We can’t leave this delectable fresh, local strawberry season without at least one more idea to use them.
Of course, the best, most delicious way is to just hull them, one-by-one and pop them in your mouth! Strawberries shipped into Maine from away throughout the year just can’t compare with our local fruit, so eat as many out-of-hand a possible. Crush some up and add a little sugar and for a quick, delicious sauce for shortcake, any cake, over ice cream, or however you want to serve it. Freeze the extra, or freeze the whole, hulled berries for use in a pie in the dead of winter when fresh is particularly appreciated.
One year I made strawberry jelly. Although it was good, I decided these luscious berries shouldn’t be wasted in a jelly, but would be much better in jam. For years I have made strawberry jam to rave reviews. Everyone, it seems, loves strawberry jam.
Then last year, I tried something a little different. I cut very thin, inch or so long strips of lemon peel and added it to the crushed berries along with some freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Wow! It was wonderful. The sourness of the lemon offset the sweetness of the berries perfectly. Now, when jam season begins, I make strawberry lemon jam. While the cultivated and wild, tiny strawberries are growing, so too does the wild or cultivated mint.
Those that have planed mint have learned that it needs to be enclosed, for mint loves to spread. Some that my husband planted has found its way into my rhubarb patch, while other plants are beginning to take over the nearby flower garden. Mint must be contained, or planted extremely far from any other plant. It may still be planted in an herb garden. Just remember to put it in a large pot so the runners won’t spread everywhere.
Fresh mint can be added to strawberry jam, if desired. Those lovely, fluted mint leaves are also perfect for topping a tall glass of lemonade or ice tea, too.
Many people like sparkly green mint jelly as a condiment with pork or lamb, or as a glaze on either of these meats. Some people like it spread on toast.
So the two recipes I have for this week uses strawberries or mint. And both are preserved for future use.
Strawberry Lemon Jam (seven eight-ounce jars, or 12 or 13 four-ounce jars)
One-fourth cup thinly sliced lemon peel
4 cups hulled and crushed fresh strawberries
1 or 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 package powdered fruit pectin
6 cups granulated sugar
Have a canner ready to process the jam.
To prepare jam, place the lemon peel in a large, heavy Dutch Oven-style pot, with just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes. Drain any remaining liquid, save the lemon peel. Do not let the peel burn.
Add the crushed strawberries and lemon juice and stir well. Stir in pectin until dissolved. Bring to a boil stirring constantly.
Immediately add the sugar and return to a rolling boil, stirring constantly for one full minute.
Remove from stove and skim off any foam that may have formed. Ladle into hot jars to within one-quarter inch of the top. If air bubbles have formed, remove them by stirring with a knife. Wipe away any jam that may be on the rims. Place two-piece screw bands on each jar and tighten. Place jars on the rack in the canner. Make sure water covers the jars. Bring to a boil, then process for 10 minutes. When done, retain jars in canner for about 5 minutes, then remove jars to a rack and allow to cool. As each jars cools, you will hear a “pop.” That means the jar is sealed. Label and store in a cool, dry place.
For mint jelly, gather mint sprigs, clean, and remove leaves from the stems.
Mint Jelly (four eight-ounce or seven or eight four-ounce jars)
1 and one-half cups firmly packed cut-up mint leaves
2 and one-quarter cups water
2 or 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 and one-half cups granulated sugar
a few drops green food coloring (if a more colorful green is wanted)
1 pouch Certo liquid pectin
Wash mint leaves well. Drain off water.
Place prepared mint leaves and the 2 and one-quarter cups water in a pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from stove and let leaves steep for 10 minutes (longer if you want a mintier flavor). Pour leaf mixture into a jelly bag or double layers of cheesecloth. Let drip into a container until you have 1 and three-quarters cups clear, greenish liquid. In another large pot, combine the mint liquid, lemon juice and sugar. Bring to a full, rolling boil. Immediately add the pectin and return to a full, rolling boil. Stir constantly for one minute.
Add a few drops green food coloring, if using. Remove from stove and skim off foam. Pour jelly into hot jars to within one-quarter inch of the top. Wipe rims, if necessary. Place the two-piece bands on each jar. Place in the canner, being sure that water covers the jars. Cover canner and process for 10 minutes. Let jars remain in canner for 5 minutes, then place jars on a rack to cool. Label and store.