In the little town I grew up in, it wasn't unusual for a friend or a neighbor to come over unannounced with a basket full of produce. I loved being the one that would run Mammie's errands (my grandmother). She would give me the address and I would run to their house with a basket full of beans, corn, turnips, and tomatoes.
In the spring, Mammie grew strawberries on the hillside. The hill overlooked the breathtaking view of the rolling valleys of Greenbrier's countryside. The road could be seen slightly through the tall thicket of budding trees. The turkeys in the woods could be heard calling to one another, while the pileated woodpecker could be heard drumming the trees. The lush green pastures and the occasional cow walking to the bottom of the hill to get a drink from the creek could be seen from Mammie's strawberry patch. She spent the fall placing tobacco stems on her strawberries. She swore that tobacco would help the strawberry plants to grow healthier. Come spring, I'll be darn if the strawberries weren't the brightest and juiciest things I've ever tasted.
I loved being in the strawberry patch with Mammie. I loved the way her brown hair would sway in the berry field, and the occasional, "Oh me," that she would say. I always giggled when she would laugh and say, "Oh me, Meg. Don't ever get old. Just don't do it." I would laugh, and brush the hair from my face and say in return, "I'll work on that. I don't think I can promise anything."
After she died, the weeds took over what she built. A strawberry vine would bloom, but the relentless weeds choked the life out of the strawberry. I miss the time spent on the hill side picking strawberries with her and delivering the fresh produce to her beloved friends.
With kids of my own now, I spend time with them in the fields of farmers who allow us to pick from their land. Last week, I spent time on Kelley's Berry Farm in Castilian Springs. I taught my youngest how to pick some berries. When my daughter found a huge strawberry, she shrieked with excitement in her voice, "Momma, I found a fat momma. I eats it!"
After spending a few hours in Mr. Kelley's patch, we came home to cap off the berries and made strawberry preserves. After handling every strawberry, I'm proud to say that I only ate very few as I was capping them off. The smell was absolutely heavenly. My children were around the kitchen watching my every move. Most of the time I would have shewed them away, but I enjoyed their company. There was so much nostalgia and recalling memories of Mammie.
The heavenly smell of the berries simmering in the enameled cast iron Dutch oven filled the air. I started thinking of all the recipes I could make with all the strawberries we picked! There is nothing better than fresh garden strawberries to celebrate the beginning of May.
Strawberry preserves is the go-to recipes for me. I love keeping a few jars of strawberries on hand. Preserves taste so good with sourdough bread, brownies, strawberry jam, biscuits, and ice-cream.
I use the recipe from Sure-Jell original. The recipe is easy to use and has wonderful results.
What you will need:
While capping the berries, you will need to clean your jars by boiling them in hot water for 10 minutes. You will need to do the same with the lids and bans and place them upside down on a clean towel.
Pour strawberries in a large container and fill with water. Cap the strawberries. After capping the strawberries, wash the capped strawberries individually. This will help prevent any green caps and stems from showing up in the preserves.
Crush the strawberries and measures accurately. The measurement must be accurate to ensure that they set well. You will need 6 cups of crushed strawberries.
Place strawberries in an enameled dutch oven cast ironware. Never use a regular cast-iron skillet for acidic recipes and sugar. Sugar and acidic food is an enemy to the cast iron skillet. Both will destroy the seasoning and possibly cause the seasoning to peel off during the cooking process and discolor your food.
Pour the package of Sure-Jell Original in to the strawberries and a one-fourth cup of sugar (of the 4 cups of sugar). Stir in until well combined.
Add one teaspoon of butter. This will help to reduce the pink foam that forms when coming to a rapid boil towards the end.
Allow your preserves to simmer for two minutes. Add four cups of sugar (minus the 1/4th of a cup of sugar you added in the beginning).
Turn the heat up to high heat and allow the strawberry preserves to rapidly boil. This needs to be a roaring boil for two solid minutes while stirring.
Shut the heat off after two minutes and skim the pink foam off.
I keep the pink foam in a bowl for sandwich jam or to eat as a small snack.
Pour preserves in the sterilized jars. Fill to the top line of your 12-ounce jar. One batch of preserves should fill three jars. Once the jar is full, wipe the mouth of the jar off with a wet rag and seal with bands and lids.
Place the jar in a bath water for five minutes and take out. Allow the jar to sit out for several hours. Store in the fridge.
Or, sit one aside for your kids drool over while your taking pictures for my blog.
And yes, I totally did not let the whipped cream to go to waste. I enjoyed every single bite and slurp. Mostly slurps.
Cast iron pot needed: Enameled cast iron Dutch oven
In a saucepot, fill the pot with water and boil water. Place 12-ounce jars or smaller in saucepot. Place lids and bands in the water. Boil for 10 minutes and take out. Places jars, bands, and lids on a clean towel upside down.
While jars are drying off, prepare strawberries by washing them off, and capping off. After capping strawberries, rinse strawberries off from any remnants of stems.
Crush strawberries and measure exactly six cups of strawberries. Place in an enameled cast-iron Dutch oven. Pour one package of Sure-Gel over strawberries, 1/4 cup sugar, and one teaspoon of butter.
Simmer strawberries for 2 minutes. Add the rest of the sugar into the strawberries. Turn the heat on high. Allow the berries to come to a roaring boil continuously for two minutes. Turn the heat off. With a spoon, skim off the pink foam. You want the jam to be completely red.
Pour into the sterilized jar. Wipe the top of the jar off with a wet rag. Place the lid and band on the jar and screw tightly. Place the jar in a warm water bath for five minutes. Take out and allow the preserves to settle. Do not move. After several hours have passed, place in the fridge.