I can remember fondly the first time I rolled down a country lane on my bicycle and discovered the sweetest, tastiest, and largest wild strawberries of my life. I made strawberry jam from that patch for years. I have never had strawberry jam that tasted as good as that first jam. Maybe all these years I have been chasing that memory of wild strawberries. Even in college I wandered into a greenhouse at Purdue to discover strawberries fruiting profusely in the middle of winter. Several years ago on a mountain top in Hawaii even I harvested a quantity of white alpine wild strawberries. Such memories.
Here in Texas wild strawberries are far and very few between so I have had to go to a Pick Your Own Farm to satisfy my urges for strawberry jam. I have one strawberry plant in my garden and it has given me a handful of fruit so I knew it was time to head out to the Poteet area to get strawberries. What a day. It was pleasantly cool and overcast. The wildflowers were at their peak. White poppies, black eyed Susans, phlox, blue curl, Mexican blanket, Indian paintbrush and of course bluebonnets were straining to catch my attention. It was hard to keep my eyes on the road. The flowers certainly put me in a good mood. As we entered the gravel road to the farm I enjoyed seeing a large dog guarding the goats. Turns out he was raised as a pup with the goats so he has bonded with them and spends all his time with them, keeping them safe from the coyotes and Mexican Eagles. At the farm’s strawberry field the strawberries were at their peak . I just enjoy seeing those ripe red fruit peeking out from around those green jagged leaves. It is like falling in love all over again every time I see those fruit. My favorite quote is by William Butler who said about the strawberry “Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did.” That says it all for me. Wild strawberries were native to Europe and also the Americas. Today’s cultivated strawberry is a hybrid of Virginian and Chilean strawberries. While the modern strawberries may have lost much of the taste of the wild strawberries, the ones I got today were delicious. They were ripe and sweet. Nothing like the strawberries I have bought in the store.
Strawberries do well in the sandy soil of Poteet. I have tried repeatedly growing them but I simply don’t have room and the sandy soil. So I brought home twice as many strawberries as I needed for my strawberry jam. The first thing I did, after washing the largest berry in the basket was to savor the sweet flavors and let a little juice wander my lips. Ahhh. So tasty. Then I sliced some of them and put them into pretty glass bowls for lunch. As a child we always put powdered sugar on our strawberries but these were so tasty that the sweet powder was not necessary. According to legend if you break a double strawberry in half and give it to a member of the opposite sex they will fall in love with you. So I gave half of the largest strawberry to my wife just to make sure she stays in love with me. I could easily have eaten all the strawberries I brought home in one sitting but I needed to save some for jam. Reluctantly I turned from eating strawberries to preparing jam. There are numerous recipes for strawberries. Strawberry preserve, strawberry jelly, and strawberry jam are of course my favorites. Since it has been a long time since I have made strawberry jam I chose to make that this year.
First I measured out 10 cups of fruit. (4 pounds for those using scales.) The caps being the little leaves attached to the top of each berry. I washed all the fruit and removed the caps from each berry. I then sliced up each berry and placed them into a bowl. Using my trusty potato masher I mashed all the fruit. If you like large pieces of fruit in your jam don’t mash too finely. In fact you can leave out some of the fruit until you are finished mashing and then add a handful of chopped berries. I then placed the mashed fruit and apple juice into my largest cooking pot. After bringing the mixture to a boil the pectin was added. Then after bringing it to a boil again the sugar was added and stirred in a hard boil for a minute. After it was cooled somewhat it was poured into freezer containers. While it was still warm I poured some over vanilla ice cream. Life just doesn’t get much better than that.
10 cups of strawberries (4 pounds)
1 3/4 cup apple juice
1 pkg No Sugar Needed Pectin
3 cups sugar