Summertime

Update 7/3/08: I have a recipe in this post now!  I figured it’s plenty time to post a recipe.  Click on “Read More” and scroll to the bottom.  Happy jam making! ~K

Sunday morning I woke up full of energy. Some of it was nervous energy, some of it was excitement. The first thing I did was sneak out of bed and peak out the window. I wasn’t an eager child looking for snow on Christmas Day, I was impatient to find out if the predicted thunder storms had already begun. Rain would ruin everything, and if my plans failed, I would have nothing to do all day long. For a week I had been looking forward to spending the day up in Ipswich picking strawberries and going to the beach with David and our friend, Andrew.

After a quick peak between the blinds, which affirmed threateningly gray skies and an oppressive feeling of rain, I half-heartedly call the farm.

“Are you picking strawberries today?” I ask.

“I think so,” a woman on the other end replies, and there is a scuffle on the phone as she asks someone in the background before she returns, “Yes, we’re picking. It’s towards the end of the season already, but there are quite a few in the back of the field. That is, if you dare to come up with the weather.”

I was at a loss. I had to wake David and talk it over with him. He was groggy. He didn’t want to be awake. He had been up very late the night before. Finally, after munching on an apple at the breakfast table, we called Andrew and decided to meet up for brunch at a local place called Sound Bites and then continue north: one way or another, we would get strawberries.

Those who are determined , succeed. Our plan ended up being perfect. The drive up to the farm was beautiful – lush greenery surrounded the country roads as we got off the highway. While the skies remained gray most of the day, we stayed dry. The air smelled so pure and fresh compared to the city’s pollution. Marini Farms is located just outside of Ipswich, not far from the institution roadside eatery Clam Box, known for its fried clams. When we got to the farm and walked to the berry patch we got very excited. There were rows upon rows of strawberries. We began picking, and realized that despite the festival held the week before, there were plenty of berries left. The woman at the stand had been right: the further back we got the more beautiful they became. We started off with two flats (of six quarts each) and I ended up having to get one more flat. We just couldn’t stop! I popped one in my mouth and the thin skin gave way to a soft, sweet, and juicy center. The flavor was incredible. I had to will myself to keep putting the berries into the containers and not into my mouth.

After paying for the berries and loading them in the car, we decided to head off to Crane Beach, stopping on our way at Zumi’s Café for drinks and ice cream in downtown Ipswich. We spent an hour or so at the beach; David and Andrew went swimming while I finished up Amy Trubek’s newest book on terroir in the United States called “A Taste of Place.” All too soon it was time to go home.

As we got back in the car the smell of berries overwhelmed us. We began eating more, not caring if there were small specks of dirt on the red jewels. A little dirt never hurt anyone, did it? When we got back to Somerville, it finally began to rain. A monsoon-like thunderstorm pelted us as we ran back and forth unloading the car. Once we got all the berries inside, the real work began.

David and Andrew began washing and chopping berries while I prepared Andrew’s family recipe for shortcake. While the shortcake baked we measured out ingredients to make jam (see recipe below). We cooked up three batches, which only used half the berries we had picked. The smell of fresh and cooked berries filled the house, as did the heat of all the pots we used and the hot oven. When we had filled and sealed the last jar, we quickly grabbed some leftover cut strawberries and the shortcake and rushed to the back porch.

As we sat in the evening light enjoying our fresh homemade dessert, a feeling of peace and ease overcame me. Summer is finally here, and I get to share it with wonderful people doing things that I love. Perhaps for the first time since moving to Boston, I felt connected to the land, and people, around me: I had spent the day out in it, and had a sense of pride in our accomplishments. Memories of jam making with my own family as a child had accompanied me throughout the day, and I thought about how this day would add to my store of jam-making experiences: our first time picking berries and turning them into jam all by ourselves. I smiled as we sat outside together in the evening breeze, gobbling up shortcake and procrastinating doing all the dishes that were waiting for us inside. The day truly had become the perfect summer day.

Marini Farms is located at 259 Linebrook Rd, Ipswich, MA 01938. See their website for hours and availability of produce. In addition to pick-your-own strawberries they have an extensive nursery as well as a large farm stand with local produce.

Ipswich is located in northeastern Massachusetts. It is accessible via the commuter rail from Boston. There is a shuttle that runs to Crane Beach and Essex ($1.50 one-way or $5 round trip including beach access). Marini Farms is not easily accessible without a car, though the shuttle does stop at Russel Orchards, another farm that offers pick-your-own and has a large farm stand.

Recipe for (Cooked) Strawberry Jam

Note: When making cooked jams, take extreme caution as all the contents and containers must be very hot. Using special canning tongs and funnels is advisable to ease the process and prevent injury.

6 cups strawberries, washed, trimmed, and lightly crushed

3 3/4 cups + 1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 packet low-sugar pectin (I used Sure Jell brand “Less or No Sugar Needed”)

1. Wash 4 pint jars or 8 8-oz jars in hot soapy water. Rinse and carefully immerse in pot of hot, almost-boiling water. In a separate, smaller pot with almost-boiling water, place screw-tops and flat lids. Let stand until ready to use.

2. In a small bowl, mix the 1/4 cup sugar with the packet of pectin.

3. In a large pot, measure the strawberries packing them into the cup measure. With a wooden spoon, stir in the sugar/pectin mixture and bring to a rolling boil*.

4. Quickly add the remaining sugar and return to a rolling boil. Boil for one minute, stirring constantly. Skim off as much foam as possible and reserve to eat on toast.

5. Carefully remove the jars and lids from the water and fill them, taking care to wipe the rims of the jars completely clean. Seal them with a firm twist (you need to be able to open them again in winter time!). Let them stand at room temperature overnight to seal. Do not touch/push down the lids! This will happen by itself as the contents cool and the pressure causes the seal. You will hear satisfying pops throughout the evening. This means the jar has sealed. Any jars that do not seal overnight should be eaten within a month. Sealed jars will keep for up to a year – as if it would last that long!

*A rolling boil is when the mixture can be stirred without causing the boiling to stop.

One Comment to “Summertime”

  1. Oh, I am so jealous! Here in the Czech Republic we never really got great strawberries… Just ok ones. And I miss the Bodensee strawberries and enjoying them with Oma!

    Fresh produce is, in general, not as wonderful here. Most of it seems to come from elsewhere in the EU. Traditional Czech food is wonderful, though not usually prepared with many veggies.

    Sounds like a wonderful day. Happy Summer!

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