Strawberry Picking for Strawberry Jam

Strawberry jam is an annual event around our house. It's a holiday! It's nearly a Holy Day. It's Household Strawberry Jam Making Weekend once every summer. We pick. We clean. We prepare. We boil. And then we jam.

I'm a bit of a purist when it comes to jam--I don't just want to make the jam I want to pick the fruit for the jam. So last weekend we picked strawberries by the basketful. (We usually pick at Swanton's Organic Berry Farm on Route 1. ) Last year we also picked cherries. We foraged the neighborhood for forgotten plums and, surprisingly, there were more than we could harvest. We also climbed the overgrown tree in our backyard for figs. Of course, we can't pick all the fruit or spices or flavors and with all respect for the strawberries-- last year's winning flavor was plum-vanilla with fig-ginger as a close second.

My husband is a recipe resister. I like to bake so I succumb to the measurements as they are prescribed in many baking recipes--we all know that too much baking soda or too little baking powder can make for a frumpy improvisation. So, we compromise. We tend to follow a few different recipes at once and make our own variation as we go.

His variation would go something like this:
  1. Pick the best fruit available
  2. clean & mash
  3. cook with sugar & lemon
  4. boil but don't over boil
  5. keep tasting until you get it right
  6. pour into jars
  7. submerge in boiling water
  8. let cool. 
  9. Enjoy all year long.
But for my fellow bakers and recipe followers, the Blue Chair Jam Cookbook is absolute inspiration. We're lucky to live in Oakland where the indie preserve movement is alive and well. We have Blue Chair at our weekly farmer's market and it's offered in several adorable shops around town. The cookbook is a lovely guide--great recipe combinations, great photos, and great stretches of philosophy behind her work.

Ah, jam. It is truly the temptress of summer fruit around our house. Sultry summery fruit seduction. Makes us weak in the knees.



  1. I would love to stop by and watch the process (and steal away with a jar!) Preserving is something that I just don't do enough. I'm better at chutneys because the pick-to-jar time gap isn't as crucial. I like the loose approach you describe so I'm going to get a grip and get going!

  2. A beautiful ritual, Katrina.

  3. We've been wanting to go strawberry picking. This post gives me the extra push I need to corral the family. Thank you!

  4. Ha, not like you didn't have enough jam! I had to go and give you two more jars today. Great seeing you and finally meeting the little man in person! Such a wonderful day spent with such wonderful friends :-)!! And thanks for the jam book tip, I have been looking for just the right guide and this looks like it could be the one.

  5. kate: my husband is somewhat fearless when it comes to preserves and pickling and jams. this is good for a recipe-following gal like me. and when in doubt, you can always make refrigerator jam and just be sure to eat it quickly!

    denise: a ritual. yes, i like thinking of it like this. thank you!

    kj: do it! it's such a beautiful drive down the coast to swanton's and you know the little ones can enjoy the fields without worry. no pesticides. no kid-weary stares. it's really love.

    kathryn: never too much jam! so excited to try your creations. and so, so good to see you and your lovely abode. i loved it.


Thank you for your comments, friends. I like to think we are creating a dialogue in this space--building a virtual community.