I have a few confessions to make: I love the birds and I love foraging in my backyard. I love fresh food. Really, really fresh food. So I get a serious thrill out of picking something one moment and eating it or preserving it in my kitchen the next. For all of these reasons, our backyard is full of fruit and constant birdsong.
Yup... you can grow fruit in Edmonton! Just ask the Fruits of Sherbrooke people at the Southwest Edmonton Farmers' Market... there is a wealth of fruit that can be grown in our climate. The Fruits of Sherbrooke volunteers go about "rescuing" unwanted fruit in the older neighbourhoods of Edmonton and turning it into wonderful jams, jellies, savoury and tart sauces and ketchups.
When we moved into our home, we purposely put strawberries, red currents, black currents, red raspberries, yellow raspberries, black raspberries, gooseberries, rhubarb, highbush cranberries and a single, lone apple tree in our teeny tiny backyard when we did our landscaping. There are flowers too... but my secret thrill comes from the fruit scattered throughout the yard, from the creative experimentation that I can do with our meals and preserves and with the wildlife that that purposeful planting has brought to our backyard. And I love the sense of wonderment, adventure and independence that finding, picking and searching for that fruit gave our children when they were young... and that gives our neighbours' three and five year olds today.
Making Jam is one of the easiest things to do and the berries are fresh, ripe and sweet at the market right now. There's nothing like biting into a ripe, juicy sun-kissed berry! And it is ever so simple and really super-easy to capture that flavour... to capture a little of spring and summer... and put it in a jar to bring out in the depths of winter. If you have freezer space, you don't even have to worry about sterilizing jars or even cooking the jam! (And I think that freezer jam tastes far better than cooked jam.) Simply mash the fruit, add the sugar and pectin & stir it up & put it in jars!
See? Nothing to it.
Right now, strawberries & rhubarb are in season and available in Alberta, and raspberries are coming out of BC. Locally, saskatoon berries are about a week or so from being ripe for the picking. At the Southwest Edmonton Farmers' Market you can find:
- raspberries (at Steve & Dan's Fresh BC Fruit)
- strawberries (at Steve & Dan's, Red Apple, and Osoyoos BC Fruit)
- saskatoons (at Peter's Lakeview Farm)
- rhubarb (Dargatz Family Farm)
- cherries (Red Apple, Steve & Dan's, Osoyoos BC Fruit)
Black currents have strong flavours, but combined with mellower fruits like raspberries or saskatoons, they can be terrific. My favourite jam last year was a half and half combination of black currents and saskatoons. And I love the colour of a raspberry jam that is made from a combination of red and yellow raspberries.
Certo makes making jam incredibly easy. Certo is fruit pectin that is extracted from lime peels. I buy it in its liquid form in packages that are pre-measured. Fruit pectin is what thickens jams and makes them spreadable, rather than pourable. It is a natural ingredient that is extracted from lime peels. Every box of certo (you can usually find it in the sugar/flour/spice aisle of any grocery store) comes with a leaflet instruction chart inside. Follow the recipes there and you will always have success. If you want to find out more, click here.
For now, here's a super simple recipe. Join me... I'm making a batch today!
freezer strawberry jam
This is, hands down, the easiest jam to make! Be sure to use a potato masher to crush the berries and not a food processor so you get little chunks of fruit in the jam. And don't cut down on the sugar or double the recipe as the jam won't set (thicken) properly.
1 & 3/4 c. crushed strawberries
4 c. granulated sugar
1 pouch liquid certo pectin
2 T. lemon juice
Hull (remove the stems) and then thoroughly crush the strawberries. In a large mixing bowl stir together the fruit and sugar. Let stand 10 minutes. Add the certo and lemon juice. Stir for 3 minutes. Put into clean glass jars or plastic freezer containers, filling up to 1/4" from the rim. Cover with lids. Leave at room temperature 24 hours or until set. Yield: 5 cups jam.
Recipe from Original Certo Liquid (instructions in the box)
Visit our website at http://www.swefm.ca
Like us on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/swefm.ca
Contributed by Sheri Hendsbee