Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Strawberry Time

News from the strawberry fields of Quebec is not good.  Crops in the southern region of "la belle province" have been devastated by viruses that are spread in the field by visiting aphids.  Mild yellow edge and strawberry mottle are diseases that have crippled plant growth and reduced fruit yield by about 50%. Cloning of sick plants in Quebec nurseries has created a dismal season for farmers who rely on berry sales for income.

In our province, despite recent wild, stormy weather, strawberries are still abundant, healthy and ripe.  I took a drive to Shemogue N.B. yesterday to buy fresh-picked fruit at Jakobs Energy Fruit Farm.  The rural property located on Route 15 was purchased  by a German couple two years ago, and their work has gradually transformed fallow fields into productive ones.

Roadside signage for Jakobs' Farm

Mrs. Jakob at work

The Jakob boys help with farm chores and fruit sales

Flats of fresh-picked berries delivered from the field

A few boxes of berries will be used for jam - a  pleasant reminder of July's bounty on a cold morning in January.  I use an old-fashioned recipe from a 1948 cookbook written by co-owners of the Anderson Hotel in Wabasha, Minnesota.  The popularity of their grandmother's cuisine prompted them to compile 500 of the hotel dining room favourites for publication.  Jeanne Hall pays tribute to her grandmother's kitchen prowess in the book's foreword.  

"What cooking she did and how she loved it!  I think that is why she decided to buy herself a hotel.  Cooking was what lured the traveling man - the piece de resistance of hotel income in those days - and cooking was what Grandma loved the most and did best.  And because the news of really good food travels far, her dining room with the Famous Dutch Kitchens soon became known all over the state of Minnesota and in the neighboring states as well.  Grandma's chicken and dumplings and apple cream pie were justifiably popular then, as they are now, though her recipes today are followed  by other cooks.  For her Hotel Anderson is now in the third generation of family possession.  It still serves home-cooked meals inspired by a woman who loved to cook and who loved to have people "eat hearty" and who thought there was no substitute for butter."

Mother Anderson knew what she was doing

The ingredients for Mother Anderson's perfect jam are just fruit and sugar - no Certo required.   The overnight resting period allows the jam to thicken properly.  I am convinced that this is by far the best way to make fruit preserves.  

Simple and delicious

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