Spring means three things — farmer's markets, asparagus, and pick-your-own organic strawberries from Windmere Farms in Raleigh, a surburb in north Memphis.
I've been waiting and waiting and waiting for my chance to pick the first juicy organic berries of the season. The folks at Windmere, the awesome Ken and Freida Lansing, send out emails when the berries are ready for pickin.' I received my first email several weeks ago and set up an appointment to pick, but others chose the same day and the ripe berries were gone before I could get there. A few days later Frieda called me for a berry alert. I told her I'd come later that day because I was at work when she called. But other strawberry fans beat me to the fields yet again and I missed out. So Saturday, I drove straight out there bright and early. I picked five quarts for $12!
On Mother's Day, I took a quart of berries with me to my mom's house in Jonesboro, and we made a yummy-nummy Vegan Strawberry Pie with Whole Wheat Pie Crust using my Granny's veganized recipe.
Granny usually uses strawberry Jello in her pie, but she's been experimenting with only using cornstarch as a thickener. Once she perfected the recipe, she passed it on to me to put in my cookbook.
At first, my pie didn't set properly because I didn't cook the cornstarch mixture long enough. We had to dump the strawberry mixture out of the crust, strain out the berries, and continue thickening the cornstarch. Fortunately, the pie was saved! And thank god cause because each bite was just delectable.
Last year, I taught myself to make Strawberry Jam using Sure-Jell, which is vegan since it contains pectin instead of gelatin. I made quite a bit last season, but I gave some away and I ate a lot of strawberry jam on toast over the course of the year. I only had one jar left, so I made six more jars. I gave some to my mom, Me-Maw, and Granny on Mother's Day, and I saved three jars for my own pantry.
The recipe is printed inside the Sure-Jell package, but it's really simple.
1 package Sure-Jell
5 cups strawberries
7 cups sugar (I used evaporated cane juice)
Place lids for Ball or Mason jars in a bowl of boiling hot water, and leave them there until ready to use
Measure out sugar and pour into a bowl. Squish capped strawberries with a potato masher. Place strawberries in a saucepan and mix in Sure-Jell. Bring to a rolling boil (where the bubbles don't stop even while you stir).
Quickly pour in sugar and bring to a rolling boil again. Stir constantly. When a full rolling boil is reached, allow to boil for exactly one minute (and they do mean exactly...this step can determine whether or not the jam sets properly).
Turn off heat and quickly spoon into glass jelly jars. Wipe off lids (that should have been soaking in hot water) and screw on caps. Place jars in a canner (or I use a large soup pot). Cover with water and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes. Remove jars and allow to set for 24 hours.