Monday, June 20, 2011

Pick Your Own Strawberries

One of my favorite parts about late spring/early summer is local strawberries.  I was so happy to learn that I did not miss the pick your own season this year.  I was away on vacation in late May/early June and the strawberries were not in yet before we left.  We came home to an intense heat wave, with temperatures in the high nineties.  I knew the strawberries were in, but I just could not see taking my 14 month old boys (or myself) picking strawberries in such hot weather.  Once the heat wave was over, I was so disappointed to learn that the strawberry season was also over at all of the local pick your own farms that I knew of (you can check to check for farms in your  area).  I was thrilled when I found out that Penn Vermont Fruit Farm in Bedminster plants a later variety and was still open for picking (they have a facebook page:)!  The boys and I went last Wednesday with some friends and had a great time.  Even though the boys are too young to help pick, they enjoyed sitting in the jogging stroller in the fresh air, watching us.  I managed to pick six quarts!  And I just checked Penn Vermont's facebook page and they are still open for picking this week.  So there's still time if you did not get a chance to pick any yet this year (or if you already ate all of your yummy strawberries!)

I had a recipe for No Sugar Strawberry Freezer Jam that I was excited to make because I don't like feeding my babies regular jam because of all of the sugar.  It uses no sugar pectin and only 3/4 cup of honey for the entire batch of jam (that is much, much less sweetener than regular jam or jelly).  So I used about two quarts of my precious berries for the jam.  The jam tastes amazing, but unfortunately, did not set.  I put it in the freezer, hoping that it will firm up a little bit.  I plan to pick blueberries, cherries, raspberries, and blackberries throughout the summer, so I will have to tweak the recipe until I can get it to work.

I also made up some Strawberry Banana Bread (my own concoction) and some Strawberry Muffins (using this recipe: which both came out awesome!

Easy Strawberry Banana Bread
makes 2 small loaves*

1/2 stick butter, softened
2 eggs
1 very ripe med or large banana
1/2 cup mashed strawberries
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/3 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2.  In a large bowl, combine first five ingredients (through sugar).  Use a fork, spoon, or potato masher to mash the banana and mix the ingredients together.  Most of the banana and strawberries should be mashed up, with just some very small chunks of fruit remaining.
3.  In a separate large bowl, combine the rest of the dry ingredients (flour through cinnamon).
4.  Combine the wet and dry ingredients and mix just until they are blended together.
5.  Pour the batter into small, greased loaf pans and bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
6.  Let cool 10 minutes and transfer to wire rack to cool.  We ate one loaf while it was hot (yum!) and then once the other loaf was cool, I wrapped it in plastic wrap, then foil, and put it in the freezer.  I freeze regular banana bread all of the time using this method.  It's nice to have on hand.

*I apologize that I do not have the measurements for the loaf pans.  They are approximately half the size of a regular loaf pan, not the teeny tiny individual loaf pans.  You can buy the disposable/reusable aluminum pans this size at the grocery store or dollar store.