Sunday, June 26, 2011

Saving Summertime

The beginning of summer is my favorite time of year.  Naturally I was originally in love with the season because it meant no school.  Now I am no longer in school and while it means I'm working during many of the hours I used to spend swimming, playing outside, and reading, there is still something that makes me so happy about the summer months aside from the longer days- fresh produce.  Yes, you can buy asparagus all year round and strawberries from March through July at the grocery store, but there's nothing quite like something fresh from the field.

Unfortunately the sweet start of summer is beginning to make way for other delightful feasts and the strawberry season is coming to an end, so I'm making a last minute effort to save every morsel of succulent, sun-ripened goodness that I can.

This weekend I took my niece to pick strawberries at Molnar Farms in Poland, Ohio.  She's two and a half and I wasn't quite sure how long we'd end up being in the field, or if she'd even be interested (I hear stories every year about how I fell asleep in the strawberry patch at a local farm when I was in elementary school), but she thought it was wonderful.  Sure, we picked a few smooshy strawberries and a few that are a little less than ripe.  After about two quarts I asked her how many more strawberries she wanted to pick and she said "one."  We snagged another berry before she changed her mind (clearly she can be a lot like me) and said "a lot!"

Showing off our strawberries.

For the past few years I've commandeered my parents' deep freeze to freeze strawberries (and corn, green beans, peaches, etc, all for other posts I'm sure).  And although strawberries lose their firmness once they are frozen, there's nothing like a little taste of sunshine in the middle of a snowstorm.

I clean and quick freeze my strawberries before putting them in Ziplock bags.

Here are a few things to do with frozen strawberries:
Perhaps my favorite (and my niece's), a fresh smoothie is a simple way to get your fruit and kids think it's a super awesome treat (no one tell them how good it is for them!).  Using frozen fruit replaces the need for ice in a smoothie, making it richer and thicker since it won't melt into water.  To make a smoothie I usually put about 1 cup of yogurt in the bottom of my blender and add about a cup of fruit (usually a banana and frozen strawberries, and sometimes frozen peaches or blueberries-I've even frozen grapes).  This half yogurt half fruit blend gives a smoothie thin enough to drink without a straw but not too watery.  I add more yogurt if I am using all frozen fruit and less if the fruit is fresh.

Having some strawberries on hand in the freezer helps to change up frosting recipes.  For a strawberry whipped frosting, I have use a brand called Bettercreme (by Rich's, available at GFS) and some bakeries use a similar whipped frosting and are willing to sell it.  I simply put thawed strawberries in my mixer with the whip attachment and mix them for about a minute on low to medium speed to break up the berries.  Then simply add the mix and whip until it's the consistency you wish to use it.

A similar approach can be used for a shortening-based buttercream- make as usual but in place of the water add some thawed and mashed strawberries (and juice).

If you don't have time to make your jam now, you can freeze the strawberries and make freezer jam (such as this recipe later when you have time.

Some other things to make with frozen strawberries:
Strawberry Daquiris/Margaritas
Punch (acts as ice too!)
Ice Cream or Milkshakes

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