Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Jamming with Strawbabies

Lauren Marie’s Gluten Free
When I was little, my favorite fruit, without a doubt, were "strawbabies."  They were juicy.  They were sweet.  I just loved them! I have since learned that most people know those sweet red berries as strawberries.  I love those too, but if you ask me, I still have a special place in my heart for strawbabies.

For as long as I can remember, the smell of fresh cut strawberries have always had a happy memory attached to it.  Whether it was just sharing a big bowl of them with my family or passing out homemade strawberry cupcakes for my birthday at the school lunch table every year (thanks Ma!), strawberries always seemed to be a part of a happy occasion.

During strawberry season, one of the most requested desserts from my family for Sunday lunch is simply strawberries and my mom's famous sweet cream dip.  And I'm pretty sure my cousin eats the biggest strawberries just so she can scoop more of that dip into her mouth!  

It's so good!

What's really awesome is that all the thousands of strawberries that me and my family have eaten over the years, were mostly local!  I feel pretty lucky to have lived relatively close to strawberry fields my whole life.  Just on the outskirts of Tampa lies a small town with a big strawberry reputation, Plant City.  And every year they celebrate it with the famous Strawberry Festival.

Plant City's Strawberry Festival is a must-see for me every year.  I never get tired of it.  Never.  It's like a smaller state fair with strawberry everything!!  

But do you know what the best part is?  Local farmers sell pallets of freshly picked strawberries right outside the festival gates.  The strawberries are so fresh and a lot of times they were picked just a few hours before.

Of course, I usually get carried away.  I always want to buy more strawberries than I probably should.  I can' help it!  They always look so beautiful!  And those pallets are not light.  Luckily, my husband is always up for carrying as many strawberries that I fall in love with!  

So what do I do with all those strawberries???

Three words: Homemade Strawberry Jam :)

Making jam does not have to be complicated or intimidating.  You know what the secret is?  A green apple.  Pick up a jar of jam at the grocery store and one of the ingredients on the back will most likely be "fruit pectin."  That's what gives jam its gel-like consistency that we all love.  Well, fruit pectin is naturally found in under-ripe fruit, like green apples.  

So, you can make an all natural, homemade jam out of most fruits, by simply adding diced green apple.  How awesome is that?! 
And with my strawberry jam, I also add a little orange juice and blueberries to give it a more depth of flavor.  But there is no question that those beautiful, red, juicy strawbabies are the star of the show.  

And for me, they will always be strawbabies.  And they will always bring me right back to were I belong...home. 

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