Sunday, June 21, 2009
Fresh Local Strawberries - The Best You'll Taste All Year
I was so inspired by Barbara Kingsolver that I made a lot of food goals for myself. One goal was to buy local organic berries while they are in season to freeze for the rest of the year. I also wanted to make freezer jam for my family and for gifts. I accomplished both in the last few weeks.
My friends Tara and Erika were helpful in explaining the best way to freeze berries. I bought two flats of strawberries from the farmers market, gave them a quick rinse before taking the core off and laid them out to dry for a few hours on kitchen towels. Then I put them on cookie sheets in a single layer and put them in the freezer overnight (or you can just do this for a few hours). This helps prevent them from all sticking together when frozen. Once frozen individually, I placed them in freezer-safe Ziploc bags and pressed as much air out as possible to prevent freezer burn. I wrote the date on the bag so I'd know when each batch of berries was done.
All said and done, I'm not sure I really saved that much money over buying organic frozen berries at the grocery store but I am supporting the local farms and making less of a footprint on the environment. Both worthy of my time.
The following week I bought a few more flats of strawberries to make freezer jam. After looking online for recipes and asking around, I ended up using the recipe that came inside the pectin box. I think it turned out great. I made a few batches so of course I tried a few versions. I tried different amounts of lemon juice, and made some with sugar and some with honey. I used Pomona's Universal Pectin which says that you can get the right consistency without using as much sugar as other brands which is nice as some recipes call for an insane ratio of sugar to berries. They even offer a "jamline" that came in helpful when I ran into a few questions. I got a call back about 20 minutes after I left a message. I wish every recipe had a Food 911 help line!
I bought small jars so I would have lots to give away as gifts. I bought a few different styles of jars and think the hexagon shape and the mini mason jars turned out the cutest. I will make some cute tags or labels to spruce them up for gifts. I think it would be cute to give along with a great loaf of fresh baked bread. I will leave that to the local bakeries.
I had some leftover mashed berries that I mixed with a touch of sugar and have been putting over vanilla ice cream every night for dessert. Delicious. Would also be fabulous to use for strawberry milkshakes. (Thanks Lynne for that idea. Will be eating a lot of those in the next few weeks).
Next on my list... some delicious Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble with strawberries and rhubarb from the farmers market. Get 'em while they're good!