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Merrill's baby Clara has quite the appetite -- and it's all Merrill can do to keep up. Armed with her greenmarket bag, a wooden spoon and a minimal amount of fuss, she steps into the fray.
Today: It's strawberry season, and Clara is insatiable.
Clara hadn't eaten a strawberry until a few weeks ago. I try not to be too controlling with her food, but giving her produce that's in season whenever possible is one of my sticking points. And I really didn't want her first experience to be with a wan, pale-bellied, refrigerated supermarket strawberry.
During last year's strawberry season, she wasn't eating solid foods yet. So we waited -- I waited -- patiently for May to roll around again. Her first strawberry was doled out straight from a crate of plump, ruby beauties as I waited in line at the farmers market to pay for them. The first was followed shortly by a second, and then a third, then a fourth.
Now it's all I can do to keep enough strawberries in the house. (Not to mention how much we're spending on stain remover.)
Last week we somehow ended up with an extra quart that was softening rapidly, so I set out to make some of my mother's strawberry jam. It's a simple recipe -- not too sweet, which means it's looser than most, with a wonderful fresh berry flavor.
My mother's trick, which I've heard about from others too, is to stir a knob of butter into the cooked jam. Don't ask me about the science behind it; supposedly the butter helps to clarify the jam and to get rid of the foam as it cools. My mother's jam is always crystal clear and foam-free, so I don't mess with the recipe.
Now Clara can have strawberry jam on her toast in the morning -- with a side of strawberries, of course.
Makes 2 pints
4 cups hulled and quartered strawberries
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 1/2 teaspoons cold unsalted butter
Photos by James Ransom