Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Raspberry Dreams

One of my most favorite things to do over the summer is to make jam. I grew up in a family where fruits and vegetables are always taking up a huge portion of our meals -- salads, fruit salads, baked vegetable tians, pies, and more -- and, during the summer, most of these fruits and vegetables either came from our garden (green beans, zucchini, broccoli, lettuce, strawberries, raspberries, peppers, tomatoes, blueberries) or the local farmstand (more beans, corn, lettuce, fava beans, potatoes, more tomatoes). There is absolutely nothing more delightful than sweet sugar snap peas off the vine, picking haricot verts (one in the pail, one in my mouth!) or sun-warmed cherry tomatoes off the vine (I have made a meal of it!). Before we planted our own blueberry bushes a couple of years ago, we would drive to a nearby stand (literally a table by the road, with a coffee can for the money!) and pick up a couple of pints of berries. We always had to pick up an extra, since my sisters and I would often polish off one pint during the 10 minute drive home!

A couple of years ago, I got sick of all the Smucker's jam we would use for peanut butter and jam on toast for breakfast (I like the raspberry-ness, but it's too darn SWEET!), and didn't like the local raspberry jam made nearby. Why not make some?

Having the time to pick my own raspberries and make a bunch of batches of jam has been high (if not #1) on my to do list this summer. Typically, I'll make two batches - although it is hardly enough to last my whole family through the year. Nothing tastes as good as homemade jam -- it captures the light, bright juciness of the berries, warm off the plant, so we can enjoy year round. This year, I want to make four batches -- plenty to give away, plenty for us to last us until next June or August.

The most important step of jam-making, I think, is selecting the fruit. I always opt to pick my own berries -- whether it be raspberries or blueberries -- rather than purchasing them already picked. My favorite place for blueberries is either Jones Family Farm, in Shelton, CT or Boughs & Berry Farm, in Little Compton, RI.

I didn't really have a raspberry place (until yesterday), as I'd pick and save berries from my family's yard, and our neighbors. However, I visited 4 Town Farm in Seekonk, MA yesterday and was utterly delighted by the offerings -- and the big, fat, juicy yet firm raspberries they had! In just an hour, I picked ten pints all for myself -- and my jam project. I highly recommend visiting the farm and market, whether you want to pick berries, or simply pick up some greens and tomatoes for dinner. So much to offer, so good tasting -- and easy on the wallet!

I've already made two batches of jam (see my posting for raspberry jam) -- and can not wait to go back and pick more berries, maybe even get some local peaches to make peach jelly. Stay tuned!

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