From Mother’s Country Garden
Hamburger Relish and Strawberry Preserves
During the summer months, Mother was busy with her preserves, and we could never be sure which of the many delightful aromas we’d encounter in the old kitchen. It might be fresh tomatoes stewing and simmering away, or the sharp scent of the chili sauce. If the cucumbers were ready in the garden, we’d smell dill, or onions, or sweet mustard boiling on top of the stove. My favourite scents were the berries – raspberries, strawberries and sometimes strawberry-rhubarb.
Mother, busy in the kitchen, at Stafford House
Preserving the fruits or vegetables from the garden was a necessary task in the summer months with so many hungry kids in our house. Jars were filled, labelled, and stored in the pantry, in neat rows on shelves, and the extras lined up along the floor. Pickles, vegetables and jams were a welcome sight mid-winter, when the fresh crops from the garden were a faded memory.
The Spirit of Summer Brought Back to Life
Imagine coming down the stairs on a cold winter morning, walking across the chilly floor, a layer of ice on the inside of the windows and then seeing a mason jar of homemade jam in the middle of the kitchen table. It was as though the spirit of summer was brought back to life after its long wait in the pantry. The toast would pop up, and the jam would be spread generously, on the thick slices of homemade bread. The berries, picked at their peak of perfection, tasted sweet and fresh, and were a temporary escape from the harsh weather that lay waiting, outside the kitchen walls.
The preserves at our house were never complicated, and the ingredients were basic. There was no extra money for fancy additions to the recipes, so they contained only things at hand. Because of their simplicity, they retained the true flavour of the vegetable or fruit, and it was as though the essence of the harvest was captured and frozen in time, in those precious little jars.
Recipes passed down through the generations. Photo: Arlene Stafford-Wilson, Granny Rutherford, Audry Rutherford Stafford in front of Stafford House, 1967
Mother’s Farmhouse Strawberry Jam
The Strawberry Jam recipe that follows contains only three ingredients – strawberries, sugar and lemon juice. It is simple to make, and will keep for a year if stored in a cool place. It also doesn’t require any fancy ‘gear’ to make it. We had no special pots or kitchen ‘machines’ at home, and yet year after year, Mother managed to dozens of prizes at the local fairs, with her simple recipes.
What you’ll need:
2 pounds of fruit – strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, peaches, etc.
4 cups of white sugar
One quarter of a cup of lemon juice
Before you get started, boil your mason jars for ten minutes, and let them dry upside down on a towel.
Crush the berries with a potato masher in a saucepan, then add the sugar, and lemon juice
Stir over low heat to melt sugar, then, bring to a full, rolling boil for two minutes
Pour into jars, leaving a half inch of space at the top, and screw lids on tightly
Place filled jars in a deep pot until water is one inch over the top, and boil for five minutes
Remove, apply a label if desired, store in a cool, dark place for up to one year.
4 c ground cucumbers
1/2 c ground red sweet peppers
3 c ground celery
4 Tbsp. salt
2 c white vinegar
1 1/2 c ground green sweet peppers
3 c ground onion
1 Tbsp mustard seed
2 1/2 c. white sugar
1 Tbsp. celery seed
(sprinkle vegetables with salt, and let stand for 2 hours)
Bring juice to a boil
Stir in Vegetables and bring to a boil
Simmer for 10 minutes
Fill into mason jars
Enjoy the sweet taste of summer, all year round!
Mother and Dad, summer of 1988, with Korry’s farm in the background
Stafford House, Tay Valley Township, Lanark County, Ontario, Canada
(recipes from “Recipes & Recollections: Treats and Tales from Our Mother’s Kitchen)
available in local stores, or online