June is the Month of Strawberries

Ok, so this post is a month late, but I have a good excuse: new baby.

The past two summers, we have gone strawberry picking at a local farm. We like this one because it is easy to get to and they don’t use any chemical sprays on the berries. That second point was particularly important last summer when our daughter was 1.5 years old. She tried to eat the majority of the berries that she picked, so we didn’t worry about the berries’ safety. Strawberry picking is a fun activity to do as a family and works well with young children.

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Last summer, our daughter was happy to run up and down the row between us for 45 minutes while we picked 6 lbs. of strawberries ($12). Not the abundance of berries I recalled picking in my early teen years, but much better conditions at least. This summer, at 2.5, she lasted a full hour picking berries before eating one (she claimed she was just “taking off the white part”). We went to the farm a week earlier this summer and the picking was much better (the berries were more abundant, making it easier to pick them). We picked 9 lbs. ($18) this time. Oh, and did I mention, I was toting an infant …

Because we love fruit in this household, I try to preserve our local fare to have through the winter. In past years, my only technique for preserving strawberries was to make freezer jam (less time and energy than “real” jam). After reading The 100-Mile Diet, I decided it was time to try some other preservation methods.

Last year, I still made freezer jam, but I also tried preserving the berries in simple syrup, coulis and concentrate. Preserving them in the simple syrup was my favourite method because they kept their shape and they really did taste fresh. The strawberry-limeade concentrate was also a hit and didn’t last long. I felt that the coulis wasn’t much different than freezer jam, so it felt like wasted effort. At Christmas time, I pulled out some of my simple syrup berries and rhubarb (grown in my backyard) from the freezer and made microwave jam to gift with some local honey and homemade bread. It was delicious! (How do I know, you ask? Well the recipe makes 2 cups … I only gifted one!)

This year, under more time pressure than usual (i.e. infant schedule), I decided to keep it simple and repeat the preservation methods I used last year. So, we ended up with a batch of strawberry and a batch of strawberry-rhubarb freezer jam (already, the strawberry-rhubarb isn’t a hit … must repeat the microwave jam method in the future)IMG_1194, lots of jars of berries in simple syrup, a full batch of concentrate, and a few containers of frozen whole berries dusted with sugar to help prevent freezer burn.

Not all berries make it to the preservation stage in our home. Our favourite way to enjoy strawberries: strawberry shortcake as lunch on Canada Day!

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