From the recesses of my memory: a freezer full of pint-sized square plastic cartons. Full of jam. Opaque containers with red or yellow lids. Each with a label: a piece of masking tape on which was written SB (strawberry) or RB (raspberry) followed by the abbreviation for the year they’d been made. ’78, ’82, ’86. My childhood was filled with that freezer jam. Served on toast, pancakes, french toast and any number of other things.
Today the tradition continues: the top shelf of our stand freezer is the jam shelf. Opaque containers with light blue lids. Labeled with masking tape: RB ’15, BB (blueberry) ’15, SB ’15. Soon to be joined by SB ’16.
As I write this I am sipping a fresh strawberry daiquiri. A fresh strawberry daiquiri. Made with just a few of the 32 pounds (yes, you read that right) of strawberries that the husband and I picked this morning.
Why pick? Well, the kid LaNae would ask that very same question. That kid was forced into child labor every summer. A forced march to the berry field. Picking berries in the hot sun…allowed no water…no food…no breaks. Mom barking at the children when they slowed or whined.
Well, that’s what the memory tries to tell me.
Mom’s going to love this one.
We did pick berries as kids. And I did not enjoy it. It was hot. It was boring. It was hard work. Somehow I failed to make the correlation between those containers of jam that I eagerly snarfed down year-round and a couple of hours in the berry patch. Boo-hoo, little LaNae…I have no sympathy for you.
These days the husband and I approach the berry field with eagerness.
Well, maybe that’s a strong word. Strawberry picking is hard work. I much prefer blueberry picking. The stooper doesn’t get stooped out. But, the Forrest Gump-esque litany of strawberry delights compels us to the field each year.
Strawberry jam, strawberry shortcake, strawberry avocado salsa, strawberry daiquiri (I’m sipping one of those right now), strawberry pancakes, strawberry ice cream, strawberry bars, strawberry pie…shall I continue?
Which is why we were in the field this morning, even though showers were in the forecast (it did start raining at one point. We yelled, “Passing shower!” put our heads down and kept on picking).
A word about Pacific NW strawberries: Oregon and Washington berries, specifically. California…you can keep your berries, because you ain’t got nothing on us. I would be willing to be that, in a blind taste test, Pac NW strawberries would beat out any other berry in the US. Yes, I did just throw down that gauntlet. I might even be willing to wrestle you. They are sweet, juicy…luscious. The season is short…just a few weeks, sometimes shortened by rain. The berries are amazing, and always mean that summer has arrived in Western Washington.
Today we lucked out, even with the rain shower. We had some really nice weather last weekend and early this week, then have had some rain showers the last couple of days. The result? The berries were thick. So easy to pick. We agreed that we almost preferred the damp conditions to dry. Our hands aren’t stained. We didn’t sweat. We weren’t covered in field dust. It was good. Very, very good.
I spent early afternoon washing berries (didn’t have to stem them as we stem as we pick) and spreading them on trays (there are five or six trays of berries in the freezer. Once frozen I’ll vacuum seal them in bags and we’ll have berries until next season). I made shortcake for our dessert tonight. And this recipe for Strawberry Crumb Bars was irresistible. There are two large bowls of berries in the fridge: one sliced with a bit of sugar, the other whole and unsweetened. And let’s not forget the freezer jam: 8 cartons of SB ’16 are jellin’ on the kitchen table awaiting the freezer. Plus the aforementioned daiquiri.
I’m telling you…life is good. Care to stop by for some strawberries? We have plenty.