Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Wild strawberries, 2007



Have you ever had wild strawberries*, also known as woodland strawberries? No? Well, imagine the best-tasting, ripe and just-picked strawberry you've ever had, just in a very concentrated form. That's how wild strawberries taste like - like summer heaven :)

In July 2006, K. and I ate wild strawberries to our heart's content; this year we were determined to do the same and even more. In the few hours before St John's bonfire we made a quick trip to our wild strawberry fields. After just about an hour and a half we had about 1 kilogram of tiny wild strawberries between us - not bad at all, considering that we covered a very small patch of land. There were just so many strawberries around.

And here's a tip to any future wild strawberry foragers: make sure to look inside larger bunches of grass and nettles - we found the 'hidden' strawberries to be considerably larger than the ones growing in sunny open spots (I guess constant sunshine - which we've got plenty during the summer - dries them out a bit).


When you look hard enough, you'll see lots of wild strawberries (click on the photo to enlarge).

* I must admit that I'm a bit confused about the relationship between wild and Alpine strawberries. However, based on this Finnish source, I suspect that Alpine strawberries are a semi-cultivated 'close cousins' of wild strawberries (Fragaria vesca L). They're sweet and tasty, but the flavour is somewhat more diluted; they're slightly bigger and more oblong than your average wild strawberrys (see Clotilde's picture here and compare the oblong berries with this round berry here). In Estonia they're known as kuumaasikad alias 'moon strawberries' (Fragaria vesca var. semperflorens, c.f. kuukausimansikka in Finnish, Monatserdbeere in German). Another difference is that whereas wild strawberries only bear fruit in June-July, then you can harvest Alpine strawberries in your garden until early Autumn (hence the English synonyms 'everbearing strawberry' and 'perpetual fruiting strawberry', Spanish 'fresal de las cuatro estaciones'). But, as I said, there's lots of confusion on this matter, so I still need to do some research into this..

By the way - wild strawberries are high in carbohydrates and contain fibre, minerals (iron, magnesium, calcium, among other things) and vitamins (B, C, E vitamins, pholic acid and carotene). So they're not only tasty, they're also very good for you. I've even read that wild strawberry face masks help to reduce lines, but as I so don't have to worry about that any time soon, I just keep eating them for their taste :)

Wild strawberries are best eaten as they are picked, but they also make a lovely jam. BUT - don't try to make a traditional boiled jam with wild strawberries. The tiny seeds outside the berry may turn any cooked jam bitter, and basically spoil it. Therefore wild strawberries are preserved in uncooked, 'raw' jam.

Wild strawberry jam
(Metsmaasika toormoos)



750 grams freshly picked wild strawberries
750 grams caster sugar

Pick through the strawberries to make sure there are no tiny bugs or ants among them. This is best done by pouring a cupful of strawberries onto a large plate covered with a clean (paper) towel, sorting through and then spooning the strawberries into a large bowl.

Add sugar (take equal quantity - in terms of weight - of sugar to berries) and then stir with a wooden spoon, squashing berries every now and then, for about 20-30 minutes, until sugar has dissolved.
Ladle into small sterilised jam jars and close them immediately.
As this is an uncooked jam, then keep in the fridge or in a very cold larder.

We got exactly 1 litre of wild strawberry jam or metsmaasikamoos - 5 small jars a´ 150 ml and 1 larger jar a´ 250 ml. One of these jars will be waiting for a certain foodblogger who will be visiting in August, the others we'll enjoy with our traditional Sunday pancakes..



WHB: This is also my entry to the Weekend Herb Blogging, this time hosted by Kalyn herself.

28 comments:

K. said...

Moreover, terminology is pretty confusing in French as well. It seems that fraises des bois means both the strawberries that grow in the wild as well as a garden variety that looks (oblonged) and tastes (less accentuated) quite differently as well as grows from May to October (e.g. last issue of Régal p64: fraise des bois - familière des jardins de nos grands-mères, c'est une variété ancienne, la seule d'origine européenne)

lobstersquad said...

I just got goosebumps, I promise you. I hope you don´t have many other foodbloggers visiting you in August, because I´ll stop at nothing for a pot of that jam!!!

ScienceMel said...

Fab strawberry pics and stories. Reminds me of when I was knee-high-to-a-grasshopper. I only wish the weather were as obliging over in Scotland. (Rain, rain, and more rain.)

Shayne said...

you make me miss the summers when my brother were children and we would sit in the forest behind our house and eat wild strawberries for hours.

Shayne

joey said...

I've never had a wild strawberry! Wah! Your jam sounds fantastic! :)

thepassionatecook said...

i am surprised wild strawberries are even allowed to call themselves that, so different are they in flavour!! i love them and can confirm that in austria we get bith the oblong and the round kind... whether they're called alpine, i don't know, but they are multi-bearing. mostly.
can you send me a jar so i can test it? i will then be able to tell you whether we're talking about the same species ;-)

dagmar said...

Oooh! Lucky lucky you!!!

I have two wild strawberry plants on my balcony, but real wild ones tastes best!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Pelli you are a lucky lucky girl. I had these several times at Angelika's in Vienna! The are simply divine! They do have a lot of little seeds but the taste just blows me away!
Wish we could all stop by with our toasts for a spoonful of your jam.

Rowi said...

Hi Pille,
This is my first comment to your wonderful blog but not my first visit. I just love Smultron (swedish for wild strawberries) and you're so lucky to find almost a kilo of smultron, that would be a dream for me. The basket that holds the smultron, is it made of birch bark? It's so cute.
Am based in Stockholm and just like you, are a passionate mushroom-hunter and I get a real treat when I find lots of smultron while foraging for my favourite karl-johan .

K & S said...

all these wonderful strawberries! yum!

Kalyn said...

I wish I could taste them, I don't think I've ever seen wild strawberries here. BTW, in Utah this type of jam is called "freezer jam" because people store it in the freezer. My sisters make something very similar from purchased strawberries and eat it on waffles.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations! What a treasure to have those jars at home! I know wild strawberries well, but have never found more than a handfull myself.

/Ullis

MeltingWok said...

I've not seen or heard of wild strawberries :) Wow, such dedication in making those delicious jams :)

Ulrike said...

Wild strawberries are so tiny and so flavourful. I like them to eat directly to my mouth.

thanks for stopping at my side. I'm thinking of the combination strawberries and tarragon ;-)

Maria Helene Schlösser said...

strawberries and cilantro!!
I have lots of them in my garden, lucky me, but we just eat them; my family gives me no chance to cook them ;)

christine said...

Wow, wild strawberries! Ever since I made my own strawberry jam, I can't get myself to buy the anymore. There's a world of difference in the taste and I've been spoiled! By the way, I wanted to tell you, my friends just got back from a cruise around the Baltic and Eastern Europe; they went to a whole slew of capital cities, but Tallinn was their absolute fave. I want to go there even more now! :)

Pille said...

Lobstersquad - I've hidden a jar away at the back of my fridge especially for you, so you should be fine (even if other foodbloggers express interest of visiting:)

Sciencemel - well, it's sunny and warm here:)

Shayne - I know. Picking those wild strawberries always brings back nice childhood memories, when the grass was greener, strawberries sweeter etc..

Joey - sorry to hear you missed them in Finland!! Have you had wild strawberry jam?

Johanna - you're such a cheeky girl (I mean it in a good way, obviously). K. said that a jar is to be reserved for you, but you need to pop over to pick it up?!

Dagmar - you're right. The 'real wild ones' have a more concentrated flavour, I think.

Tanna - the seeds are so tiny, I don't even notice they're there!? I remember now that you ate Alpine strawberries at Angelika's - good for you!

Rowi - thanks for 'de-lurking'! It's nice to have another reader from Sweden, especially one who shares my love for smultron and wild mushrooms! And yes, my strawberry basket is made of birch bark.

K&S - indeed!

Kalyn - it's best to keep a wild strawberry jam in the fridge rather than in the freezer, as freezing (as well as boiling) can turn the jam bitter. Would that make it a 'fridge jam' then?

Ullis - it was a good year for wild strawberries in Estonia this year. It's not always that I get to pick a kilogram in an hour, either!

Meltingwok - they're truly like the essence of strawberries - hope you'll get a chance to try them at least once in your life!

Ulrike - strawberries & tarragon? Strawberries & rosemary? Strawberries & black pepper? The choice is endless!

Maria Helene - strawberries and coriander/cilantro?? Sounds good to me:)

Christine - we do sometimes buy jam, but it's very rare, as we receive plenty of good jam from both of our moms, and now we've got some of our own. Also, thanks for telling me about your friends - I'm obviously very flattered they liked my hometown!!

Coffee & Vanilla said...

I love wild strawberries!! They taste and smell soooooo good.

Margot

Design Squish said...

Mmmm... those are really good. I used to collect them when I used to live in Russia. Does anybody know where to collect them in North America? I live in New York State but could not find any of them in my neck of the woods. Let me know if you know.

Anonymous said...

Hello! Just saw this. I'm in Maine, USA, and my tiny rocky shade-poor yard is covered in wild strawberries. So far this year we've filled a gallon freezer bag to bursting and have a second one 1/3 full in just 3 days. (Nearly 5 lbs. frozen, and I think our season is only about 1/2 over.) A question: when they are frozen, should I thaw them before adding the sugar? Warm the sugar? Just let them set in the sugar long enough to thaw before stirring?

Thank you! This is the first year I've thought about making jam. I've always let the grandkids come over and eat them, but they are too old now to find that interesting.

HH

nenp said...

I live in the north-east of France & have let the wild stawberries grow everywhere in my garden, like weeds. We live against a forest so have foxes crossing our garden, which means we cannot eat them fresh. I sort & wash them & make jam. I do not find the seeds make them bitter - the jam is devine! This year there were so many I froze them & now have 1.5 kg. I find the pectin content so high the jam is a bit too solid but am afraid to use less sugar. I would hate it to spoil.

Anonymous said...

This is the most confusing thing I've seen on a food blog yet. My yard (Maine, USA) is virtually covered in wild strawberries and I pick about 10 lbs. a summer--a handful-to-a-cup per day, dry-freeze them in a freezer bag till I have enough for a batch of jam.

My (product of trial & error) recipe is ~3 cups wild/~3 cups Wyler's frozen strawberries (smaller/ sweeter/riper than any I can find fresh), ~2 cups diced rhubarb, juice of half a med. lemon, 2 tsp. (good) balsamic vinegar, good pinch salt, knob of unsalted butter, just 1 1/2 cups sugar to 8 cups fruit. I macerate for at least 8 hrs. (first 3 hours at room temp, rest in fridge), bring to boil, lower immed. to med. simmer, cook about an hour to a slightly-softer-than-usual set, jar (yield ~ 5 1/2 eight oz. jars) and process for ~7 min. It is the world's MOST delicious strawberry jam, and everyone who's lucky enough to get a taste agrees.

Why is it not bitter? Are we talking about the same kind of white-blossom groundcover volunteer (I didn't plant them; they just appeared one spring and have spread everywhere) wild strawberries? Teensy little things? Lots of seeds/not very sweet but tangy?

Anonymous said...

I must explain the two posts from Maine, the first (mine) last Tues., the second from a friend with whom I just was discussing your never-cook-wild-strawberries advice. She had to come up to my computer and read your blog, almost hit the ceiling, and whipped off that last post.

She is right about hers being delicious; all her jams (wild blackberry & blueberry, Damson Plum, peach & orange) are locally famous; low sugar, incredible flavor.

We are both anxious to hear your thoughts about this. After reading your blog I had almost given up making jam w/mine this year. I don't have room in my freezer.

Pille said...

Margot - they taste and smell good indeed!

Design Squish - sorry, don't know any US sources :)

HH. - I've never made jam from frozen wild strawberries. If you've already frozen them, I'd wait until I'm ready to use them, defrost and then stir in sugar to taste. (Note you're not supposed to re-freeze the berries once they're defrosted).

nenp - if your wild strawberries don't turn out bitter, then you're lucky. Perhaps it's a slightly different variety, perhaps it's the French sun :)

Anon. - I've heard too many times that cooked wild strawberry jam or frozen wild strawberries have been bitter - even after you've used the same recipe/method for years. There are people on my Estonian cooking site who've had to throw frozen berries away, because of the bitterness. Perhaps it's the matter of cooking them a minute too long or crushing the berries too much. (There's a type of quinine acid present in strawberries, some people are sensitive to it - and this is the cause of possible bitterness).

Note that Harold McGee claims in his On food and cooking that there are no wild strawberries left in Europe (utter rubbish, of course - but then, perhaps we are talking about different species after all).

Re: your specific jam - I bet it's delicious. However, it contains so many other components (cultivated strawberries, rhubarb, butter, lemon, balsamico etc) that the wild strawberry flavour (even if there are traces of bitterness) are disguised anyway. I prefer pure flavours myself. Wild strawberries are so sweet, delicious and concentrated in flavour, that I want to keep all the flavour. Wild strawberries and sugar, simply stirred until the sugar is dissolved - tastes exactly like wild strawberries. And that's how I like it..

"Why is it not bitter? Are we talking about the same kind of white-blossom groundcover volunteer (I didn't plant them; they just appeared one spring and have spread everywhere) wild strawberries? Teensy little things? Lots of seeds/not very sweet but tangy?" They could be 'real' wild strawberries, could be Alpine strawberries or any other variety (Alpine strawberry? Everbearing strawberry? Greenish strawberry? There are lots of varieties - just see here: http://www.plantnames.unimelb.edu.au/Sorting/Fragaria.html ). There's no way for me to tell whether we're talking about the exact same plant, sorry..

Oh, and the berries here are VERY sweet, but not cloying or boring, as there's also natural acidity..

HH - go ahead with making the jam - if you're friend and yourself have been making cooked wild strawberry jam without ill effect for years, then obviously the variety in your back garden is different :)

Pille said...

Margot - they taste and smell good indeed!

Design Squish - sorry, don't know any US sources :)

HH. - I've never made jam from frozen wild strawberries. If you've already frozen them, I'd wait until I'm ready to use them, defrost and then stir in sugar to taste.

nenp - if your wild strawberries don't turn out bitter, then you're lucky. Perhaps it's a slightly different variety, perhaps it's the French sun :)

Anon. - I've heard too many times that cooked wild strawberry jam or frozen wild strawberries have been bitter - even after you've used the same recipe/method for years. There are people on my Estonian cooking site who've had to throw frozen berries away, because of the bitterness. Perhaps it's the matter of cooking them a minute too long or crushing the berries too much. (There's a type of quinine acid present in strawberries, some people are sensitive to it - and this is the cause of possible bitterness).

Note that Harold McGee claims in his On food and cooking that there are no wild strawberries left in Europe (utter rubbish, of course - but then, perhaps we are talking about different species after all).

Re: your specific jam - I bet it's delicious. However, it contains so many other components (cultivated strawberries, rhubarb, butter, lemon, balsamico etc) that the wild strawberry flavour (even if there are traces of bitterness) are disguised anyway. I prefer pure flavours myself. Wild strawberries are so sweet, delicious and concentrated in flavour, that I want to keep all the flavour. Wild strawberries and sugar, simply stirred until the sugar is dissolved - tastes exactly like wild strawberries. And that's how I like it..

"Why is it not bitter? Are we talking about the same kind of white-blossom groundcover volunteer (I didn't plant them; they just appeared one spring and have spread everywhere) wild strawberries? Teensy little things? Lots of seeds/not very sweet but tangy?" They could be 'real' wild strawberries, could be Alpine strawberries or any other variety (Alpine strawberry? Everbearing strawberry? Greenish strawberry? There are lots of varieties - just see here: http://www.plantnames.unimelb.edu.au/Sorting/Fragaria.html ). There's no way for me to tell whether we're talking about the exact same plant, sorry..

Oh, and the berries here are VERY sweet, but not cloying or boring, as there's also natural acidity..

HH - go ahead with making the jam - if you're friend and yourself have been making cooked wild strawberry jam without ill effect for years, then obviously the variety in your back garden is different :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Pille, for your thoughtful responses.

Maybe wild strawberries are all different depending on the soil/climate. Ours here in (my part of) Maine don't have much taste eaten fresh, but when I open the freezer bag to drop in another handful, the strawberry aroma from the frozen ones is simply intoxicating--noticeably stronger than from a bag of frozen cultivated strawberries, strong enough to add their unique flavor to jam that's half or more cultivated strawberries.

I'm pretty sure my friend who's made it for years (MH; I'll tell her to initial her posts from now on) uses the cultivated ones w/the wild ones to stretch the scant supply of wild ones. I do know she doesn't always add the rhubarb. It (rhubarb) is almost as hard to find as wild strawberries--esp. in the last two years. (But I do believe I like the jam best w/a small % of rhubarb. Adds tang w/o diminishing the strawberry-ness.)

I must ask her if she's ever made a batch w/just the wild ones. I might try it. And with part of my berries I think I'll try it your way just for fun. Maybe halve the recipe to save fridge/freezer space.

BTW, nenp. MH commented re: your saying that you use so much sugar to keep your jam from spoiling. She said that if you are careful to keep everything very clean in the making of the jam, fill sterile jars, process the jam for 7-10 minutes and be sure the lids seal w/a pop, low-sugar jams will keep for a good year stored in a cool dark place. It's after the jam is opened that you must refrigerate it and try to finish it within ~3 weeks. She said that in 25 years of making low sugar jams she has never had an unopened jar spoil. And all that can happens to it if it's kept in the fridge too long is that it will get an off-flavor. Won't poison anyone.

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