A Sticky Day’s Work

Yes, it is June in South Carolina and because of a warmer than usual Spring just about every project has made me sticky – sweaty for weeks. However, yesterday’s stickiness had to do with making jam – specifically strawberry! The berries started showing up at roadside stands about a month ago and I just decided to can them. Happily for me, it was a good idea to wait as they are really sweet and juicy now. They smelled so good in the car on the way home…

Ripe strawberries!

Here’s a tool that I have discovered that many people don’t recognize. It’s a strawberry huller. It only works on nice, ripe strawberries; the grocery store ones are usually crunchy and it’s easier to prepare them by slicing off the tops. The huller pulls the pithy part out, which is an unwelcome addition to jam. I googled strawberry hullers and there are many on the market, but this simple one is the one I use. I’m naming it the June Cool Tool.

Strawberry huller

This is not a good stove for canning. It has a glass top which I dislike for so many reasons, not the least of which is that Gizmo can walk on the stove top and turn one the burners on!  The fan does not cover the entire stove top, so only the pots at the back are “exhausted”. And, because the microwave is over the fan, it is very low. When I am canning, I have to pull the pot of boiling water away from the exhaust cover in order to get the jars in. Dangerous!!! I am looking forward to a kitchen re-do in the future.

Dangerous cooker top

I do not make jam using pectin; I have discovered that what I like to make is called “old-fashioned” these days. Pectin is fine for jelly, but the reason I don’t like using it for jams is that there is no way to control the consistency. Jelly should be “stiff” and melt on your toast. I prefer jam to be on the runny side. In one book I was reading, the author did not like jams made without pectin and said because of the long cooking time involved, they tasted caramel-y and burnt. Perhaps it’s what you grow up with, but I like that flavor as well and the dark red color the berries turn after cooking so long.

Into the jars

I am smiling now. The happiest part of the canning process is tasting the results and I just had some jam for breakfast…..it was wonderful! Eating my jam on toast is a messy, delicious experience, with lots of finger licking after the last bite. I declare this to be a good batch and will label the jars and squirrel them away for Winter after I post this.

Taste test

And then I must clean the  sticky mess in the kitchen!

A Delicious Summer Squash Soup

My favorite summer soup is Gazpacho…. with lots of chopped veggies and a bit of sour cream to top it off. At the moment, I have two cherry tomatoes ripening in my garden and the tomatoes I bought at the Farmer’s Market taste okay but are crunchy, so I won’t be making Gazpacho for a while. Last night I was looking online for some summer soup ideas and found this recipe for Golden Summer Squash & Corn Soup.

I had yellow squash from the market and two ears of leftover corn, so all the ingredients were in the refrigerator! The soup is quite easy to make and we enjoyed it for dinner with some ham. The squash base is really creamy; you almost feel like there is some heavy cream in there somewhere, and of course the corn makes it chewy and crunchy. I did not have feta cheese, which probably adds a nice salty note to the subtle flavor. We crumbled up some herb cheese and it was good, but if you love these two veggies then the cheese isn’t necessary.

There’s a bit left in the refrigerator, so I will try it room temperature and see what it’s like. And, if you are watching calories, the corn is the only “high ticket” item in the soup.

What really tickles me about this recipe is that the Deputy Editor of Eating Well turns out to be a little girl that I taught in Second Grade many years ago! How lovely to find her after all these years. Good job Jessie – I’m finding many recipes I like on your website.