Mystery Produce and Jalapeno Pickles

This week I picked up another abundant “mystery box” of produce from Mariquita Farm. Everything in the box I will use, however, the volume of marjoram and Napolitano basil (which turns brown quickly when warmed, bruised or cut so it’s not ideal for pesto) will take some creativity in order to use before rotting.



Cassius and Roxy are vegging out.


Here’s what I got:

  • Walla Walla Onions
  • Scallions
  • Red & Green Butter Lettuces
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Tomatoes
  • Marjoram
  • Summer Squash
  • Basil
  • Cayenne Peppers
  • Beets
  • Supplemental purchases:

I am really happy about the bulk bags of jalapenos. When I saw them listed on the farm’s order sheet, I planned my Saturday afternoon for canning my favorite jalapeno pickles. The recipe I use is my own and is the most popular recipe in my book, Pickled: Preserving a World of Tastes and Traditions (2003). If you don’t have a hard copy of the book, you can find an updated version of the recipe in a previous Brinylife blog entry. These tangy slices are great on sandwiches, chili, nachos – or really any food made better by adding salty, tangy, hot flavor.


Summer in Berkeley

My month-long summer break ends this Monday morning when I start my new position as Executive Director at Fresh Approach, a non-profit working to increase healthy food access and providing nutrition education in Bay area’s underserved communities. I’m looking forward to working with our staff, volunteers and our Board of Directors to continue to grow the organization, strengthen community partnerships and promote this important work in the Bay area.

Summer produce is what I want to eat these days. Gazpacho is high on my list of seasonal favorites. I have made blueberry jam and strawberry jam, and today I found the perfectly-sized, small Kirby cucumbers to make garlic dill pickles. I bought enough to make a few quarts PLUS a small batch of crunchy mustard pickles from my book Pickled. Grandma Patton used to make these and store them in a crock in the refrigerator. I ate a lot of chilled mustard pickles at Grandma’s house when I was a kid.

This is what I picked up at the Downtown Berkeley Farmers Market today:


  • Strawberries
  • Kirby cucumbers (small)
  • Sweet peppers
  • Orange canned tomatoes (Pomodori Cotti) – for Gazpacho
  • Pluots, nectarines and peaches
  • Sprite plums
  • Sweet basil
  • Cherry tomatoes

Cassius and Roxy with today’s farmers market finds












Strawberry Jam

It’s almost the end of this year’s strawberry season in northern California. The strawberries that I bought from Mariquita Farm’s Ladybug Buying Club come from Sea Level Farm near Santa Cruz. These berries are so sweet and fragrant. I sliced up a pint for the fridge, froze one quart and made eighteen half pints of delicious jam with the rest.

This recipe was inspired by Chef Greg Atkinson’s Organic Strawberry Jam recipe from the Canning Across America website. Some recipes (including Greg’s) call for 1:1 ratio of fruit to sugar but I used a 2:1 fruit to sugar ratio and the result is excellent. I also used all organic ingredients.

(Yields 18 half pint jars)

14 cups strawberries (stems removed and sliced)
1 cup lemon juice
4 pounds cane sugar

Wash jars without lids in dishwasher or soapy hot water and rinse thoroughly. If using a dishwasher, choose the sanitation rinse and hot dry options. Leave jars in dishwasher until ready to use.

In a clean 4-quart stockpot, mash berries and lemon juice together with a potato masher. Add sugar and stir over medium high heat with a wooden spoon. Stir occasionally until fruit has come to a full, rolling boil and continue stirring until mixture returns to a boil, then stop stirring and insert a candy thermometer.  When the thermometer registers 220F degrees, remove jam from the stove and set aside.

With rubberized tongs, lift sterilized jars and arrange them right side up on a clean kitchen towel.  Transfer jam to sterilized jars, seal according to canning jar and lid manufacturers instructions, and then return jam-filled jars to the boiling water and boil. My jars sealed at 180F for 10 minutes. Lift jars out of the hot water bath with rubber tongs again, and then allow jars to cool undisturbed for several hours or overnight. Sealed jam jars keep for one year.

If any of the jars do not seal, just let them cool and then place in the refrigerator for immediate enjoyment.


I added a tablespoon of culinary lavender to the berries while boiling which gave the jam a faint floral flavor, but not enough to detect it, so I omitted it from the ingredient list. If you are inclined to play with this recipe, fresh herbs such as rosemary and lavender or spices like star anise or vanilla might work. Gradually add these to your mash mixture and use a tasting spoon to check the flavor as you go to prevent you from going overboard.


Enjoy the jam on ice cream, yogurt, toast or anything else you want to add some strawberry sweetness.

My canner will be used again this summer as I’d like to make dill pickles and jalapeno slices and maybe some pickled beets.