Two Day Strawberry Jam (with a side of contemplation)

Posted on June 18, 2012

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First, the contemplation:

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It’s been over two and a half years since I took anything even close to a vacation. Sure, I’ve had days off from jobs and academic breaks, but I would hardly say any of those occasions qualify as a true “break” from reality, or at the very least, from my day-to-day, which involves working nights to pay my bills and using my daylight hours to complete (and scheme for, ha ha!) work of professional and personal interest. I’ve (pretty much) been in school for the past seven years, so waitressing just made sense: local work, money in my pocket, good hours for a full-time student. At the same time, I feel like I’ve been trying to get out of the industry for years. But in this economy, walking away from a job with such “freedom” that almost always guarantees a wage of $20-30 per hour is HARD. Like really, REALLY hard. Especially once you’ve established solid relationships with the people for whom you work and see their business’ vision expand and develop into something you are evermore interested in supplementing. But I digress…

Arugula and broccoli plantsIt’s so funny the pressure we put on ourselves to be “something,” when really, truly, honestly, we are mere specks of dust in the history of our universe. But in steering myself away from existential wondering by pursuing acts of “goodness” instead, I tend to stretch myself quite thin, and last summer was certainly a lesson in creating a sustainable workload for myself. Because no matter how much you want and try, there comes a point when you are incapable of performing at the level you expect from yourself or others when you have hands in all pots.

New growth: rhubarb propagated in early MayThe point I am meandering towards is that I can’t be the blogger I want to be, at least at this time. In my pursuit of health and happiness through a more balanced lifestyle, I’ve come to realize that I cannot document AND publish all of the projects I take on without sacrificing too much of myself. Hell, I can’t even manage to publish some of them lately! Which is why I’m over here, getting all “dear diary” on you folks. It’s been exactly one month since I graduated yet I don’t feel like I have anymore “free time”  because while my daily tasks have changed, the workload itself has not. One and a half jobs means I hardly ever get to spend time with my boyfriend (whom I LIVE WITH, mind you) and/or I only sleep 4-5 hours a night, which inevitably leads me to feeling more than a little burnt out by the end of the week.

Bok choy in the Learning GardenThat said, my goal for the next three months is to focus on my offline life- the growing of food, flowers, healthy bodies, minds, ideas, projects (including a yet-to-be-worked 2500 square foot organic vegetable garden in Weston), and relationships. I will continue to post, as I am willing and able, just not as often (or verbosely) as I thought I would when I started LMC. I expect to purchase an iPhone in the near future, which I hope will serve as encouragement to post more frequent garden updates; I have a fabulous Canon but it’s kind of big and quite expensive, so I don’t usually cart it around with me.

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Fresh and local strawberriesEnough with my ambiguous ramblings (for now). It is finally strawberry season in Massachusetts. I bought my first lot this weekend at my city’s farmers market, but plan to personally pick more, plus tart cherries if possible, this or next week at this farm in my hometown. Most of the strawberries will make their way into my brand-spankin’-new chest freezer while the cherries will be turned into preserves or jam. Oh, and plenty of each fruit, in the raw, will find a home in my belly. For now, I leave you with a recipe for an ah-mazing, loose* two day strawberry jam, canned with a hot water bath for shelf stability.

A loose strawberry jam perfect for yogurt and oatmeal

See what I mean!

* Read: intentionally undercooked for a more syrupy consistency, perfect for yogurt and oatmeal, which is mainly how I consume my fruit preserves. As stated below, a firmer set (and fewer jars) can be achieved if the jam is cooked longer.

Strawberry jamTwo Day Strawberry Jam
Makes about 8 half-pints

Ingredients:

  • 4 lbs strawberries, washed, hulled, and halved (I chop up the underripe berries even smaller)
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice

Directions:

Day 1: Place prepped berries in a large, non-reactive pot; pour 1 1/2 cups of sugar over the berries and gently stir to evenly disperse the sugar; allow the berries to macerate, covered, in the fridge for 12-24 hours.

Day 2: When you are ready to make and can the jam, transfer the pot of berries to the stove top and add the remaining sugar and lemon juice. If you would like, you can gently crush the fruit with a potato masher to have a jam with smaller chunks of strawberry flesh. Turn the heat up to medium-high and bring the berries to a boil, then lower the heat to medium to maintain a steady simmer. Stir the mixture constantly for 20-25 minutes for a syrupy jam, or longer for a thicker, more traditional jam consistency; there are several ways to perform a “gel test” on your spread in order to achieve a desired consistency. Ladle the hot jam into sterilized jars with 1/4″ headspace and cap with prepped lids and rings; process for 10 minutes in a hot water bath canner.

Recipe oh-so-slighty adapted from SLC Urban.

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