Bear With It

“One of the secrets of cooking is to learn to correct something if you can,” wrote Julia Child, “and bear with it if you cannot.”

Kitchen disasters are part of the experience of learning to cook. If you’re paying attention, you should be able to derive some lesson from the whole affair and come out of it a better, more experienced cook (Arguably, had anyone been paying attention in the first place, we might not be having this discussion).

Last October or maybe even into November, some California farms were still producing strawberries and raspberries, but it was the end of the season and the quality, while nice, wasn’t like those of the first of the season. Wandering through the farmers’ market at Civic Center, I ran across one booth where they were selling both kinds of berries for roughly a buck a pint. I took home about four-and-a-half or five pints, deciding right away I’d just make them into preserves. Good idea but poor delivery, as it happened.

Using a recipe for preserves from my 1964 edition of “Joy of Cooking” – I wanted a very basic recipe – I combined the berries and sugar together in a pot and simmered them together for a while. One of the things that struck me was that the recipe didn’t call for pectin. Strawberries, too, aren’t particularly rich in pectin, and while I knew all this, I failed to do the one thing that would have helped: I didn’t add any pectin (Often, I’ll just grate apple into the mixture taking advantage of its high levels of pectin). Call it hope or just call it laziness, but the recipe called for enough sugar that I was reasonably sure the preserves would gel just fine.

They didn’t, of course.

I canned them anyway and I’m glad I did. I’ve been using the sweet berry mixture as an addition to baked goods and just about anything else that happens to need a serious shot of fruit. So this, dear reader, is why I’m eating ice cream in January made with locally produced strawberries. I’m bearing with it.

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