A couple of weeks ago my father-in-law and I went rummaging through their neighbor’s groundcover, uncovering tiny strawberries. Even the largest ones were no bigger than the fingernail on my index finger. The seeds were the inverse of those on a supermarket strawberry–instead of a seed at the base of a dimple, these perched halfway out of the berry’s exterior, like goosebumps.
They seemed like wild strawberries to me until I bit into one. The interior flesh was pure white, and a little dry. They lacked the intense sweetness of a Shuksan but there was something unusual and tangy about them. We couldn’t stop eating them. I decided it was time to start up with some small-batch canning for the summer, so we went in to get some plastic bowls and spent the next fifteen minutes picking. My dad joined us and soon, we had close to a pound of berries.
They almost perished in the plastic bag I used to transport them the two miles back to our house. Some had gone so soft I had to toss them in the compost bin. I looked up a recipe from Food in Jars–I had to be quick about it–and made a batch of her Strawberry Vanilla Jam.
A friend mentioned to me several years ago that she loves preserving in small batches and I think I may have the bug, too. Especially after seeing McClellan’s adorable squatty, half-pint jars and fourth-burner pot.
Mine aren’t so chic, but the jam is pretty–all those little seeds catching the light. And it tastes full and rich. I can imagine using a jar to fill thumbprint cookies in the middle of winter. Until then, they’re tucked away in the cabinet.