Every year around berry picking time I load the kids in the Gas-Guzzle Beast and head off for the nearby U-Pick Fields. This year the strawberries are a good three weeks, if not more, behind schedule. But we were there opening day. And so was everyone else and their grandparents, and neighbors, and kids, and moms, and a few reluctant teenagers (O.K. I guess I was the only one to bring teenagers) etc.
The pick director took one look at the six kids and myself and sent us to the far corner of the fields. I guessed we looked like trouble and the flag lady figured with us near the edge we would wreak less havoc.
This year the berries were a little smaller, and a little more expensive than last year. However, nothing compares to fresh strawberries, every one so juicy sweet, you can’t help but go back year after year. Store bought well I’ve never tasted store bought that tastes like fresh.
Even though I took six kids I probably only had two really good pickers.
Abner and Lea have some mad berry picking skills. T-rev would have been right there with them but I set him on Hope after she decided to start visiting the neighboring pickers and stepping on the berry bushes in an effort to make new friends. Princess would pick one here or there, but was more interested in talking about how they looked and asking questions about how the plants grow and why Abner was picking one row instead of another, and on and on. If only her hand worked as fast as her little mouth we would have had double the volume of berries picked. Evo-man picked about a handful of berries and decided he would rather go sit in the vehicle. I didn’t feel like fighting so I let him. Just wait the story gets better.
Less than an hour later we had a good 4 flats picked and decided to leave the rest for more serious pickers.
On the way home we dropped off some of our berries at a friends home so the kids could count one of their 1000 acts of service. And once we got home and sat the berries on the table – Wham!
I suddenly realized that I’d better do something with them. I couldn’t just pick and buy 36 lbs of strawberries and expect them to just sit there. So I pulled out of the cobwebs my old canning supplies. Haven’t touched much of it in the last 5 years but now was as good as time as any.
Freezer jam is my favorite but my old freezer is an ancient hand-me-down from my grandparents and since it could go any day I try not to put too many valuables in it. So I only made one batch of freezer jam and about 10 bags of whole frozen berries. That way if the food storage unit decides to self-destruct I can take the thawed berries and turn them into canned jam.
Since I had some little canning jars in storage I decided to can most of the strawberries instead. Regardless eight hours...
5 batches of jam later, another trip to the store to buy pectin and sugar, and around 12:30 a.m. I finished destroying my (just barely paid to be cleaned) kitchen with a sticky berry mess. Evo-man redeemed himself by being the official berry masher and mashing most of the berries I needed. He volunteered to help which about floored me because he never volunteers for anything.
Financially it would have been more practical to freeze all the berries whole and not bother with the whole time-consuming jam thing. It would definitely be cheaper to cut coupons and stock up on Smuckers when it’s on sale. But dang, it feels good to see 34 cute little ½ pint jars of canned jam, 7 containers of freezer jam and 10 bags of frozen berries done and finished. And to know that my biggest helper in the end was the one kid I expected to avoid helping at all costs. That whole one-on-one berry smashing talk session and the pride of accomplishment thing makes up for the extra cost. That and I know even though it’s been awhile, somewhere buried deep down, my mad canning skills that I inherited from my mom are still, kind of, functioning.