Saturday, July 30, 2016

Port Credit Farmer's Market, Strawberry Preserves, and my own Black Brandywine Cherry Tomatoes!!

Even though it was overcast and cool with the occasional sprinkle of rain, I ventured out to the picturesque village of Port Credit, about a 20 minute drive from here and a part of the larger City of Mississauga for many years.

I was after strawberries to both jam and put up in syrup and I had been told a couple of weeks ago that although the early strawberries were pretty much finished, the everbearing strawberries would be at their peak about now, so I thought I would check it out.

There were some strawberries, but not a many as I though there would be.  Perhaps they peaked last week. Anyway, there were enough to choose from, the going rate between $5 and $5.50 a quart or 2 quarts for $10.  I managed to find a flat of 6 quarts for $28.

My apologies for the blurry photo -- all this fresh produce left me quivering with excitement!  This group had the biggest, best looking berries and it was from them that I bought my flat.

Home again and time to start in on the preserving.  Not being a big eater of jam, although I do love it, I decided to set aside 1 quart of the strawberries and make a small batch of jam and I will preserve the rest in a very light syrup. I have done this a couple of years in a row now and although canned strawberries tend to get flabby, mushy and "blown-out", I still enjoy them over ice-cream or over yogourt for breakfast.  Nothing lifts my spirits on a cold, dark winter's morning than the fresh summery taste of my own canned fruit and strawberries, despite their texture, are no exception!

Part of my inspiration for making jam (apart from the joy of having some in my pantry) is the jars I will be using. I inherited 4 little round jam jars a few years ago from my cousin, Lynn and I instantly fell in love with them.  I had never seen them before and apparently they were available years ago, but Bernardin stopped making them.

Back in March of this year, Marisa posted on her blog about Ball (the American equivalent of Bernardin -- both are owned by Jardin) bringing back these jars. I was thrilled and thought it was only a matter of time before Bernardin followed suit and brought them back to Canada. Sure enough, about a month ago, they showed up on Bernardin's website with the note that they were available at major retailers.

So, I first checked Canadian Tire, my usual canning goods supplier, but to no avail.  Same with Home Depot, Lowes, Rona and even Home Hardware.  Lots of the usual canning jars, but no little round jam jars.

Finally, I did what I should have done in the first place and asked Mr. Google. And, much to my supreme chagrin, there they were waiting for me at that death-star of the evil empire: Wal-Mart!! I make a habit of avoiding Wal-Mart like the plague, so it was with firmly gritted teeth that I swallowed my pride and with eyes burning from my hypocrisy, bought two sets of 4 jars. Sigh! My hatred of Wal-Mart is the stuff of legend and may be worth a ranting post of its own some day.  Not today, though, and not here.

So, to prepare the strawberries, I first set aside one quart basket of berries from the flat, give them a good wash and proceed to trim and hull them, chopping the smaller ones into quarters and the larger ones into eighths.

Once all berries from that one quart basket have been trimmed, hulled and chopped, I mix in one cup of granulated sugar.

Covering the bowl, I popped it into the fridge to allow the fruit to macerate overnight to extract as much juice as possible.

I repeated the washing, trimming and hulling with the remaining 5 quarts of berries, but I leave the smaller ones cut in half and the larger ones in quarters for preserving in very light syrup.

And, to end off, I'm am so excited to announce that my beloved Black Brandywine Cherry Tomatoes are now starting to ripen. All that babying and coddling have paid off!

Same amazing taste as their big brothers. I'm thrilled to have them now in my collection!  Tomorrow, I will tackle the macerated strawberries, make a small batch of strawberry jam and put the rest up in very light syrup.  Stay tuned!

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