Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Our Local U-pick Farm

Spencer's Berry Farm makes me envious of the Spencers!

Last year I picked the largest and tastiest black raspberries I had ever laid eyes on at Spencer's Berry Farm.  My husband and I also made good on a 4 year quest to pick blueberries together.  We had such fun!

Every time we are at the farm we start the discussion of how we want a u-pick farm and how the place must be a gold mine (a berry gold mine!) given how many families come through there on a daily basis during growing season.  We forget, of course, the season where the land turns into a frozen tundra, the early mornings in the freezing rain, the hoeing, the blisters, the bug bites, the blisters, the bill paying, the handling of farm employees, and the loss due to weather.  We forget all that and revel in the best part of their year.

Early this June I got an email alerting me that it was strawberry picking time at Spencer's.  I had had a particularly trying week at work and deserved some time communing with nature, reveling in the scent of strawberry plants. So, we headed over after work one day thinking we would have the place to ourselves.  How wrong we were!  The place was busy already.

We grabbed our box (we were told it fits about 10 pounds of berries) and headed over to our row.  We crouched low to investigate the fruits, hidden by large green leaves.  They were huge! And so red!  And so sweet!  Shuffling the box along, we moved section by section and cleared it of the reddest and juiciest of strawberries.  With the box full, we headed over to get weighed...12.5 pounds!

Needless to say, the strawberry and spinach salad we had that evening was devine.  So were the 6 pints and 4 half pints of strawberry bay leaf jam I made that weekend.

J, my husband, was going through the strawberry jam so fast that we ended up stopping by Spencer's again for second hit two weeks later.  The first time we picked All Stars, and the second time we picked Honeywells.  The Honeywells were sweeter (if even possible) and smaller than what we had picked previously.  They also attracted more of a crowd!

11.5 pounds later, we headed home to sip gin and tonics while hulling the whole load of berries.  We made quick time and ran out of room in our hulled-strawberry bowl so we were forced to eat the last few. It was a terrible sacrifice.

Sadly, strawberry season is already over in Indiana, or at least trailing off.  My mom, who lives in California, laughed at our short season here since they sell them year round in the farmers markets in LA.  Alas, our berries are sweeter since we only get to savor their flesh for a few short weeks.

Strawberry Bay Leaf Jam
4 cups crushed strawberries
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp calcium water
1 tsp Pomona's pectin powder*
1.5 cups sugar divided
3 dry bay leaves or 6 fresh**

Combine 1 cup of sugar, bay leaves, lemon juice, and strawberries in a large jam pot.  Simmer to release juices and steep the flavor out of the bay leaves.  After some of the juice has concentrated, about 15 minutes, remove the bay leaves and add the calcium water. Combine the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar with the pectin powder and add it all at once to the bubbling strawberries.  Boil for at least one minute and immediately fill hot jars, fit with lids, and process for 10 minutes in a water bath canner.  Remove from the water and rest on the counter to cool for at least 12 hours.  Check the seals and label.

*I use Pomona's Pectin because its all natural and does not require sugar to jell the fruit. Instead it uses the calcium water (provided in the package).  Not only is the lower amount of sugar in the jam better for you, but I also think it allows the fruit flavor to be the real star.

**The bay leaf may seem like a strange addition, but I think it works like coffee does with chocolate and enhances the flavor of the strawberries rather than adding a pungent taste.

Strawberry Bay Leaf Jam on Punk Domestics

1 comment:

  1. I have never heard of using bay leaves before. It has me intrigued!