One of the things I miss about living in Florida is the extended growing season for fruits and veggies. Our local farmer's market starts up in a couple of weeks (so excited), but it will be at least a month after that before we start seeing any fresh local fruit. Right now, in Florida, strawberries are abundant and I miss being able to stop at a farm stand to pick up a flat for several months out of the year. We do grow strawberries here in Virginia (we even have a few plants in our garden!) but the growing season is limited to about 4 weeks starting in mid-May. During that time I make it a point to visit the closest pick-your-own patch at least twice, coming home after each trip with a giant flat of berries, a slight sunburn and a full belly.
We manage to consume most of the berries we come home with while they are still fresh, but towards the end of the season I'll make a final trip to the patch to pick the few remaining berries that haven't been zapped by June's high temperatures, just to freeze for smoothies later in the summer. Strawberries you've picked and frozen yourself bear no comparison to those you buy in the freezer section of your local grocery and I will surely be freezing some again this year. But I've also decided on another method of preservation for this May (JAM!!!), or maybe its merely an excuse to buy even more at the patch. Because really, nothing makes me much happier than loading up a cardboard box with mounds of freshly picked berries.
In the meantime I'll be making do with the fresh Florida strawberries I'm finding at Whole Foods, which are absolutely delicious even if they do lack the nostalgia that comes with picking them yourself. Canning is a new process for me, and I want to be sure to get some practice in before facing the challenge of preserving enough berries to make my fresh Virginia strawberry nostalgia last me from June 2009 until the following May. Luckily I remembered reading a Molly Wizenburg article in last June's Bon Appetit that outlined the process quite precisely, and was able to adapt her recipe to use strawberries and their favorite partner, rhubarb.
The result was delicious, although I might consider reducing the sugar in my next batch so that the tartness of the rhubarb shines through a bit more. This recipe can be adapted to use an endless variety of fruit, and I plan on experimenting with as many as I can come summertime.
Strawberry Rhubarb Jambasic jam recipe from Orangette via Bon Appetit
24oz fresh strawberries, washed and sliced
1-1/2 lbs rhubarb (about 5 stalks), sliced into 1/2" chunks
2 cups of sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
Place sliced strawberries and rhubarb in a large bowl with sugar and lemon juice. Mix to coat and let sit for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
Place 2 saucers in freezer.
Transfer fruit mixture to large saucepan and bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Use a hand-held mixer or immersion blender to puree the fruit as best you can. Reduce heat to medium and boil gently until mixture begins to thicken, stirring often, about 18 minutes.
Remove saucepan from heat to test jam for gelling point. Drop 1 teaspoonful jam on chilled saucer and return to freezer 1 minute. Remove saucer and push edge of jam with fingertip. If jam has properly gelled, surface will gently wrinkle. If not, return saucepan to heat and cook jam a few minutes longer; repeat test.
Ladle hot jam into jars. Allow to cool and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.*
* If you'd like to preserve the jam for longer, follow Molly's method here. The jam will keep for months, unopened in the pantry, if you follow a proper canning method. Then, you can send a jar to friends and make them very, very happy.
Thank you all for the sweet Happy Birthday messages! I had a fabulous day, or weekend actually, filled with cake (friday, saturday AND today!), dinner out, brunch in and lots of great company. I could not have wished for more, and your messages have put it over the top. Thank you!!!In the Blog World:Roseis giving away one of those fantastic Quaker robe and slipper sets! The deadline is midnight tonight, so hurry up! And after you enter, stick around to read more of Rose's wonderful blog and fabulous oatmeal stories...she is such a creative lady!
Its approaching 4 years since Brian and I packed up and moved to Virginia. We came from North Carolina, but had only lived there for one year so were really still Floridians at heart. Having spent the first 22 years of our lives in the Sunshine State we were new to the whole idea of seasons, or at least noticeable seasonal changes. Each year I discover new subtleties in the transitions from one season to the next. I'm getting good at knowing which flowers in my yard will be first to wake from their winter slumber (snowbells) and which trees will show the first signs of life (plums). I've even finally realized that just because the temperature reaches 70* one weekend in early March, it doesn't mean that we won't have snow two days later. I know this, yet I'm still surprised each year.Even with all I've learned in the last four years, I’m still trying to get used to the radical temperature swings that Virginia sees when transitioning from Autumn to Winter and Winter to Spring. Last weekend the highs were forecast to be in the mid-60's, perfect weather for getting seeds planted in the garden, yet when I woke up Sunday morning my bedside thermometer read 28*. Since I knew what was to come later that day, I quickly called my walking buddy Christine (due any day now with her baby girl!!!) and rescheduled our stroll for the afternoon, when the weather would be more pleasant. And then I crawled back in bed.Though it postponed my morning exercise, what this cold morning did afford me was longer snuggle time under the covers with Brian and our dogs, a large pot of coffee after finally making my way to the kitchen and the opportunity to make this recipe that I found at Seven Spoons some weeks earlier. We all know that I love oatmeal (who doesn't? really?) so I was excited not only to discover Tara's lovely blog on Tastespotting, but to be introduced to it through a recipe that was so very perfect for me. Oats, fresh fruit, almonds and pepitos and some of my favorite spices all baked together into a warm, satisfying breakfast...what's not to love?This dish was really delicious. I substituted fresh strawberries for Tara’s frozen blueberries and added some orange zest because, well, I think everything is better with a bit of citrus. There are endless possibilities of fruit and spice combinations, and I think you could even substitute some or all of the sugar for honey or maple syrup. It would make for a great meal when you have a couple of house guests but it also heats up exceptionally well the next day if you want to keep it all for yourself.Baked Oatmeal with Strawberries and Bananasoriginal recipe from seven spoons
Softened butter for greasing the pan
2 cups large flake rolled oats (not instant)
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup pepitas, lightly toasted
2 teaspoons flax seeds
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground clove
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
zest from 1 medium orange
2 cups milk (I used plain soymilk)
1 large egg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon pure maple syrup
3 medium bananas, diced
1 cup sliced fresh strawberries
Coarse sugar, optional
Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Lightly grease the inside of a baking dish, 2-quart capacity.
In a medium bowl, mix together the oats, almonds, brown sugar, pepitas, flax seeds, baking powder, orange zest, spices and salt. Set aside.
In another bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, almost all of the butter (save about 1 teaspoon for drizzling over the finished dish), vanilla and maple syrup. Set aside.
In the prepared baking dish, spread the diced bananas in an even layer, then scatter the strawberries over top. Pile the oat mixture to cover the fruit, but do not pack too tightly. Carefully pour the wet milk mixture over the oats.
Drizzle over the reserved butter, sprinkle with coarse sugar, and bake for 35-40 minutes, until the oatmeal is puffed and set, with a golden brown top.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.
In the Blog World...Meghann is hosting another Blogger Bake Sale to raise money for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society! Not only do I love Meghann because she is my cousin, but this girl is so incredibly inspirational. I love reading about her accomplishments with running, fitness and healthy eating. She's competed in many races and come up with some really great recipes. Read about her first bake sale here - she raised $1320 for a great cause!!! I'll be donating this and this, so be sure to check her blog on April 6th to place your bids!!!