Ah, strawberries. One of my favorite fruits. It sure is nice to finally be able to add a little color to our spring salads.
This weekend Alex and I spent a day picking strawberries with our friends Scott and Nicole. It was overcast and threatened rain all day, but this turned out to be ideal conditions for strawberry picking: not too crowded and not too hot.
And we were on a mission, too. We calculated that we would need about 20 pounds of strawberries, and we were eager to obtain this amount in one day. No, not all for personal consumption (though I don’t consider that an impossible feat). Rather, we intended to freeze these berries in order to make a few batches of jam which we intend to can in cute 4-oz sizes for wedding favors. Dark red is one of the colors we are using in our decor so strawberry jam seems like a good fit. Tomato-chili jam is another option.
Well, by all counts, it looks like we were successful, and strawberry season has only just begun in Virginia. It did take me close to 6 hours to wash, hull, flash freeze, and pack them into baggies for the freezer, but finally we got it all done. We even had a couple pints leftover from which I made a couple loaves of strawberry bread (see below). I have yet to order the jam jars and make the first batch of wedding favor jam, but I’ll be sure to keep you posted.
By the way, if you come home with a bounty of berries, you too can preserve them to enjoy all year long by freezing them, if making jam is not up your alley. Our friend, Scott, intends to use his frozen berry beauties for quick and easy smoothies.
The first thing you should do upon getting home is give the berries a good rinse. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Use a small paring knife to hull the strawberries (cut out the leafy part and the center rib). Place the berries upside down on the baking sheet until it is filled with berries that are not touching each other (but to save time, they while be as close together as possible). Place the whole tray in the freezer for at least 45 minutes, or up to 2 hours. At this point, the berries should be frozen, and you can pack them into individual freezer bags or containers. I packed mine in gallon size bags in a single layer so that they would lie as flat as possible in the freezer.
You really want to only freeze the berries that are ripe and firm–save the bruised ones for using immediately in things like a spinach salad, strawberry mojitos, strawberry ice cream, or strawberry bread, all of which are things we did with ours. Of course, you can’t forget pies, smoothies, sauces, cakes, or even just eating them plain, but I’m sure you’d already though of that, right?
Strawberry Bread (adapted from Simply in Season by Cathleen Hockman-Wert and Mary Beth Lind)
Yum Factor: Alex – 9.4, Jessalyn – 8
Note: this really isn’t a bread, in the strictest of definitions. It’s actually closer to a cake. The texture reminds me of the banana bread my mom used to make when I was a kid. In fact, it might be worth adding in a little mashed banana to this recipe if you think you might like strawberry-banana bread. This version celebrates the sweet flavor of the strawberry.
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a loaf pan.
– 1 cup all-purpose flour
– 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
– 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
– 3/4 cup sugar
2. Whisk together in a mixing bowl.
– 2 eggs, lightly beaten
– 2/3 cup canola oil
3. Add to dry ingredients, mixing with a spatula until just combined.
– 1 1/4 cups strawberries, mashed
– 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
4. Fold into batter. (I mashed mine lightly with a potato masher). Bake for about one hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool in pan at least 30 minutes before turning onto cooling rack.
So far I’ve made 3 loaves. One for Alex while he was traveling, one for the office, and one I wrapped up tightly and froze to be enjoyed at a later time, say, when we have company or something. Certainly this is not the end of strawberry season, though. We will definitely be enjoying more of them in various ways soon (Alex is begging me to make my strawberry rhubarb pie). Who knows, maybe we’ll even go pick another 20 pounds. How are you enjoying this first of spring’s fruits?