We wait and wait for the first local sweet strawberry and then suddenly the season ends. Lucky for us, Oregon’s other fine berries tempt us with their marvelous colors, flavors and versatility.
For berry lovers who like the story behind the berry as well as good recipes, you can’t go wrong with The Berry Bible by local cookbook author Janie Hibler. She explains how to buy, store and prepare 41 different kinds of berries, many of which grow in the Pacific Northwest. The book is available at most local bookstores.
Cherries are in the markets now and soon Oregon’s fine peaches and early varieties of apples will be available at U-pick farms or farm markets.
Look in the newspaper to locate U-pick farms or check the Oregon Farmers’s Market Association on the Web (http://www.oregonfarmersmarkets.org). You’ll find a customer resource list, seasonal produce guide and a detailed schedule for the many farm markets throughout the state.
Canning fruits is fairly simple if you have a big pot, a rack and some canning jars. You can’t poison anyone with a jar of peaches, although if improperly canned, you might get mold growing and have to discard the fruit. Check out Preserve’s Food Preservation Links for easy and safe recipes and guidelines for canning local peaches and pears.
Tips on Canning Equipment:
- Unless you are canning in tall quart jars, many large cooking pots can serve as a boiling water canner. Put a rack on the bottom and then place a pint jar on the rack. You are good to go if there is room for at least one inch of boiling water to cover the top of the jar PLUS another 2-3 inches to prevent boiling water from splashing out of the pot. Boiling Water Canners have advantages, as they are wide and 7 pint or quart jars fit nicely inside them.
- Cake cooling racks or thin wire pizza screens are rack possibilities. Just remember that you don’t want the jar to touch the bottom of the pot during the canning process. (The jar might break.)
- Old canning jars work fine in the Boiling Water Canner as long as the rims are smooth, with no cracks or chips. Use new sealing lids, either Ball or Kerr are widely available. Rings should be clean and free of rust.
- A jar lifter is essential to avoid burns and broken jars. They cost about $3.00 to $4.00.
Go pick a peach!