Strawberries. They are one of the more powerful reasons I am here this summer besides having more cuddle my dog time. Whether jamming or freezing strawberries in syrup for winter shortcake, you are likely to find me in the field or the kitchen in as dawn turns over to the pulsating heat of noon this month. Berry picking has trumped travelling this fine summer. Travel abroad is a hard one to top in my heart, but strawberries have their power.
Travelling each summer that I have been able has been one of the greatest blessings afforded to a life dedicated to teaching. Living immersed in another place and culture gives an incredible sense of time being suspended for a brief moment. You are not living your life, per say, but living a fresh life in another country. This aberration in the time-space continuum gives a respite to our inner timeclock, a reset to our stress response and a clocking out to that industrial sense of being a cog churned out in the machine of life. Do it if you can make the time snd save the money and it is unlikely you will come to regret the choice.
As you have read, this summer I am staying close to home. Lament I could, but my inner soul cried out to my ever restless body and said, “Stay.” When God is the voice of that soul, it is ridiculous to say no. So here I am. I may be fighting the great flight urge day to day but there is a certain freedom to fighting that urge. It is one that needs cultivated to become comfortable in one’s skin.
One of the greatest joys of not being away is a whole month bathed in the sultry sweet crimson juice of sun warmed berries. Strawberry season. I get to be home for the fruiting of my favorite jam fruit.
Eating strawberries until full is my first mission after spending a morning under the blazing sun in the berry fields. Mmm. Then comes canning some jam for the winter. Ok, a lot of jam. Much of it doesn’t make it past summer. I love jam. Strawberry balsamic, rhubarb and strawberry with ginger, and old fashioned strawberry freezer jam are the first ones out. I am spent with exhaustion but still have so many berries picked and have eaten my fill. Worry sets in…and then I find this article from the Illinois extension.
Freezing strawberries in syrup? So cool! I have heard of freezing strawberries whole but this seemed too plain for the ripest in season specimens. It is so easy. Super fast put-em-up preserving. Just fill jar, make syrup and pour over berries. Then mid-winter there is not just jam but softly sweetened silky orbs of smoky bourbon vanilla heaven. Fresh shortcake in winter? It can be done. This is genius. Savor the short berry season with me and get picking then try this recipe out. It is scaled up from the extension to make the effort worth it. So worth it.
- 4 quarts of strawberries
- 3 1/2 cups of cane sugar
- 8 cups of water
- 2 vanilla beans
- Wash and de-hull berries. Set aside.
- Slit each vanilla bean down the middle. With the back side of a small knife, scrape out seeds onto side of knife.
- In a large pan, place water, sugar and vanilla beans and seeds. Bring to a boil then turn down to a simmer. Continue cooking until sugar is completely dissolved and seeds are dispersed. Simmer for five minutes on a low flame to infuse with vanilla. Take off heat.
- Remove vanilla pods and cut in half. Place a piece of vanilla pod in each freezing container. Chill syrup.
- Put berries into each freezer safe containers (I use quart mason jars). When syrup is cool, pour over berries leaving ½-1½ - inch headspace.
- Strawberries will keep their flavor, integrity and nutrition for 6 months to a year.