Last year, when we picked strawberries with the kids, it felt like we had placed ourselves on the banks of a Dantesque river leading to a green and red hell (4th Level with Plutus, the wolf-like demon, which maybe was just the ugly donkey the strawberry farm keeps in a pen).
We drove out to our local u-pick farm (local being defined as a 45-minute drive), bought a flat to carry our hoped-for bounty, passing by tables of bright red jewels that seemed to be screaming silently at me, “Abandon all hope. Don’t go into the fields! Also, you forgot your diaper bag, you fool.”
Any excursion into the world outside of our backyard fence last year could be complicated, especially one to the side of a hill, far from bathrooms and the forgotten diaper bag in the van. It’s not that any one thing went wrong, it was that life had handed us more than we thought we could carry. Literally.
Too far from snack time and not close enough to lunch, we walked down a dusty road toward the fields, two wobbly twin girls and their older brother, riding on flatbed wagons that Karen and I pulled.
Then they collectively decided they wanted to walk.
Then five steps later, one asked to be carried. And another. And another.
I was trying to carry two girls while Karen carried our son, the two of us trying to decide whether to leave the wagons we were pulling because there were no more free hands.
But we plodded on, children clinging to us, two girls in my arms, me walking backwards to the field, tugging on the wagons with my hands. What felt like ten miles was less than a half of one.
By the time we reached the berries, the girls were ready to call it quits. So was I.
But our son and Karen roamed the field while I kept the girls entertained with the flashes of red strawberries hidden under the green leaves. And I found a forgotten plastic baggie I had tucked into a pocket of my shorts, one filled with Cheerios, our circular oat savior.
And then the sound of our son squealing that he had found a “GIANT STRAWBERRY MOMMMM-MMYYYYY.” And another, and another. And another.
That was when the flow of Styx turned back in the other direction. The girls were munching on Cheerios while picking a total of 10 berries between them. But those berries were like finding the best treasure in the world for them. And for me.
Everyone climbed back on to the wagons with our flat full of berries. Our son asked to help me pull, and together we walked back, our hands pulling the load together.
This year was different. Wildly different. We all walked out to the fields, pulling two wagons and two flats, knowing that we had two more sets of hands ready to find berries. No one asked to be carried. No one was wearing diapers. No one needed bribes of Cheerios. No one cried (not even me). Only laughter and delight at finding beautiful strawberries. Two flats full of berries in no time at all. So many hands to gather the harvest, to encourage each other with cries of “only get the red ones!”
And two little girls helped their brother pull the wagons back to our van.
This will be my memory of this Father’s Day. Three kids that can pull their own wagons. Full of strawberries. Needing just a little guidance (and steering) from Mom and Dad.
One the drive out to the farm, I asked friends via Twitter what we should make. So many brilliant ideas came flying at us. But one stood out. A simple fresh strawberry jam from our friend, Sarabeth. THE Sarabeth. She of the preserves and jams and all things baked and delicious. A chance meeting with her when I met Dorie Greenspan made an instantaneous connection between us, and it didn’t hurt that Gail from OneToughCookie was there. Sarabeth’s book is stunning. It’s a must buy. Gorgeous photos. A perfect book to both use in the kitchen and place on the coffee table.
So when Sarabeth suggested we use her recently posted Strawberry Jam recipe for our recently picked bounty, really there was no option. If Sarabeth says, then one must do. Because she knows.
Strawberries, lemon, sugar. That’s it. Simple, bursting with more strawberry flavor than the strawberries alone had (I don’t know quite how to explain that little trick she pulled).
We weren’t ready to put the jam into jars and can them. So we had more jam than we knew what do without letting it spoil. A little jam was shared with neighbors and friends (thanks, Amber at Bluebonnet and Brownies). But we had to find a way to use the rest of the jam.
I was making a gin and tonic one night, and I decided to add a little jam in there. It was loose enough in consitency, that it slid right into the glass, playing perfectly off the juniper berry and the mild Q Tonic. I had three of them that night.
It was a good night.
The next night, I was thinking about MattBites’ Cherry Sidecars (which are brilliant). And then it hit me that I had to change it up with the strawberry jam. Lemon, strawberry, and cognac. Mind-blowingly good. Jump up and down good. Shake another round good (in an insulated sippy cup, always).
But I knew I could make it even better. Swap in lime for the lemon. Add some lime zest to granulated sugar, swipe the lime around the rim of the glass and dip into the lime zest sugar.
Now this is a drink to make you cry because you made something new. Something you’ve never tasted before. A drink that is tart, sweet, smashed with strawberry, and boozy enough to make think twice before you shake up a second round. And then, of course, you shake up a second round.
Strawberry jam in mixed drinks? I wouldn't recommend using a jam full of pectin. It wouldn't mix well and the flavor wouldn't capture thre fresh berry flavor that Sarabeth's recipe provides.
But this strawberry sidecar with Sarabeth's fresh jam? You muse rush out and get the very best berries you can find and make this drink. Tonight. You won't regret it for a second.
Recipe | Strawberry Sidecars with Fresh Strawberry Jam and Lime Sugar
- 1 teaspoon of lime zest
- 2 T of granulated sugar
- 1 oz of freshly squeezed lime juice
- 3 oz of cognac (brandy if you don't have cognac)
- 1 oz of strawberry jam using Sarabeth's recipe (make sure this is loose, fresh jam without pectin)
Zest the lime with a microplane and place zest on a plate. Add sugar. Mix with a fork (just use your fingers) until evenly combined.
Juice the lime and set the juice aside. Take the juiced lime (carcass?) and run it around the rim of your cocktail glass. Dip the rim of the glass into the lime sugar.
Fill an insulated sippy cup (or shaker) with ice. Throw in the cognac, jam, and lime juice. Put on the top and shake it.
Pour the contents of the sippy cup into the cocktail glass and serve.