There are few food moments that really define summer. The first tomato… plump, ripe and red on the vine, destined for a BLT sandwich or a mozzarella and fresh basil union. Sweet corn that doesn’t need to be cooked before eating or green beans snapped and ready to eat.

But the first moment, for many, is probably the summer’s first fresh picked strawberry.

I think before I’d even unpacked my boxes after buying my house I planted a small strawberry patch in the front yard. When I was younger my parents used to drive us out into the country in North Carolina, where I grew up, and we’d get turned loose between the dense rows of a you-pick strawberry patch each with a green plastic pint container to fill to its brim. Here’s the thing about a fresh picked strawberry, it’s a lot like a garden fresh tomato. Once you taste it straight from the plant you will never, ever, be able to truly appreciate the industrial farmed and grocery store hustled version of the same plant. The taste of the garden fresh variety is incomparable in the tastiest of ways.


Fast forward a few years and my little patch has become a thick ground cover of fruit bearing, summer awesomeness. And, I’m not going to lie, I completely neglect those little plants laying out there in the farthest corner of my little front yard, tucked under the Kwanza cherry tree. If you’ve hesitated to plant strawberries because you think it’s too much work, I encourage you to reconsider. My maintenance commitment to these plants has fallen somewhere between never and none.

This summer a bumper crop, um, came to fruition. I actually, for the first time ever, had more fresh strawberries than I could handle. It was out of control. I’m also pretty sure this variety, which somebody (me-body) forgot to document, was developed to be more of a jam berry. The just aren’t quite as full body flavored as my other strawberries. (Now, keep that statement in context… we’re still hovering at a bout an 8 on the strawberry tasty scale).

A little background on this amazing summer treat. There are two varieties based on when they set fruit, june-bearing and ever-bearing. The June-bearing plants well provide a flush of fruit in a short span of a few weeks. Because of this, these fruits are typically used for jams, a process that requires ALOT of berries. These plants also tend to put out a lot of runners, or side shoots, that root and grow into new fruiting plants. That’s how I ended up with a thick carpet of strawberry plants with zero effort.

Ever-bearing strawberries, on the other hand, set fruit throughout the season. I have several of these plants close to my front door where I tend to snag a berry or two on my way back from the mailbox each day. In my experience the ever-bearing plants tend to set larger, and incredibly sweeter and tastier fruit in comparison to the June-bearing varieties.


Well, what do you do with a bumper crop of strawberries that aren’t as sweet as some? You. Make. Jam. (If you started singing “We Jammin'” in your head you rock and are as big a dork as the author.)

When I cook from the garden I like to keep things whole and simple. Naturally I went in search of a simple recipe online. Turns out they’re all pretty simple. Strawberry jam is made from, well, strawberries and sugar. From there I found a couple of variants on the third ingredient. Some, use pectin, which is a naturally occurring carbohydrate found in many fruits that binds the cell walls together. It’s basically what puts the gel in your jelly. I wasn’t really digging on adding another processed ingredient in addition to sugar so I pressed onward. It turns out that lemon juice is an excellent alternative to powdered pectin. It’s acidic properties create some sort of chemical awesomery that gels the sugar.

The whole process was surprisingly simple and the results are so tasty it’s hard to wait for it to cool. Plus, if you have the self-control to stash a couple of jars away you can have a taste of summer anytime of year, even in the dead of winter. It’s proven, I didn’t have that kind of self control.

Ready to make some strawberry jam? Fellow New River Gorge blogger, Elizabeth Morton of The Mustard Ceiling Blog, joined me for an adventure in strawberry jam makin’. Here’s the recipe we pieced together:
Click for a Simple 3 Ingredient Strawberry Jam Recipe…

Thanks for the amazing pics, Elizabeth!