Strawberries Solve Everything

By Sharon Kebschull Barrett
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The scene: A mother, relaxing in the tub before diving into an all-day editing assignment. A father, reading the newspaper with two children nearby playing in their rooms, blissfully enjoying the first Saturday in a very long time with no homework and the rain-induced possibility of a day off from sports.

Bang bang bang bang bang! “Moooommmeeee! Mommy!”

“Honey, what is it? What’s wrong?”

(Through many sobs) “I left my room just for a minute and when I came back, my Carolina snow globe had fallen on the floor and now it’s broken!” (More sobs)

“Are you OK?”

“Yes!” (Sobs)

“Does Daddy know?”

“No, I just came straight here!”

“OK, could you go ask Daddy to help you clean it up? I’m sorry that it broke.”

“Okaaayyy…” (trailing sound of sobbing)

Now, the obvious question here, if you are not a mother, will be why on earth the sobbing girl decided to traverse two flights of stairs to tell the mother in the bath her problem, when a fully clothed father was just a room or two away. If you are a mother, the answer, of course, is equally obvious: Because you are the mother.

Mercifully, if it is May (or June, if you’re not a Southerner) and you’ve been paying attention, you will have strawberries in the house. After that snow globe is cleaned up and you’ve become decently attired, something strawberry will surely dry those tears.

We’ve been picking strawberries once a week for several weeks now, fairly gluttonously enjoying the true fruits of our labors. A great growing season has made for very easy picking, and we’ve been lucky to go on overcast days that keep us cool, at least til we get home and I heat up the kitchen.

As is our tradition, the supper for each night that we’ve picked berries  is strawberry shortcakes (see my recipe for cream shortcakes here). Then I freeze a bunch of berries for future smoothies and ice cream, and make freezer jam, strawberry tarts, strawberry cake, strawberry syrup for fizzy drinks, and supper salads heaped with strawberries and goat cheese.

And of course, at least once a season a good mother should melt some chocolate for dipping those strawberries straight, and if she sends her kids to school with a bag of berries in their lunchboxes, a tiny container of powdered sugar for dipping never hurts.

If you’re going to freeze berries, put them in a big bowl of water, swish them gently but well, leave them for a few minutes so all the grit falls to the bottom, and scoop them out onto towels. Let the berries air-dry for an hour or so, then slice off the stems and lay them in single layers on sheet pans and freeze overnight. Transfer them to airtight plastic bags.

If you’re going to make freezer jam, I recommend using the pink Sure-Jell box of pectin (it says “for less or no sugar needed recipes made with at least 25% less sugar than regular pectin recipes”). I’ve tried other packets that call for even less sugar, but they’re good only if you want strawberry syrup, not a jam that has any real set to it. The pink box, which can be hard to find, seems a reasonable compromise, using less sugar but still setting well. I make cooked jams from other fruit, but not strawberries jams; freezer jam tastes so much fresher.

And for an ending scene to the snow-globe drama?

Well, the tears stopped, all was cleaned up, and the sad girl got back to her work of making thank-you cards. But she threw in an extra:

As the scene fades to black, the camera focuses on the girl’s desk, where a little hand with chipped pink nail polish busily illustrates these words: “In memory of my snow globe.”

Recipe: Strawberry Syrup

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