Monday, June 29, 2015
Putting Up the Harvest: Strawberries
Last year I made a decision to put up as much food as I am capable. In my perfect world I would grow everything I preserve. In reality very little of what I preserve this year will come from my own soil. It seems homesteading is filled with way many more bumps and hurdles than I could have possibly anticipated. My perfectionist side goes crazy trying to deal with everything, and my desire to stumble upon a magic wand grows greater each passing day. However, at some point I have to come to grips with reality, and that means ANOTHER year without any real designated garden beds to grow food. It means ANOTHER failed attempt at starting seeds inside. It means ANOTHER year of supporting my local farmers in my effort to put up and preserve as much produce as I possibly can. It also means ANOTHER year of not putting up as much as I desire. After all, I am indeed only one person.
I am one person with high ideals and even higher standards. I am one person traveling a major detour with no clear sight around the bend limiting my ability to even see the ideals let alone reach the standards. I am one person shifting gears, dodging potholes, cautiously braking, gingerly steering my way through this uncharted journey that we call life. I am one person trying to figure out how to live as simply and graciously as possible given my own unique set of circumstances.
And, then there are strawberries.
One thing I've learned over the last couple of years is that eating in season requires determination, flexibility, and a lot of work. You have to be determined, because it is time consuming. Making any amount of homemade jam is A LOT more work than buying a jar at the store. You have to be flexible, because when the item to be preserved is at its peak all life stops to preserve that specific food item before it passes its peak and begins to rot. It doesn't matter what needs doing. If you bought one, two, or ten flats of strawberries you darned well better get them processed within a day or so, or you can say goodbye to all those berries, the time you already invested, and the money you spent on them. It's a downward slope that goes VERY quickly.
Then, there's the work.
It requires work processing your own food. That's why there's such a huge market for already prepared food. In our current culture there generally isn't time afforded to women, or men for that matter, for caring for their families like there used to be. Unless we make a conscious effort to set up our lives to allow the time for the work involved in growing and preparing our own food it just cannot happen. Not only does it take work, but it takes time, and it takes way more time than we would actually think. Oh, and yes, your arms can and will get a workout hulling and processing strawberries. Putting up food is repetitive work, and you have to be committed to the end product in order to see it through.
I didn't mention that it is rewarding, very rewarding. Nothing tastes so amazing as anything you put up yourself, unless of course it's something your grandma put up. There is nothing more satisfying than opening up a jar of jam that you processed yourself. You know every aspect of the food you are about to consume; its origin, the process in which it was prepared, etc. Feeding your family can be done with the confidence that they are eating real, quality, nourishing food. It can't get much better than that.
So, since I just processed two flats of strawberries for the first time I thought I might share with you what we did with them. Unfortunately, I did not take any pictures of the finished products, but I can assure you that they are beautiful and delicious.
What we did with our strawberries:
Homemade Strawberry Yogurt Pops
1 quart Homemade Plain Yogurt
1 quart Fresh Strawberries, cleaned and hulled
1/2 cup Local Honey
2 Tbs. Pure Vanilla
I did this in two batches. Using a blender, mix half of ingredients until well blended. Pour into freezer molds and freeze until solid. Repeat with remaining ingredients.
That's all there is to it!
Homemade Strawberry Yogurt Drink
Use the same recipe as above. Only, this time pour into mason jars and refrigerate instead of freezing. The kids love to drink this with a straw. Super yummy!
I just took some of my strawberries and blended them with some local pure maple syrup and put it in jars in the refrigerator. I didn't make a lot of this, less than a quart, as it's just a special treat, and it needs to be refrigerated. It's awesome, though! (You can make a cooked version as well that is super simple.)
I really wanted to make Strawberry Jam, but time would not allow. With a grandson over for the weekend and a hubby at home on vacation, my time was short when the strawberries were ready. So, I just pulsed them through the blender and poured them into sandwich bags. I laid them out on a cookie sheet and set them in the freezer. After they froze, I removed the cookie sheet and stacked them up. As time allows I'll use them to make jam, throw them in smoothies, or add them to pancake batter. No matter how we consume them I know we'll love them, especially in the dead of winter.
Fresh in the Refrigerator
I cleaned up the last two quarts and let them dry. Then I put them into one of those cool bags you can buy for keeping produce fresh in the refrigerator. We plan to use some for Strawberry Shortcake. The rest will just be eaten like they are or put on top of yogurt or cereal.
Do you have a favorite way to use fresh strawberries when they're in season? I'd love to hear about it!