Walking through local strawberry fields in the heat of early summer is intoxicating. If you haven’t gone picking before, there are a few reasons why you should: to smell a field of sun-warmed, jammy-sweet strawberries, to connect with your food and farmers, and to get your hands on the freshest berries you can for less.
Act swift to stock up on fresh and save money
We all know that u-picks are usually the best deal going if you are wanting to stock up on local berries, but the reason why it’s so important to get your hands on the freshest strawberries is that they don’t last long. With growing seasons changing, you need to act swiftly. Varieties grown locally are typically grown for flavour and not for shipping long distances. Preserving them means you are able to capture that flavour all-year round at a fraction of the cost of berries bought at the store out of season.
General strawberry prep
First, rinse your strawberries gently. Remove the stem by cutting off tops or hulling with a straw. If you want to keep them in the fridge for a day or two to eat fresh, cover with a damp paper towel.
1. Puree berries. With a tiny splash of water, some sweetener if desired, you can puree in a blender and make into popsicles or freeze in ice cube trays. When frozen, pop into freezer bags. Add a cube or two to flavour-boost lemonade or smoothies.
2. Freeze them whole. Lay on paper towels or tea towels to absorb extra moisture from rinsing. Place on waxed or parchment paper-lined cookie sheet or plate. Freeze until firm, then pop into storage bags or containers. They are the best replacement for ice cubes in smoothies, and are great for baking projects or to simply eat like popsicles!
3. Make freezer jam. This is the easiest, best way to preserve strawberry flavour for months in the freezer. Grab a box of freezer jam pectin at the store, mash with berries and sweetener of choice, pop into glass jars or plastic containers and put in the freezer. Take out as needed. It lasts about 3 weeks in the fridge. Spread on toast, warm up and drizzle over ice cream or waffles, or stir into yogurt. This is an easy-peasy project for someone new to preserving.
Strawberry recipes worth trying:
Agua Fresca or Chia Pudding: Simple ways to add strawberries into your day.
Eton Mess: A wonderful mess of strawberries, smashed meringues (bought or made) and whipped cream.