Texas Spring Strawberry Jam

With a week of warm weather in the low eighties and a couple of nice rain showers, my last trip to the farmers market in the Austin area before heading north to Michigan promised to be productive. After an early walk with the pups, I managed to get to the Cedar Park Farmers Market soon after opening time. What a day! Although the sky was overcast, rain was not in the forecast. So with a great growing week and good weather for the market all of the regular vendors were at the market loaded with crops. The strawberries were abundant, along with artichokes, zucchini, tomatoes and even kohlrabi which I haven’t seen in the grocery stores in weeks. Today, for me, it was all about the strawberries. I knew I had to make some strawberry jam this spring.

strawberries

Several years ago, I decided I needed to try making strawberry jam. For some reason, in my mind, making jams and jellies or really anything that goes in a jar had to be really difficult. Off I went to the store to buy the jars I needed to make the jam. And the jars sat in my pantry. We packed up and moved to Austin. The jars came along. And the jars sat in my pantry. Finally, last summer when I was in Interlochen, I decided to make apple butter. Apparently, having my own fruit tree was the motivation I needed to get going. Apples are abundant in north Michigan and our sad little tree was no exception. Well, I made the apple butter. It tasted good but had a rather unappealing color. Next, it was peaches. More jam and more success. Finally, this spring I got those long neglected jars out of the pantry and now have strawberry jam!

It turns out what had intimidated my for so long was really no big deal. All through the winter I went back to Interlochen every time I spread some of that apple butter on my toast. The peach jam brings back the late summer days of eating peaches morning, noon and night. This strawberry jam will put me back in spring when we head north and go back to those chilly days waiting for the warmth to return. Continue reading

Strawberry Fennel Salad

It’s almost time to head back north to Michigan for the summer, but for now I am enjoying a spring preview in Austin. Many of the spring treats appear two months earlier in the land of sunshine. Sunday’s stop at the Mueller Market in Austin was full of springs treats including beautiful strawberries, fennel and some wonderfully delicate arugula. For me the sure sign that spring is in action is the abundance of sweet red strawberries. None of the giant frankenberries that you find at the grocery store. These are delicate juicy strawberries that you can hardly wait to get home and rinse off before you eat.

As I am being very careful with my diet as I attempt to lose weight, I have been eating mounds of salads. I love the spicy bite of arugula, but if the leaves grow too large, it can be rough and almost pungent. The arugula I found Sunday was perfect. One of my favorite things to eat with arugula is thinly sliced fennel. Top it with a little balsamic vinaigrette and you have a simple salad. But then I also like strawberries with my arugula. Why not have them both on the same salad? Earlier I had infused some olive oil with orange zest. Hmm, how would that taste in a vinaigrette? Well, pretty awesome as it turns out. Put them all together and you have a refreshing salad. We ate this salad with grilled chicken breast and some fresh bread from the farmers market for a light Sunday lunch.

StrawberryFennel

  • 3 Cups Arugula
  • 1/2 Fennel Bulb
  • 1/2 Pint Cleaned Strawberries
  • 1/2 Cup Olive Oil
  • Zest of one Orange
  • 1/4 Cup Aged Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Salt

Rinse and dry the arugula and then put it in a large salad bowl. Slice the fennel bulb very thin. Use a mandoline if you have one. Slice the strawberries. Put the fennel and strawberries on top of the arugula. To make the dressing mix together olive oil and zest. Then add the balsamic vinegar and salt. Mix these together. Dress your salad to taste.

Strawberry-Salad