large chunks of berries studding the cup like jewels or the thickest milkshakes that require a spoon. Coming from a small town on the East Coast, this first trip was an adventure, I was enjoying the process of interviewing at different schools and had not yet realized what it actually meant to be away from home. Enid Blyton again had formed my ideas about boarding school, would it live up to my expectations like the strawberry did? That’s another story.
Today, living in Boston we’re spoilt by access to berries all year around, and when I visit India for long stretches of time, I miss them the most. However, I’d rather have the short season of freshness, when the produce has been warmed by the sun and is bursting at the seams with it’s essence.
Every June, I insist on going strawberry picking, like the characters in Enid’s books, to local farms around Massachusetts. This year we found a hidden gem at Marini Farms, a third generation family run farm in Ipswich MA. It was small enough to not feel overly commercial, with great pickings, a bakery at the farm-stand and friendly faces.
We usually pick a small amount to enjoy them fresh, but this year I wanted to try making my own jam. This is the first time I’ve tried it and it’s pretty darn good.
June in a jar.
It’s the simplest recipe with three ingredients, should last us until the fall and the frozen batch will keep me through winter when I’m dreaming of fresh fields of green.
This recipe was not made using a candy thermometers, but rather the old-fashioned Indian way that I’ve seen my mother and sisters make sugar syrups. By colour and consistency tested between your fingers.
Yields One 8 oz. mason jar:
1 lb. of fresh strawberries stems removed and sliced
1 cup + 2 Tbs. of sugar
1 lemon squeezed
1 Tsp. of lemon zest
- Start with pouring the sugar over the sliced strawberries in a bowl and let it sit for about 15 mins until the fruit starts to macerate.
- Pour the mixture into a heavy bottomed pan at medium to high heat and stir until the spatula leaves a clear space at the bottom of the pan and the jam does not look runny.
- This takes about 25-35 mins. You can test a dab of syrup between your thumb and forefinger, when you pull the fingers apart, it should show about a string and a half of threads and it’s done.
- Add the lemon juice and zest right around the 25 min mark to keep the freshness of the lemon intact.
The jam’s consistency will thicken as it cools, so if you like yours a little more pliable, then pull off the stove sooner.
The lemon helps it retain a bright red colour and the tartness is a great surprise that cuts through the sweetness. If you make more than 1lb. freeze the extra batches for use later. The jar in the fridge should keep about 3-4 months.
Enjoy on pancakes, fresh bread from the farmer’s market or on some vanilla ice-cream this summer.
In the mean time, I’ll curl up with my book and dream of strawberry fields and scones.