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Last thoughts on a Strawberry Weekend.

Getting the most out of 23 pounds of strawberries would be a challenge for anyone (unless you were doing it to fill your freezer with just strawberries), but this past weekend, during the ‘Strawberry Special’ we made it a goal to do as many different things with strawberries as we could within the confines of strawberry-ness. Which means that we froze, ate fresh, made jam and started strawberry wine but did NOT dry. Dehydration does not do a whole lot for strawberries. We’ll save that for when the cherries come in next month (woohoo!!).

Strawberry Jam:
Aunt Toby is very old school about jams, which works out pretty well, since jams and jellies have been around a very long time. The world’s first known book of recipes, “Of Culinary Matters”, written by the Roman gastronome Marcus Gavius Apicius in the first century, includes recipes for fruit preserves(though I’ll bet he was using honey rather than cane sugar). I know there are a lot of recipes and research and new wave thinking about making jams with pectin and some other ‘better living through chemistry’ stuff, or using alternative sweeteners and so on. Socalled ‘freezer jams’ don’t do a whole lot for me. Since one of the major reasons I’m making jam in the first place is to eliminate all the chemistry and corn syrup and what not that gets put into commercial jams and jellies, I go for the basic jam deal: clean, washed fruit, squished up in a pot, with white granulated sugar. It does not make a whit’s worth of difference if the sugar comes from beets or cane; the issue is that it has no real flavor of its own to change the flavor of the fruit. I used 14 cups of fruit and 10 cups of sugar. Although this did a great job of jelling up the fruit and the juice admirably, the fruit itself was so sweet that the jam turned out a bit too sweet. When I mentioned this to a reader, she suggested adding rhubarb next time.

And I will do that. Now to the video – I only included the really important moments in ‘jam-dom’ which is where you need to be able to see point where you no longer have fruit soup and have moved to actual jelling.

I did not demo canning, but here is what I did:

–With the pot of jam on the stove, and figuring that I still have about 10 min. left on the jam cooking down, I put clean, washed and rinsed canning jars into the oven, set at 350 degrees.
— I put lids and bands to fit those jars into a sauce pan on the top of the stove and put that on to boil. When it started to simmer, I turned it down.
— When the jam was ready, using my jar lifter, I took a jar out of the oven and put it on a plate on my stove top right next to the pot of jam. Using my handy ‘made out of the top of a gallon milk jug’ funnel and a clean, washed ladle, I ladled hot jam into the jar to the neck.
— Using a clean wet paper towel, I wiped off the top of the jar.
— Using my tongues, I took out a lid and set that on the top of the jar. I did the same with a band and using a hot pad, I screwed it down tight.
— I set the jar onto a cake cooling rack on the counter.
By the time I was done with the last jam, the jars had started to suck the lids in, with that characteristic ‘plink’ noise. I did not have any odd bits of jam left over, but if I had, I would have put them into a heatproof (hot jam is really hot and you can get burned with it) container, and allowed it to cool and then would have put it in the fridge for immediate use.

Whine All You Want:
When the DH and Aunt Toby were first married, lo these many many years ago when we were still banging laundry with rocks by the creekside, we used to also do home winemaking. And, there is nothing..and I mean, not one type of wine…that can compare to summer strawberry wine, which when made properly (with sweet all by themselves strawberries and no added sugars), has a light fruity taste that is absolutely wonderful, especially over ice or with a spritzer. Very yum. Here are the basic instructions in the hopes that people will want to find out more about making their own wines out of local fruit. Think of yourself as terribly European – this is what they do and they lay claims to calling their appellations things like “champagne” and “Burgundy” and so on. We will have to call ours ‘Chez Siberia’.

This is a general direction; you will want to get a wine making book with recipes.
1) The day before you go out and get the fruit, you mix up your wine yeast with water as a starter. Wine yeast is something you will need to go to a supply house for.
2) Weigh out 8 pounds of clean, fresh, washed, hulled strawberries. Mash the fruit up in a clean, food grade bucket.
3) Dissolve 5 pounds of cane sugar in two gallons of boiling water and allow to cool. Add the cooled sugar water to the fruit along with two items that you will have to get from a supply house: Camden Tablets and Depectinizer (You will need 2 Camden tablets and 1 ounce of Depectinizer, all crushed and mixed in with the cooled sugar water)
4) This is called a ‘must’. Allow this all to sit for 24 hours. You’ll want to cover the bucket of crushed fruit.
5) The next day, you can start the real fermentation process by adding the yeast mixture and leave everything in the covered bucket for the time specified in the recipe. Then strain out as much of the fruit as you can (using fine cheese cloth or something like that – cleaned, washed, boiled even) and put liquid into jugs and fit with air locks (bubblers – these are also things you can get at a supply house).
6) When the fermentation finishes (and you’ll be able to tell this by a) your directions and b) the bubblers stop..bubbling), then you can put the win into another jug, carefully leaving the sediment with the spent yeast behind.

As you can see from the video, we are at step number 5 in the process; we’ll keep you posted.

There are lots of other details and items to think about but this is the basic deal. For supplies, check your local Yellow Pages for ‘home brew’ or ‘beer making’ or wine making’, or search on the internet for ‘wine making supplies’.
(photograph at the top courtesy of matthiasr)

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