Berry Picking at Johnson’s Farm

26 Jun

A few weeks ago Martin, Bella and I drove 45 minutes outside of the city to pick strawberries.  After years of failing to get my act together in time, I managed to get the family out to Johnson’s Farm in New Jersey on the last saturday of the strawberry picking season.  Johnson’s Farm was also picking snap peas, cherries and early season peaches and blueberries.  We picked a bit of everything, but really focused on the strawberries. Martin and I positioned ourselves on separate rows, a few hundred feet apart. Isabella ran between us. Ferrying empty containers to me and carefully taking my full containers back to Martin. We ended up with hundreds of tiny, deep red, jewel- like berries.  The kind of fruit that you take a bite, your eyes widen at the intensity of flavor, deep red juice dribbles down your chin and silently you reach for another, and another.

Once home I set out to make jam from our strawberries.  I envisioned opening a jar sometime near the end of the year, when berries are few and far between, perhaps snow would be gently piling up on my window sill and with one taste I would be instantly  transported to early summer.  The end result wasn’t exactly what I had hoped.  Anyone who has preserved anything knows that there is a delicate balance that much be reached to both preserve flavors and freshness and create the desired consistency in your end product.  Jams and jellies rely heavily on the dance between sugar, pectin and fruit.  Too much sugar and you mask the flavor of the fruit, too little and you don’t have jam, but a sauce or compote.   There was so much sugar in test batch that I couldn’t taste the beauty of the berries.  I knew I was playing with fire but I didn’t just pick pounds of beautiful berries to make a sugary spread devoid of the experience of eating the berries fresh from the farm.  I reduced the sugar.   It didn’t set.   However it was incredibly delicious, transportive even, so I froze my strawberry sauce.  I will spin it into vanilla ice-cream, spoon over yogurt in the morning, pool under wedges of cheesecake and  spread it  in-between cake layers.  I did a bunch of reading about jams and jellies after putting my jars in the freezer (maybe I will do this beforehand next time) and learned that there is a pectin on the market made specifically for low sugar recipes.  Let’s see if I remember that for the next time I decide to make some jam.

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4 Responses to “Berry Picking at Johnson’s Farm”

  1. Carole Gair June 26, 2012 at 2:41 pm #

    Only way to do berries is with Clubhouse/or Bernardin no cook Freezer Jam pectin.
    1 1/2 c. sugar for 4 cups of crushed fruit. Taste like fresh fruit when used months after prepared. You’ll never do cooked jam again. ps I have a parcel of goodies from Vancouver 2010 Olympics for Isabella that I’ll send with your grandma when she heads home!!
    And if you can’t find the pectin in PA let me know and I’ll send some to you for next year!!!

    • heavycake June 28, 2012 at 10:33 am #

      I was using a freezer jam recipe, not cooked. My main problem was the pectin, I have just ordered some no sugar online. The berries were so sweet that the sugar overwhelmed them, hoping the no star pectin gives me a little more creative license. Hoping to try my hand at blueberries and peaches later this summer. I’ll post the results.

      Hope all is well with you. Gearing up for the games this summer? I have been watching the US trials the past couple of evenings, so great having them on primetime on a major network. I guess we can thank Michael Phelps for that! Thank you so much for the Van 2012 gear. I’ll send you pictures of her decked out in it this fall.

  2. Ben June 26, 2012 at 10:19 pm #

    love that pancake stack with berries. hope you are feeling good kisses and hugs

    • heavycake June 27, 2012 at 2:45 pm #

      Feeling much better Ben, thanks. The picture isn’t of pancakes, but of the cake I wrote about on Sunday. Vanilla cake, with strawberry rhubarb compote and vanilla buttercream. Talk soon!

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