“How many flats of strawberries can one person do in a day?” I asked my aunt. By “do” I meant, crush, sweeten, package, and stow in the freezer. “Six and a half flats?”
“I was going to say two,” she said.
I love strawberry season.
If you read to the end there will be a recipe for the world’s best strawberry pie, courtesy of another aunt of mine.
Maybe I love it because my birthday is in June and Mom made our birthdays days to remember. Maybe it’s because on a produce farm, June is a wonderfully cool and uncomplicated month, where the water lying in the loops of the garden hose might still be cool. Maybe it’s because June is the month of small beef calves, and the cutest little Hereford/Red Angus mix with dark red lipstick arrived in the tall pasture grass on my birthday years ago. Maybe it’s because Mom made the world’s best strawberry shortcake. (Cream of tartar!)
Even in the worst times, like 2010 when Mom was dying, the June birthday/strawberry season buoyed our spirits. My sister Kerra’s birthday is three days before mine, and all four of us sisters went out for breakfast.
For whatever reason, June is the crowning glory of the year for me. In Wisconsin, June meant the height of strawberry season. Milk and berries. Pie and shortcake. The sweet, sweet, sweetness of a flat of perfect berries, so hard to come by, but so wonderful when found.
Note: I’m not stupid enough to think that I have happy memories of picking strawberries. Oh, maybe a few boxes. But there’s really nothing good to be said about hours of picking strawberries. My understanding of this makes me completely willing to shell out the cash necessary to buy the berries other people have picked. Hurray for my cousin Lisa and her family!
Most years, my biggest problem with strawberry season is that it is much too short.
Right now, for instance, I feel like I would pay half a day’s wage to have one more tasty strawberry meal. One more chance to have The Perfect Strawberry. But no. I feel so doubtful that there are any left in the region that I haven’t even called anyone to ask. Here in Indiana, by my birthday, they are usually a thing of the past. They are so scarce anyway that people snap them up through pre-orders, which is the only reason I got six and a half juicy flats from my cousin. When they’re gone, they’re gone, and nothing on the shelves at Aldi will ever substitute sufficiently.
But this year I had an additional problem with strawberry season. An infant in the house. How was I going to process 48 quarts of strawberries by myself in one day?
The answer: clearly, I was not.
My aunt had agreed to help me if the berries came before her camping trip, but they didn’t. So I called on my good friend Barb, who had helped quite a bit after Anina’s birth. She agreed to come, but her time was limited on berry day, because she had an appointment.
Then I remembered my friend Jackie from the hospital, who had recently visited and made the mistake of saying, “If you need anything, let me know.”
Did she really mean that? I asked myself. I decided it wouldn’t hurt to find out.
She did mean it!
And it turns out that Barb and Jackie make a formidable strawberry processing team. I didn’t know if Jackie would be proficient at berries since I didn’t know if she ever did anything like it before. (Again, it turned out that she did.) But I had taken the assumption that anyone who can manage a critical care waiting room full of anxious family members can manage a bowl of berries, and I was right. Even Anina assisted, by sleeping most of the afternoon and wearing strawberry clothes. So, five hours after starting, we popped the last berries in the freezer, even with Barb leaving early.
I love strawberry season. I kind of picture heaven as a green place with lots of light and cool June breezes. Maybe strawberry season will be permanent, too. Maybe, my mom is enjoying it now.
Aunt Malinda’s Strawberry Pie
Crust: 1 cup butter, 1/4 cup sugar, 2 cups flour
Combine butter, sugar and flour until crumbly; press into 2 pie pans. Bake at 350 degrees until lightly browned. Cool.
6 cups fresh strawberries
Fill pie shells with berries.
2 cups sugar, 5 T. Clearjel or cornstarch, 1/4 tsp. salt, 2 cups cold water, 1/3 cup light corn syrup, 3 oz. strawberry gelatin
Cream or whipped topping
In a saucepan, mix 2 cups sugar, Clearjel (I used cornstarch), and salt. Add water and syrup. Bring to a boil; cook and stir until clear. Add gelatin; stir until dissolved. Boil another minute. Cool slightly. Pour over strawberries in pie shell using just enough syrup to fill pies. Refrigerate overnight. Top with cream or whipped topping.
Not planning to post next weekend due to the holiday. As always, if you want to see more pictures or hear Anina’s observations on life, make sure you are subscribed by email.
Two Beta Readers on Trapped in the Tunnel
I liked this book because it was very exciting and because I love mysteries. I also think the fruit of the Spirit project was kinda neat and the events in the book were pretty real-to-life.Lydia, age 11, Nebraska
I like this book because it is exciting. My dad let us stay up one night to read some. I could not wait to finish reading the book the next day. Thank you soo much for writing it.Zafira, age 9, Belize
Can the boys escape the tunnel?
Times are simpler in the 1980s. Terry, Gary, and Larry love their maple tree, their boat called the London, and the friendly face of the St. Joseph’s River. Gary finds comfort on the river, where he can use his upper body strength to row, and almost forget about his wooden leg and lost dreams.
But nothing is simple when Mom spots suspicious characters in the empty house next door and suggests it may be time to move away. And nothing is easy when Dad and Mom assign the boys a summer project to learn about the fruit of the Spirit.
Terry, Gary, and Larry set out to investigate the strange characters and prove that their neighborhood is safe. But then, the detective work backfires, and the boys are trapped.Trapped in the Tunnel, Book One of the Brady Street Boys Midwest Adventure Series
What is the Brady Street Boys series? Based on the fruit of the Spirit, it is expected to have 9 books. Trapped in the Tunnel is Book One. Here is the series description:
Terry, Gary and Larry Fitzpatrick live in northern Indiana along the St. Joseph River. President Reagan lives in the White House. Gasoline costs 90 cents a gallon. For families like the Fitzpatricks, computers and cell phones are still things of the future. The boys’ Christian parents teach them to pray and give them a project to learn the fruit of the Spirit. They help Gary navigate the pain of losing his leg and his firefighting dreams.
But having a wooden leg doesn’t keep Gary from adventures. With Terry the acrobat, and Larry the brain, Gary begins a quest to find an answer to the most important mystery of all.
What happened to the surgeon who amputated Gary’s leg, and has now disappeared?Brady Street Boys Midwest Adventure Series