Strawberry Fields Forever

U-PickWith the coming of a new spring there are certain things to look for. The first Robin, the first butterfly, the first budding on the trees. Azaleas blooming, tulips in their glory, cherry blossoms, Dogwoods in bloom.    These are a few things that you look for that signals it is Spring. Also one of the first is Strawberry U-Pick-Em farms opening for business. From the number of hits I am getting on Strawberry Salsa and Jams & Jellies, I would say many people are trying to do things with Strawberries. I am sure that everyone has seen these farms unless you are landlocked by buildings and don’t get out to the burbs. In places that might house just a single building people have worked the soil and made elevated rows and planted strawberry bushes. U-pick5They are waiting on you to come along and want to pick your own berries in place of the store-bought that someone else picked. Nothing is like bending over for a long time or crawling along to pick the best berry that you can find. While you are doing this you have to sample 40 or 50 to make sure that they taste right. Pick them by the gallons and then pay. washing Take them home and clean all the sand off them, again eating while you wash to make sure the ones you brought home taste like the ones in the field. There is an important  thing to do before you decide what to make with your newly picked harvest. The following method will get you more berries and less in the garbage. People that pick berries on a regular basis use a Strawberry Huller to take out the center hard spot and the leaves. Most homes just take a knife and cut the top off. This wastes so much berry every time you do this. So next time you buy strawberries that are whole, buy a huller.Huller + This little gadget is very reasonably priced. It can usually be found where you buy your canning jars. If not a local hardware store  (not the mega stores) will carry them. I have seen some much more elaborate than the simple little metal huller. These cost much more and do the same job, just doing it a different way. So the choice is yours, spend $1.00 or $5.00 or more for your huller. Now put your instrument to work and hull all your berries. This is needed before anything else can be done.  Another step before freezing. If you are going to use the berries to make preserves or strawberry shortcake, slice the fruit. slicerIt is much easier to slice a fresh berry that it is a thawed one. A way to slice fresh firm berries is with an egg slicer. Bet you never thought of that. frozen Even before you freeze them do this because when you thaw your berries they will not be the solid berry you put into the freezer bag (don’t make the mistake I made, use freezer bags not regular storage bags). LabeledAnother thing about frozen berries, write on the bag the amount of berries. Measure your berries in a measuring cup before pouring into the bag. The strawberries are so much easier to work with when thawed if you first know how much is in each bag. Many recipes call for a particular amount of berries. Not enough in the first bag means you have to thaw another. If it is too much berries, you have left overs. And then you have to decide what to to with the left-overs. You can just eat them or use them in another recipe. Another factor before freezing the fruit. Do you put sugar and how much before you bag or after you thaw? Before will mean much more juice than you would expect. After you thaw still gets the juice, but it is a better way to use. The fruit that does’t have sugar can be used in a tasty frozen drink or cake recipe. One other advantage to using a freezer bag in place of a regular sandwich bag is the regular bag might split open when you thaw the berries, causing a big mess (voice of experience). I had a couple of bags split open when I was thawing a big bag of blue berries and a big bag of blackberries. I had a very large bowl of mixture. This is not what I wanted. But we never threw anything away if there was still a use for it. I made a mixture jam and call it Black & Blue Jam. It sold like crazy, and I think the name was the big factor. Everyone wanted the Black & Blue one: even more so than Blueberry Jam or Blackberry Jam. I have posted a few blogs in the past that give you great recipes for your fruit. The links are: Strawberry Preserves Strawberry Jam, Jelly & Syrup And one of my most popular blogs Strawberry Salsa Click on one of the links and that will take you back for the recipe and talk about berry use. If you do this PLEASE come back and see what else I have in store for you in this blog. Something that I never covered in my previous writings is using strawberries without adding sugar. Many of my readers are just like me, a Diabetic. splendaWe are restricted on the amount of sugar we eat. If you are in my group I use an alternate method for sweetening my fruit.  I know there are others on the market, I just haven’t tried them. Some companies make huge comments about how good they are for you and others just say sweeteners. I am sure that if you use the pink, or blue or yellow packets your friends have told you what they have read about them. I am not saying use this one or that one, it’s up to you to pick. I am just saying that the berries react different to sweeteners other than sugar. If you pour sugar into a bowl of berries and place covered in your fridge you will see what I am talking about. Not only do you have berries, but now you have almost as much juice. If you do the same thing with other sweeteners all you get is sweet strawberries: little or no juice from the fruit. Wit and withoutIf you make jam from your strawberries using artificial sweeteners, the color of the jam is almost pink, not red like you would expect. For some reason, I don’t know, strawberries on the right without sugar do not make juice and do not turn red. They stay mostly white. Whereas strawberries on the left are made with sugar and produce juice and have a red color. The strawberries you eat on Strawberry Shortcake are just strawberries with added sugar and left to sit over night to make the juice that is so very good on the cake.Diff sweet jam This is why the color of the jam we made with both types of sugar had such a different color. This difference made it hard to sell the jam made with substitute sugar. We finally had to add a little red food coloring to the jam and this made it sell. Color makes a big difference in sales of just about every thing: not just strawberry jam. I hope I have given you ammunition to get out there and get to picking strawberries. For some reason the berries you hand pick taste better than the plastic pack of berries you bought at the grocery store. If you can think up better reasons than jelly, jam, preserves on hot biscuits or a heaping bowl of strawberry short cake then let me know. One other point I would like to make before I say so-long, make your shortcake fresh not some package cake with a indention to hold the berries. The taste is something that will take you back to memories you had growing up when a aunt or grandmother make you dessert. If you are going to the effort for fresh berries, then fresh biscuits or cake is a most! Don’t forget…. let me know what you would like to make or any ideas you have for the next blog. Also if you have any questions you would like me to try to solve. Just drop me a note at Jellyman Hat Please feel free to SHARE my blog on Facebook or Twitter or even, or any place else you can think. I want to get as many people exposed to the good things as possible. So share and ask your friends to share, PLEASE. They just might give you something that they made to say thanks for the share. Don’t keep my blogs a secret, pass the word on to your friends, neighbors and family members. Don’t forget, if someone asks you can you can it?  Say YES I can can it.

About Pete Austin & The Austin House

My wife, Mary Lynn and I had a very sucessful canning business for over 15 years, called The Austin House Jams & Jellies. We had to close it due to pure health. I will be writing a blog about some of the recipes, and how to use them. Also some of the interesting, funny, weird things that have happened in our traveling with the business. If you follow me, you will see that I look at things just a little different than others. If you look at the header at the top of the page, you see that I am looking at things. Making sure eveything looks as good as possible.
This entry was posted in Award Winning, Best of Show, Blackberry, Blackberry Jam, Blueberry, Cake, Dipping Sauce, Egg Slicer, Food Preservation, Fruit Dipping Sauce, Home Made, Hot Biscuits, Ice Cream, No artifical ingredients, No preservatives, Old Fashioned, Preserves, Recipe, Salsa, Strawberry, Strawberry Huller, Strawberry Shortcake and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s