The end of September is approaching, but here in Northern California we are just starting to get our “summer” weather. I’m 95% thankful to have left the hot and muggy summers of Wisconsin far behind. Still there’s that remaining 5% that misses it as I sit here tapping away at my computer well before sunrise, wrapped up in a fleece blanket drinking maple hot cocoa. No matter how nice it gets during the day in San Francisco, there will just never be one of those warm summer nights where you can sit at an outdoor table in a sundress with bare legs and bare shoulders. Le Sigh. It also doesn’t help that we live in a garden level (aka basement, aka one wall of windows) apartment in the Outer Sunset (aka fog belt of the foggiest city in the country).
Yesterday, I took the first part of a 14 hour exam that marks the end of the licensing process for me to become a ‘real’ physician. For USMLE Step 3, we’re all working full (or twice full) time jobs, so the expectation is to study a little, when you can and to just pass. Even so, for the last few days that I’ve been studying, I’ve completely slipped back into medical student mode. It’s so easy to forget that crushing anxiety and guilt that comes about doing anything but preparing for a big exam. Now that I have a big girl job, my nights and days off are mostly my own. That means I don’t have to feel guilty about watching the new season of The Mindy Project (love her!) or making and photographing a batch of strawberry jam for A Side of Sweet. During my entirety of medical school, there was this teeny black cloud of doubt and guilt that cast a shadow over most of life’s pleasures. “Do I really have time to enjoy myself like this right now? That big cardiology exam is just a week away….” I guess being back in that mind space makes me grateful that now I can separate work and life most days.
Ok, bleh. Back to more fun and interesting things, like saving the last of summer’s bounty in the form of this recipe for Old Fashioned Strawberry Jam. This recipe is pectin-free, as the seeds from the strawberries release a natural form of pectin to help this recipe ‘jell-up’. The recipe is easy, super-spreadable and delicious! Don’t be intimidated by canning. All you need are some mason jars and a big pot. There is also no reason to can this recipe if you plan to eat it within a few weeks of making it. Just keep it in the fridge after it’s finished.
Something that’s always on my mind when I’m working with fresh produce is the unseen chemicals and contaminants that are on the fruits and veggies that I buy. I make an effort to buy organic produce, both to keep myself and the environment healthier, but even so, it’s hard to know what is really on that innocent-appearing pint of strawberries. The way I think about it, pesticides are made to last through rainstorms, so how good can running water over your produce really be?
That’s why I’ve started using a produce wash on my fruits and veggies. Trader Joe’s makes a concentrate that you can mix with water. It’s cheap and it lasts forever. The Honest Company also makes one.
Old Fashioned Strawberry Jam
Makes 5 cups of jam.
- 2 lb. fresh strawberries, hulled
- 4 c. sugar
- 1/4 c. lemon juice
- In a mixing bowl, crush strawberries in batches until you have 4 cups of mashed berries.
- In a heavy bottomed saucepan, mix together the strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice. Stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved.
- Increase heat to high, and bring the mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil, stirring often, until the mixture reaches 220 degrees F (105 degrees C).
- Transfer to hot sterile jars, leaving 1/4 to 1/2 inch headspace, and seal. Process in a water bath.
- If the jam is going to be eaten right away, don’t bother with processing, and just refrigerate.