Friday, July 08, 2011

Real strawberry flavor - from real strawberries

A few years ago, I did pick a couple of tiny little strawberries out of an old patch hidden in the grassy field across the road, and was stunned at the revelation of what strawberry flavor really is. Since then I have totally boycotted those big red too-perfect to be real commercially grown California strawberries which actually taste like tart Kool-Aid and incidentally carry more pesticide residue than almost any other fruit. Yuk.

So two summers ago on impulse I bought a flat of "ever-bearing" strawberries from The Plantman (a local nursery, love the name) and got some help arranging them on the lower slope of the drainage field next to our house...or "the mound" as we euphemistically call it. Last year, a few berries showed up, just enough to whet our appetite. This year, a bonanza. And a feast.

When the whole patch first started showing little balls of green all over, I salivated and announced in advance that we were not sharing. Actually, I planned to sit right next to the mound and personally eat them one by one as they ripened. And they soon came on gorgeously ripe red and tasted every bit as deliciously like "strawberry" as I had anticipated. Occasionally I had a few sunshine warm ones straight out of the patch. Turns out that to save them from the birds and chipmunks we had to pick them by the handful as they ripened, and they accumulated in a bowl on the kitchen counter. So instead of noshing in a chair outside, I just grabbed a few every time I passed through the kitchen.

But last week they got ahead of me. And facing about two quarts rapidly deteriorating, I dashed to the store for Sure-Jell (powered fruit pectin) and came home and whipped out a batch of strawberry freezer jam. It's really easy. Two cups of smashed berries requires four cups of sugar, which seems an obscene ratio of fruit to sugar. But when it all jells into a jewel colored jam it comes really close to tasting like a fresh and perfectly sweet homegrown strawberry. Delicious. This is what strawberries are supposed to taste like.