A documentation of my preservation and preparation of local foods as I work through the seasons. This will serve as a reference tool for me in the future and as a sharing guide for family and friends...and anyone else interested. Hopefully, I can offer some useful methods, tips and recipes to share with everyone--be they novice or pro--and encourage them to join me in the exciting world of preserving and cooking with local foods.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Berries Galore!

I ordered four flats of organic strawberries, sight unseen, over the phone from Joe Schwen of Heart Beet Farm.  While I knew Joe's berries would be of good quality;  I really wasn't sure just how many berries are in four flats.  Well, now I know--this is one flat:
This times four--I have lots of strawberries to process!
I needed a new plan.  (If I processed them as I usually would, i'd be hulling for two days and have a house filled with fruit flies.)  Besides, strawberries are the only fruit that doesn't ripen after picked--they will turn color and soften, but their flavor will not improve. (always select them already ripe).  Here is the five-part plan I came up with:

Part A:  Select largest, juiciest-looking berries for eating
For best keeping in fridge, do not wash until ready to use.

Part B:  Select large, red ones for freezing
We use these for smoothies, health drinks, margaritas and fruit soup.
You can also use them to make jam/sauce during the Winter.
To freeze, just wash and drain, put on cookie sheet as above and freeze.  After frozen, transfer to freezer bag or storage container.  Thaw in the fridge.  The little gadget in pic front is a strawberry huller--comes in handy.

Part C:   Slice enough berries to fill 8 dehydrator trays (using mandolin)
I use dried fruit for making granola--yummy! 
Using my mandolin made uniformly-thick slices in a fraction of the time as using a knife. I put the mandolin on the widest opening (1/4") and two swipes for the med-sized berries, one swipe for the small ones. Don't worry about how much berry is left on the stem (1/4-1/3 berry); it's not going to waste. My mandolin is a Bron; and I don't know what I'd do without it. It's a bit pricey, but definately worth it if you do a lot of food processing and/or slicing. Also consider getting a pair of cut-resistent gloves and you're ready!

Part DCanned Strawberries using honey
We love a large spoonful of these over our morning yogurt.
For canned strawberries, slice berries as above (using mandolin and saving stem ends).  For each 3-4 cups of berry slices, use 1/2 cup honey.  Put berries and honey in cooking pot and let sit two hours.  Then, heat to boil and cook gently for five minutes (if you skip this, the fruit will float to the top of the jar).  Put berries into hot half-pint or pint jars, add lids and screw bands.  Put jars on rack in pan of hot water with enough water to cover jars by 2".  Bring water to boil, cover pot and boil for ten minutes.  Remove jars from pot and cool.

Part E:  Now, about those stem ends....   Sauce Master to the rescue!
I ran the stem ends with berry on through my sauce master.  I used the salsa screen so I would get small pieces and not puree.  This did allow for a few leaf pieces to sneak through, but they could be easily picked out (or ignored).   With the fruit pulp and juice, I made:
Strawberry Sauce
Use in, or on, cake, muffins, ice cream, biscuits...
I made the sauce by adding honey or sugar to some of the fruit pulp/juice (use any amount to taste or refer to guide in cookbook, or do same ratio as for preserves).  Process pints and half pints in boiling water bath 10 minutes.

Strawberry Jam
Make strawberry jam using instructions that comes with Certo pectin which you'll need to buy in order to make jam or jelly.  You'll need one pouch of pectin for 8 pints of jam and 2 pouches for 8 pints jelly.

Hot Pepper Strawberry Jelly
This makes an delicious appetiser spread over cream cheese and served with crackers.  It's also good on corn bread or in meat/fowl marinades.
To make the strawberry pepper jelly, I used the hot pepper jelly recipe on the inside instructions of the Certo package and substituted half strawberry pulp for the chopped peppers (plus adding some hot chilis of my own).

And a bonus:

Pure Strawberry Juice--almost a quart.  
By pulling out mostly fruit pulp for the strawberry sauce and jam, I ended up with extra juice.  We'll either have it for breakfast juice or, hmmm--maybe  strawberry ice tea...


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