Saturday, July 4, 2009

Strawberry Jam!

Harmony Valley’s homegrown strawberries are ringing a bell for me. They are small, deep red, and dense. They’re reminding me of the wild strawberries my family used to pick when I was growing up on Minnesota’s Mesabi Iron Range.

Every evening in midsummer, my mother would take a battered 1-quart Tupperware measuring cup out to the field a quarter mile down the road from our house. She would come back an hour or two later with varying amounts of wild strawberries—sometimes just a cup or two, sometimes the berries heaped up to make well over a quart. Someone who only knows supermarket strawberries would call them dry, seedy, and tiny; but each pea-sized berry packs an intense flavor.

We’d pick the caps off the berries, wash them, measure them, add sugar, and cook them into jam. We’d put it up in any old jar—peanut butter jars, mustard jars, sometimes proper canning jars—and top them off with melted paraffin to seal them. Eating that jam on a frigid winter morning was like seeing the past and the future at the same time. “It was summertime once,” I’d remember, “and someday it will be summer again.”


2-3 cups prepared berries (wash, hull, quarter)

1 1/4 to 2 cups sugar

A tablespoon of lemon juice

Measure the berries into a heavy pot. Add ¾ to 1 cup sugar per cup of berries. Add the lemon juice. Cook, stirring constantly, over high heat until the mix comes to a full rolling boil. Cook 4 minutes.

Test: drop some liquid on a cold plate. If you can swipe your finger through the jam and leave a clean streak on the plate, your jam is thick enough. Keep testing every minute; the jelling happens quickly. I wouldn’t cook more than seven minutes, regardless of what’s going on with the plate.

Take off the heat and stir down the foam. Pour the jam into sterilized jars, put on two-piece caps, and process in a boiling water bath. If you are not a canner, you can put the jam in any glass or ceramic container you like. Store it in the refrigerator.

Beet Greens, Garlic, and Romaine

Yesterday I got a box of CSA goodies with all kinds of wonderful stuff in it! What to cook first?

My sig.o, Beth, wanted fish on the grill; we settled on a simple piece of lake trout. Any fish dinner is begging to be served with plenty of good greens. We decided to start with the beet tops, which are highly perishable, and the romaine. I had a lemon lying around, and it became a key component to the meal.

And what a lovely meal! The beet greens provided an earthy, garlicky complement to the trout. Sweet, crunchy romaine played counterpoint to the tang of feta; and the squeeze of lemon brightened all the flavors. We rounded out the meal with a crusty whole-wheat baguette and a choice between iced tea and pinot grigio.


1 bunch beet greens, roughly chopped
1/4 cup fresh garlic (I sliced up the still-soft stem)
1 T olive oil 1/4 c. mirin Salt & pepper
Lemon wedges
Saute the beet greens in the olive oil for 2-3 minutes. Toss in the garlic and cook an additional minute. Add the mirin. Cover and turn down the heat a bit. Cook until tender, maybe 5 minutes. Salt & pepper to taste. Finish with a squeeze of lemon.

1 head romaine lettuce, torn up
1/2 cup crumbled Feta cheese
1/2 cup walnut pieces

Toss with this dressing:
3-5 black peppercorns
1 sprig of fresh thyme
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/4 to 1/2 t grated lemon zest
1 scallion bulb
1 cup olive oil
salt to taste

Put everything except the oil in a blender and pulverize. Drizzle the oil in a thin stream into the running blender.

Try A CSA!

So I got hooked up with a CSA box this week. A Twitter connection led me to @matt_wilson , who was headed out of town and would not be eating his farm share from Harmony Valley Farm.

He decided to give the box away on the condition that the lucky recipient document the experience of eating the contents.

That lucky recipient is me! I could not be more excited. Thank you, Matt!