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Jul 9, 2013
09:03 AM
Local Flavor

Summertime Jams

Summertime Jams

Beth Kazmar of Tipi Produce

I would not consider myself a math lover. On the contrary, the only time I get excited about math is when I am counting my savings after making food from ingredients I have grown or bought directly from a farmer.

Recently my kids and I picked strawberries at Beth Kazmar and Steve Pincus's farm, Tipi Produce, near Evansville, Wisconsin. Beth and Steve have been farming for many years and bought their current farm—forty-five acres of organically grown fruits and vegetables—in 2001. They offer CSA shares and supply many area grocery stores with their produce.

The twenty-three pounds of berries we collected yielded about fifteen pints of jam, one pie and two quarts of frozen berries. And that doesn’t include the pound or three we ate straight off the plants and out of the box. After filling and sealing jars of preserves, I turned to my kids and said, “Guess how much each of these jars of jam would cost if we got them at a store?” Demonstrating far less enthusiasm than they had while picking the berries, they shrugged their shoulders and said, “I don’t know.”

The value of the preserves I made is not really in the savings I reaped by putting in a little labor; it’s in the hard work and nurturing that Steve and Beth put into their farm everyday to make sure we have access to quality organic produce. Family farms, such as Tipi Produce, are important to our communities in that they ensure access to good food and are vital to health of our environment and local economy. Family farmers work their own land and even offer a chance for us city-dwellers to get our hands dirty and learn where our food comes from. Kids especially benefit from hands-on farming experiences; they are more likely to eat fresh fruits and vegetables when they participate in growing and harvesting them.

By now you might be wondering what became of our strawberry jam savings discussion.

After posing the question about the cost of a pint of homemade organic strawberry jam and getting shoulder shrugs, I forged ahead, answering my own question.

“Each pint of jam would cost about nine dollars. And I made 15 pints of jam. Sooo....how much would that be?” I asked.

A moment passed.

“Uh, mom, that’s one hundred and thirty-five dollars,” my son replied with a roll of his eyes.

Quickly, his little sister interjected, “Wait!!!! Let me guess. He didn’t let me guess. No fair!”

Tears formed.

“You can still guess. What’s your guess?”

“Thirty-five dollars,” she said, throwing a challenging glance at her brother.

“Yep, one hundred and thirty-five dollars! Good job guys. Now how much did we spend on the berries? We used about 15 pounds of berries, and they cost $2.20 per pound.”

“Thirty-three dollars,” My son answered after a minute.

I pretended I knew that already.

“Pretty good return on our investment, isn’t it?”

“Mmmmhmmm.”

I can’t stress enough that supporting locally grown food and our family farmers enriches our lives—and our pocketbooks. But the real lesson here is that being a jam lover can quickly convert you into a math lover.

RECIPE: Strawberry Jam

INGREDIENTS

6 cups mashed organic strawberries
1-1/2–3 cups sugar (according to your taste)
3 tsp calcium water
3 tsp Pomona’s Pectin (best for low sugar recipes)
2 tbsp apple brandy (I used Madison-made Yahara Bay Apple Brandy) or a whole vanilla bean, split lengthwise.

DIRECTIONS

Place strawberries into stock pot with 1/2 of the sugar, the brandy or vanilla bean if desired and calcium water (Found in Pomona’s Pectin box) over medium heat.
Meanwhile mix rest of sugar with dry pectin, and set aside.
Bring fruit in pan to a slow boil. Simmer, partially covered until soupy and mushy. Use immersion blender if desired to puree.
Add remaining sugar with pectin and stir until mixed. Bring to rolling boil for 1-2 minutes and remove from heat. Remove vanilla bean.
Pour jelly into sterilized, warm jars. Process in water bath for 10 minutes, or according to FDA instructions.

Yields about four pints.

There is also a great recipe here, with lots of detail about canning equipment.

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About This Blog

Writing has always provided an anchor for my passions, which focus deeply on food, dance, environmental conservation and culture. I grew up “helping” my dad cultivate a prolific garden that produced too many radishes and watching my mom make almost all of our food from scratch, including horehound candy. Meanwhile I took my first African dance class in high school, which ignited my continuing quest to travel to West Africa, via Europe and South America, to study dance.

Through my travels, I learned that we are all connected by food, and our basic need to eat. Since moving to Madison in 1998 to pursue degrees in conservation biology and dance, I have developed an appreciation for the richness of our local food community, and a great desire to share it with others. What started as a personal food blog, A World of Flavors, has since grown into a business teaching cooking classes and leading local and international food tours.

I look forward to sharing culinary adventures with you through my Madison Magazine blog Local Flavor and monthly Dining In recipe column.

  – Otehlia Cassidy
Follow Otehlia on Twitter @madisoneats

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