The actual natural strawberry season only lasts for a good five to six weeks, from early June until mid July, but the Netherlands is able to produce about 20 million pounds a year because of their ingenious greenhouse and plastic tunnel systems. It keeps us in strawberries practically year round, except for the first two months of the year, when the runners are being refrigerated for up to 10 weeks before being put in the soil. The strawberry that is most popular in Holland is the Elsanta variety.
It goes without saying that strawberries freshly picked in the field, that are still a little warm from the sun, are hands-down the best for eating fresh. So if you're growing your own, or have the chance to get your hands on some, enjoy them while you can! If you are not able to get around to eating all of them immediately, but don't want them to go to waste, making a quick jam* is a second option.
If you find yourself in the country during this time of year, you may enjoy visiting Het Aardbeienland, a small theme park in Limburg. Its main focus is, you guessed it, strawberries! There is plenty of opportunity to pick your own, learn about new and heirloom varieties, have the kids play in the playground or walk around the Strawberry Forest.
1 lb strawberries, hulled and chopped
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon pectin powder
Add the strawberries, sugar, lemon juice and water to a small saucepan. Bring the pan up to heat, and let the mixture simmer for about twenty minutes, on low, until the fruit is soft. Mash with a fork or potato masher. Stir in the pectin, bring up to a boil and stir for a whole minute, then take off the stove and let it cool. Pour the jam in a clean container and refrigerate*. Eat within two weeks.
*This jam is meant for quick consumption and is not to be stored outside of the fridge, or for a long period of time. If you wish to omit the pectin powder, just continue to simmer the jam until it's thick. If you wish to preserve the jam for shelf, or long life holding, please follow canning instructions for your area (depends on high altitude) and from an approved source: either your local Extension office or here. If the jam shows any sign of spoilage (mold, acetone smell) please discard the jam immediately. Food safety is key: it's not worth sacrificing a couple of dollars or your family's health for. I will be doing a proper canning article later in the year.