Saturday, June 23, 2007

Hand-me-down crazy

I blame my mother.

"Why?" you ask naively. "What is it you blame your mother for?"

That is, you ask it naively unless you are my friends Brad and Bob, or Jeff, or Tom and Steve...or Jess, who all personally know of what I am about to speak.

My mother has a thing for overdoing things, especially when it comes to food. And it's a gift she managed to give to me.

Okay, so what am I talking about?

Today, we went out to the east end of the island to do some strawberry picking. It's my project, so Jess very generously did the driving and I did the picking. I hadn't picked strawberries in a long time; usually I don't get out on the one or two ideal weekends to pick, and by the time I do get out there, you're forced to settle with what they have already-picked at the stand. And those are expensive. Picked by you, a quart of berries will run about $2.50. Picked by the farm, they could run $5.50 a quart...or more.

At any rate, I like making my own strawberry preserves. So I picked. And picked. And picked. I picked six quarts at the first place we went. The field was large and this was only the second weekend they were open for picking, so the selection was very good. There were still plenty of very large berries on these plants and the berries were nicely sweet. I complimented the owner on the quality and condition of the plants and field, and she remarked that for her, it was the best harvest in memory. The conditions were just perfect this year: lots of fall and spring rain, but not too much, and a mild spring that wasn't too hot, but was warm enough to produce a bumper crop of berries. I was thrilled with my harvest, but for some dumb reason, wasn't satisfied with "just" six quarts.

So we went about three more miles and came across another field, and we stopped. They had a four-quart minimum, and I asked how the berries were. "Well, they are very sweet this year, one of the best years I can remember."

I stooped down to pick and taste one just before I began to pick. They were succulent, juicy, and wonderfully sweet. But they were much smaller than the berries in the other field, and four quarts took almost twice as long to pick as the six quarts I had picked earlier. I left the field exhausted. I had needed a bathroom break before I ever started in that field, and all that bending and squatting hadn't helped!

But I am thinking to myself as we left the field, "what in the hell am I going to do with ten quarts of berries?

I mean, after all, that is 2 1/2 gallons of berries. When combined with 2 1/2 gallons of sugar and a pint of lemon juice, it will make 2 1/2 gallons of jam. What was I thinking?! Ridiculous. Thanks, Mom. You did this to me.

Anyway, after the picking, we went to one of our very favorite Suffolk County restaurants, Modern Snack Bar. It's not really a snack bar at all, but a restaurant. The food is marvelous home-style comfort food. I had an appetizer of crab cakes, and Jess had New England Clam Chowder. My crab cakes were better than his chowder, but the chowder was still very good. For the main meal, I had meat loaf with mashed potatoes and green beans, and all were superb. Jess had a wonderful fried flounder with mashed potatoes and cole slaw. The cole slaw was only so-so. We finished by splitting a very small piece of coconut custard pie, which was good, but a little too small. But for $2,95, you couldn't really complain. If you ever get out to the east end of Long Island, you must not pass Modern Snack Bar up. It's in Aquebogue, right on the main drag, NY 25. If you like turnips (and maybe even if you don't) then order the whipped turnips with your meal, because they are fabulous.

At any rate, I am now sitting in my kitchen wondering how I am going to can all these berries. I have four quarts working already, and I think I am just going to freeze the remaining berries whole and can them later as I am able. It's too much work for one evening!

The weather was perfect for picking today, though; I will say that. A beautiful 72 degrees and no sand fleas, no gnats, nothing! I couldn't have asked for better conditions. I could, however, have asked for better sense.

1:35 a.m. UPDATE: Jess and I have finally finished prepping the remaining berries to freeze and I have finished boiling down the juice for the preserves to something that will be jelly in the morning. We're exhausted. Off to bed!


At 11:15 PM, June 25, 2007, Blogger pinknest said...

wow, you have an insane amount of berries!! everyone seems to be on berry overload. i was the same way. but you know, a strawberry pie and a strawberry shake sound mighty good right now.

At 12:38 PM, June 26, 2007, Blogger Wayne said...

Did you know that Strawberries are rich in Vitamin C? If you smash up some strawberries and mixed with some plain yogurt, you can use it as a facial scrub. And then after your done massaging your face, leave the 'masque' on your face for 5 minutes, then rinse off. :)

Your skin will glow like strawberries!

At 8:20 AM, June 27, 2007, Blogger PatCH said...

Yikes. That's a lot of work, both preparing the jam and creating Wayne's strawberry facial scrub!

At 6:33 PM, June 27, 2007, Blogger Dantallion said...

aw, now I'm all hungry...

At 6:23 PM, July 01, 2007, Blogger CoffeeDog said...

Do you need my address so you can send me some preserves?

At 11:21 AM, July 09, 2007, Blogger Stepping Over the Junk said...

We're going strawberry picking tomorrow! What overwhelms me is how cheap it is to pick your own raspberries and can't wait for that. Ah, this morning, I made a strawberry pie. I thought at first maybe you were on MY island, but then realized you are in NY. Wow, they have strawberry farms there.


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