Tuesday June 25, 2013 | 02:09 PM

The strawberry season in Maine lasts roughly from late June to late July. Get picking!

5th Annual Cape Farm Alliance Strawberry Festival kicks off with pig roast and lobster bake Friday, June 28 from 6-10 p.m. at Shady Oak Farm at 30 Fowler Road in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. Festivities continue Saturday, June 29 from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. at Maxwell’s Strawberry Farm at Two Lights Road in Cape Elizabeth.
Maxwell’s has been growing strawberries since 1974. Picking is available Monday thru Friday 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. and Saturdays 7 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Be sure to always call the Strawberry Hotline 799-3383 just before going. Once in a while they need to close for a day to let berries ripen. $2.45/pound 

Pick for a Cause
Tomorrow, Wednesday, July 26 from 8 – 10:30 a.m. pick strawberries at Maxwell’s to go to Wayside Food Program as part of the Maine Harvest for Hunger program. All are welcome. 

Picking is also available down the road at Jordan’s Farm at 21 Wells Road in Cape Elizabeth. Jordan's farm market sells locally picked strawberries. Contact the farm before you go to pick (as a rule this is always a good idea before going to any farm to pick berries).

To find places in your area to pick check out the Pick-Your-Own website

Preserving the Taste of Summer
On Thursday, July 11 Master Food Preserver Allison Carroll Duffy will be teaching a strawberry jam canning class from 1 – 4:00 p.m. at Milkweed Farm in Brunswick, Maine. The hands-on workshop will cover big-picture canning concepts, safe home canning procedures, tools, and techniques, as well as jam-making specifics. The class will make and can a batch of strawberry jam. Everyone will leave class with a jar of strawberry jam to enjoy. $45 per person. Contact Milkweedfarm@gmail.com for more information and to register.

Allison shared this recipe for Strawberry-Vanilla Preserves from her recently released book Preserving with Pomona’s Pectin (Fairwinds Press, 2013)

Strawberry-Vanilla Preserves
With ripe, in-season strawberries, combined with a smooth, exotic note of fresh vanilla, this preserve is nothing short of heavenly. It will add a bit of flair to the breakfast table (or bagel) of course, but it’s also great in desserts—try it on top of a biscuit with a bit of whipped cream for a spectacular strawberry-vanilla shortcake! The berries in this preserve tend to float to the top during canning, so mix it up well before serving.

Before You Begin:
Prepare calcium water. To do this, combine 1/2 teaspoon calcium powder (in the small packet in your box of Pomona's pectin) with 1/2 cup water in a small, clear jar with a lid. Shake well. Extra calcium water may be stored in the refrigerator for future use.
21/4 pounds (1 kg) strawberries
1/2 cup (120 ml) water
1 vanilla bean
11/2 teaspoons (7.5 g) calcium water
11/4 cups (250 g) sugar
11/2 teaspoons (4.5 g) Pomona’s pectin powder
1. Wash your jars, lids, and bands. Place jars in canner, fill canner 2/3 full with water, bring canner to a rolling boil, and boil jars for 10 minutes to sterilize them. (Add 1 extra minute of sterilizing time for every 1000 feet above sea level.) Reduce heat and allow jars to remain in hot canner water until ready to use. Place lids in water in a small sauce pan, heat to a low simmer, and hold until ready to use.
2. Rinse strawberries and remove stems.
3. Combine strawberries and the 1/2 cup (120 ml) of water in a large saucepan. Using a paring knife, slice the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Add the vanilla seeds and the bean pod itself to the strawberries. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, reduce heat, and simmer, covered, for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir carefully—you don’t want to crush the berries. Remove from heat.
4. Measure 4 cups (946 ml) of the cooked strawberry mixture (saving any extra for another use), and return the measured quantity to the saucepan. Add calcium water and mix well.
5. In a separate bowl, combine sugar and pectin powder. Mix thoroughly and set aside.
6. Bring strawberry mixture back to a full boil over high heat. Slowly add pectin-sugar mixture, stirring constantly. Continue to stir vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes to dissolve pectin while the preserves come back up to a boil. Once the preserves return to a full boil, remove the pan from the heat. Using tongs, carefully remove the vanilla bean pod from the preserves and discard.
7. Can Your Preserves: Remove jars from canner and ladle hot preserves into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch (6 mm) of headspace. Remove trapped air bubbles, wipe rims with a damp cloth, put on lids and screw bands, and tighten to fingertip tight. Lower filled jars into canner, ensuring jars are not touching each other and are covered with at least 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm) of water. Place lid on canner, return to a rolling boil, and process for 10 minutes (adjusting for altitude if necessary). Turn off heat and allow canner to sit untouched for 5 minutes, then remove jars and allow to cool undisturbed for 12 to 24 hours. Confirm that jars have sealed, then store properly.

Yield: 4 to 5 half-pint (8-ounce, or 236 ml) jars

Shapely Strawberries
Unlike jams, which usually require that you mash the fruit, when you’re making preserves, the idea is to keep individual pieces of fruit (or uniformly cut pieces of fruit) mostly whole and intact. For strawberries, small or average-size berries are ideal, though larger berries will work—simply slice them in half if they are too big. To help avoid mashing delicate fruit unintentionally, use a wider saucepan so that fruit has room to spread out and cook evenly without a lot of stirring. And when you do stir, stir with a back-and-forth motion, rather than an up-and-down motion—this way you’ll be less likely to crush the berries.


Images of strawberries and field by Sharon Kitchens at Jordan's Farm.  Image of jam provided by Allison Carroll Duffy. 

About this Blog

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About the Author

Sharon Kitchens is a neo-homesteader learning the ins and outs of country living by luck and pluck and a lot of expert advice. She writes about bees for The Huffington Post and stuff she loves on her personal blog, deliciousmusings.com.

When she is not writing, she enjoys edible gardening, reading books on food and/or thinking about food, hanging out by her beehives and patiently tracking down her chickens in the woods behind her old farmhouse.

In her blog, Sharon profiles farm families, reports on farm-based education and internships, conducts Q&A's with master beekeepers, offers tips on picking a CSA, and much more.

Sharon can be contacted at kitchens.sharon@gmail.com or on Twitter @deliciousmusing.

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