Strawberry Jam and Raspberry Custard
Summer is here and this ten year old is happier than a pig in -- well, a pig in his pen. Strawberries are in bountiful supply with the patches around Dad and Mom's little farm are being visited every day to "pick your own." It seems everything ripens and matures at the same time. No sooner do the strawberries taper off when the first picking of raspberries are ready. In between all this there are sour cherries and sweet cherries.
It is a smart thing, especially as a mischievous boy like myself, to be really nice and help my parents, especially in June. I am not able to pick a lot of the fresh fruits from the surrounding farms, something about child labor laws, but there are no restrictions on eating.
Mom makes a shortbread kind of thing for our strawberry shortcake. She calls it a "happy day cake", and it is all that we needed. She makes it several times during the week, and we enjoyed this moist yellow cake. Cut a three inch square, place it in a bowl and the fun begins. The berries always were sliced and sweetened. After a time in the refrigerator, to draw juice, they were ready. Place them on a warm slice of happy day cake, sprinkle sugar on top even though it was not needed, and pour cold milk over everything, that is how we eat this most wonderful June treat.
Strawberry season is almost over, and I am ready for Mom to move on to another sweet treat. But wait, she has one more trick up her sleeve. Strawberry jam. Just saying this makes me want to toast some bread. The making of jam is one of my most vivid memories.
One final trip to the field is made, and we pick three more quarts of nice firm berries. They are capped and our job is done. This is a big peoples job: a very difficult job, and very scary. Don't ever, ever let it boil over. Here is what she does:
Mash enough berries to make 5 cups, and put them in a BIG pot.
Add a package of sure jell and a tab of butter (the latter being used to minimize the foam.) Cook the mixture until it comes to a full boil, stirring constantly, and continue for 30 seconds. By now the house is smelling so good, I am liable to start eating a drape. Then add 7 cups of pure sugar and stir for 2 more minutes. Remove from the heat and pour into jars. Mom always uses the prettiest jars she can find. Then she seals them with paraffin. As she gets smarter and I get older, the jars are turned upside down after the hot jam was put into the jar, and that took care of the sealing. It is oh so wonderful with warm buttered toast and a big teaspoon of jam. The entrance to the cellar is the storage spot for this most wonderful treat, and it never even came close to making it through the winter.
Strawberry season is winding down, and Mom will now switch her attention to another berry that ranks very high on my like list. Raspberries are harder to grow, but the extra effort is so well worth it. The plants are pruned and tied to wire for support back in the cold days of spring. June is here and this young boy wants some of her baked goodness. It could be a fresh pie (which I like), fresh in a bowl with sugar and milk (which I really like), or raspberry pudding, fresh and warm from the oven; dare I say really, really like.
Mom is going to treat us to custard this evening, as a special treat. I watch, and this is what she does: brings to a boil (called scalding) 3 cups of whole milk then set aside. In another bowl combine 4 eggs, 1/2 C. sugar, 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla, 1/4 tsp. salt. Slowly add in scalded milk. Grease a glass dish. Add mixture to dish, and sprinkle in 2 or 3 cups of fresh raspberries. Set this dish into a 9 1/2 x11 cake pan. Fill cake pan with hot water to within 1/2 inch of top of glass dish. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes at 350, or until a knife inserted into the baked goodness comes out clean.
Just like the strawberry jam, this one never lasted to the next meal. In fact, Mom usually gives each of us an equal portion so all got to eat some of this goodness.
If you like egg custard which is tender and smooth with a hint of sugar, try this one. Add some big, black, fresh raspberries and it is to die for.
I so enjoy Mom's baked goodness from the kitchen, and hope I can remember everything she taught me. I want to continue enjoying all these wonderful memories and tastes when I am seventy-five.
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