Canning Roughing It

Sunday, June 27, 2010
Over the past couple weeks, I’ve become a pretty persistent wild strawberry picker. I wouldn’t normally devote much time to picking these teeny little berries that are usually few and far apart, but this summer I’ve found a couple fruitful strawberry patches where the fruit is fairly concentrated and the berries are bigger than I’ve ever seen a wild strawberry before: about the size of a Gobstopper. On an average evening of picking, I come home with about a cup of berries. Still, picking wild strawberries involves a fair amount of ditch diving – that is, squatting along the side of gravel roads, pawing through strawberry foliage – before you’ve gathered enough berries to amount to anything.

I read a local cookbook this spring that put the crazy idea of making wild strawberry jam into my head and I’ve been diligently gathering strawberries to make a batch. Then, at some point this week, the magic berry switch must have been flicked. Suddenly ripe raspberries and blueberries are popping up all over to join the strawberries. By Friday it was becoming apparent that it was time to finish up with the my putzy wild strawberry jam project so I could devote my full attention to the raspberries and blueberries (aka, the big guns).

Yes, I realize that making wild strawberry jam sounds pretty idealistic when you live in a cabin in the woods. Since today I headed into town to use my mother’s canning equipment to make my strawberry jam, I thought I’d share how you too can make strawberry jam.

Step 1) Pick as many wild strawberries as you possibly can. This is a project to spread out over several days as you’ll probably spend more time searching for berries than actually picking. (I froze my berries while I waited to accumulate enough for jam.)

Step 2) Once you've got a big bag full, mash up all your wild strawberries and see what it amounts to. (As of last night I had a 3 ½ cups of mashed wild strawberries. I needed 5 cups for a batch of cooked strawberry jam.)

Step 3) Go to the grocery store and buy a couple pints of strawberries. After all, you have a full time job and a grand opening at work in a week. And if you keep squatting on the side of the road with a berry basket, soon or later, you’ll get hit. And are you really sure you haven’t been picking berries on private property?!

Step 4) Cook your jam according to the Sure-Jell package directions.

Step 5) Admire your rows of jam.

So maybe not totally “Little House in the Big Woods” style, but still, homemade jam is homemade jam, even if my wild strawberry jam is slightly domesticated.

Don’t worry, I do have some standards. After I finished up with the strawberry jam this afternoon, I chopped up all the homegrown rhubarb that’s been hanging out in our fridge to make a batch of rhubarb marmalade.

Of course, the secret ingredient to make rhubarb marmalade set is Strawberry Jell-O.

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