Monday, March 26, 2007

On Strawberries and Onions

The other day, Saturday the 24th to be exact, I had my yearly pilgrimage to the strawberry fields East of Tampa. Specifically, this field, just off I4 near Forbes Road.
It took me about 20 minutes to pick about 8 quarts for $2.00!

Each year I make a big batch of Strawberry Preserves to give to family and friends. This years harvest yielded about 20 jars. That is a little small to me, so I am going to get some more, this weekend.

I have to admit, I cheated a little bit this year with the preserves. I resorted to using packets of the powdered pectin as I did not have enough time to make them without adding the stuff. It really does not change the taste, just the texture. If you add pectin, you get a firm set. If you do not, you get a softer set, or as my mom said, and old fashioned type of preserve.

Normally, I will cook the strawberries whole, then cover them and let them rest overnight to extract the natural pectin. You also need to have some of the berries be less ripe. They tend to have more pectin in them.

Since I needed them pretty much right away, I did not do that. Just added the pectin and was done with it.

So, here we go.

First step wash the berries.

Then, you need to measure the berries for each batch.
This will make about six cups of mashed berries.

Then, you take the mashed berries, add some sugar, add the pectin and bring to a rolling boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly.

The next step is to fill the sterilized jars. I use the dishwasher to sterilize mine. Much hotter temperatures in there, than my hands can deal with in the sink.

A funnel really helps with the jars.

After filling, wiping the rims, and sealing the jars, I place them in a water bath for 20-25 minutes, just to make sure that there is no Salmonella swimming around in there.
And, finally, the finished product, after cooling and labeling.
Now, about those onions. I can't verify that this is effective, but some Florida farmers have told me that onions are planted at the end of the rows to protect the strawberry plants from rodents. Not sure how true that is. However, they are some of the best onions you can eat. Nice, big, and white. below are a few pics of the 2 that I pulled from the ground.

If you have not been able to tell, I really like el gallo español pequeño that Mark and I found in a market.

Well, that is about it for this post! Hopefully I will remember to keep my camera charged and available so I can take some pictures to write about. If you want some preserves, drop me a line. Yes, Hester, some are already on the way to getting to you.


wcs said...

Looks delicious !

Ken Broadhurst said...

How much sugar do you put in the strawberries to make jam? Do you do it by weight or volume? Strawberry preserves are about the best, I think. But we are still working on the quince jelly, apple jelly, and plum preserves we've made using fruit from our yard and our neighbors'.

Have you ever made onion preserves? It's called oignons confits in French -- just onions, oil or butter, and some white wine. You let it cook down for a while and then eat it with steak or other meats.

mpabner said...

The sugar depends on the sweetness of the berries. If I am using pectin from a box, I go strictly by the directions. From what I remember, it is 4 1/2 cups. If I am not using packaged pectin, I use 3- 4 cups. I try to lay off of the sugar, as much as possible. I learned about cooking from my Grandmother. She always used volume. I have been thinking about switching to weight. However, not too many American cookbooks have weight measurements.

There is a great bakery here that makes a Vidalia Onion pizza. It is just a crusty pizza dough with Vidalia's cooked for days. It is delicious! I have been thinking about making something like that. However, when the mood strikes me, it is generally at night when I have to be at work the following morning. So, no time. Maybe when I quit my job, to go to school full time, I will have a little more freedom to do things like that.

I will look into some Quice preserves. I have some really good preserve books. I will get back to you!

mpabner said...

So, the only reference that I can find to Quince preserves, is in my copy of Kander's The Settlement Cookbook from 1901.
For Quice jelly, she writes:
Rub the quinces with a coarse towel; cut out the blossom end. Wash the fruit, pare it, and cut into quaters. Cut out the cores (remove seeds)putting them in a kettle by themselves. have a large bowl half full of water; drop the perfect pieces of fruit into this bowl. Put the parrings and imperfect parts, cut very fine, into the preserving kettle. Add a quart of water for every 2 quarts of fruit and parings. Cook gently for 2 hours. Strain and finish the same as appe jelly. Use the perfect fruit for preserves.

With the Apple jelly - strain using a jelly bag [I am sure 3 or 4 layers of cheese cloth is fine as I have no idea what a jelly bag is.] If you want clear jelly, don't squeeze the bag. Throw away the bagged stuff. Measure pint for pint sugar to liquid. Bring to a boil for 20-30 minutes (this seems really long). Testing constantly with a cool plate. When test gels, it is done. Pour into jars and cap.

mpabner said...

For the preserves, Mrs. Kander states to put the cored pieces in cold water to cover and boil until tender. Drain and weigh. (She does not state, but I think you need to reserve the liquid.) Measure 1 to 1 ratio, sugar to fruit. Add sugar to juice and boil 5 minutes, then add fruit. Boil until the liquid is deep red, and the fruit is clear. Put up in jars, and seal.

mpabner said...

Hope those help! We have an Orange and a Grapefruit tree, so I can only make marmalades with our fruit. I make a realy nice Grapefruit and Honey Marmalade. I am growing a Japanese Plum tree here. they do really well. It has not produced any fruit yet. When it does, though, I want to find a jelly recipe for that. The seeds are way to big for preserves, but I could probably get some nice juice from it. Oh well, we will see! Have a nice day tomorrow.

Ken Broadhurst said...

When I've made quince jelly, I just cut up the whole quinces -- seeds, cores, and all -- and cook them until the fruit starts to fall apart. Then I strain it all through cheese cloth or a kitchen towel without pressing it so that the juice will be clear. At that point I add sugar to the juice and cook it until it gets to about 125ºC before putting it in jars. Quince makes a nice red jelly with good flavor. Our neighbor has three or four quince trees and always has more fruit than she can use.