When I was a kid, June was an exciting month because it signaled the end of school and the start of summer. These days, no longer attending or working in a school, June is just June. With the exception of one sweet, red little thing. Or in this case, more than one…more like 14 pounds.
Now the thing I look forward to in June is strawberry picking, even more so now that Little Miss can come with us and experience it too (spoiler: she wasn’t all that impressed). My mom’s birthday falls smack in the middle of June and so her birthday and strawberry picking have become somewhat synonymous. We used to pick upstate when we could, but when I was in college my mother and I began driving out east on Long Island to pick strawberries. Wherever they’re from, fresh strawberries are pretty awesome. The backs of our legs may ache a little bit the day after picking from all that bending and crouching, but ripe red berries straight from the plant, warm from the sun are so worth it.
To make a long story short, we’ve already gone strawberry picking twice. I brought home probably about 7 pounds each time; that’s a lot of strawberries. And don’t think they’ll last because they’re fresh picked, they need to stay in the refrigerator and even so, when it gets close to the week mark you’ll start noticing some funk going on.
So pick away! But the initial rush, where you pick and buy all these berries and think you’re going to use them all might sour a little when you realize you actually need to USE them. In this house, as much as we love fruit, two adults and one toddler just aren’t going to get through 14 pounds of strawberries in 2 weeks.
So, what’s a berry picker to do? Here’s how I managed to use all the berries we picked, losing only a handful to over ripeness.
1. Gift them
I like picking strawberries a whole lot, but that doesn’t mean everyone does. Some people don’t have the time in their schedule, or the patience for the drive, or just would rather relax on their free time. That’s all good! Very good, because when you realize how inundated with berries are, you can sweetly hand off sandwich bags of these rosy beauties into plenty of grateful hands. Many of my friends received quart size bags of berries these past few weeks.
2. Bake with them
Strawberry shortcake anyone? Whether you want the ease of a cake mix or you’d rather go a more controlled route and bake from scratch, go for it! A quick Google search will turn up plenty of recipes for white cake, shortcake, angel food cake, all of which will be delightful with cut fresh strawberries and whipped cream.
We had to do dairy free and gluten free, so I made a vegan gluten free white cake which we topped with berries and coconut whipped cream and it was lovely. The cake wasn’t as fluffy as I’d have liked, but it came together nicely nonetheless. There are so many recipes available, you’re sure to find something that suits your mood and needs.
3. Freeze them
Do you like smoothies? Of course you do, who doesn’t? Wash your berries, remove the hulls, slice them in half and throw them into a freezer bag to keep them for smoothie making. In a decent blender, you just toss your frozen fruit and some liquid in and you can easily make a smoothie (or go light on the liquid for a fresh, healthy sorbet). Yeah, you could buy frozen fruit in the store, but if you have your berries anyway, why not?
4. Can them
I made strawberry jam by myself for the first time yesterday. I chose a low sugar recipe that I found through – you guessed it – a Google search, and loosely followed it. I’m not going to lie, I made “jammysauce”. It spreads nicely on toast, but is not as thick as a true jam. But it is soooooo yummy. I even canned it properly, using my big canning kettle and sealing with boiling water. It’s not nearly as intimidating as it looks.
I worried about burning myself to death with that huge canning kettle, but I was careful and used the canning tongs and I was just fine. It looks like this insane process at first, but then you get it and suddenly you get it. And then after the jars come out of the water, you get the deep satisfaction of hearing each lid pop as they seal. If you’ve ever canned, you know the sound. Admit it, it’s super satisfying.
Try to make a jam or purposely go thin and make a delicious sauce to go on cakes, pancakes, ice cream, waffles and anything else you can think of! Many recipes are very very heavy on the sugar, so feel free to go light when you begin – you can always taste your mixture and add more as it cooks.
That’s more or less how I used up 14 pounds of strawberries in 14 days. I’m looking forward to blueberry picking next, and seeing what I can do with them!