The Fruit of Our Labors
|March 13, 2012||Posted by carmen under Budget, Bulk Cooking|
I have a love/hate relationship with the state I call home. Florida is a funny place. Half of the year the weather is blissfully perfect. The kind of perfect where you just want to stay outside every waking hour soaking in the sunshine and feeling the cool breezes on your skin. The other half of the year it is downright miserable. The kind of miserable where you don’t want to step outside because of the sticky humidity, unbearable heat and the bugs. Unless of course you have a pool or live close the the beach, but even then the water gets bathtub warm and doesn’t do much to cool you off.
Right now I’m in my “love” stage with Florida. We tend to take it easy on homeschooling this time of year so that we can enjoy the beautiful weather. We are spending our days outside as much as possible these days. Last week we enjoyed taking part in what has become a yearly tradition for our family: strawberry picking. We live within an hour’s drive to plenty of strawberry farms, and there are even some organic and hydroponic, no-spray farms that we can go to and not have to be concerned about pesticide exposure.
We had our first experience picking at a hydroponic farm this year. I have to say, it was a much easier picking than the squatting in the fields we usually do. In between running up and down the rows, playing with the resident goats, taste testing the fruit, and chatting with our good friends who were with us, my children and I ended up with 35 lbs of berries to take home. All without breaking a sweat.
The next day was filled with hours of work as we cleaned and processed the berries. We used fresh berries to make strawberry muffins and strawberry pie. We froze some berries whole to use for smoothies. And then with the rest I made strawberry freezer jam. (I haven’t ventured into the world of “real” canning yet, but a friend has offered to teach me when blueberry season is upon us in a couple of months. I’m definitely going to take her up on the offer.) I found this great recipe for the jam last year and used it again this time around. It makes a perfectly delicious jam, only lightly sweetened with honey so that you can actually taste the full flavor of the berries. I’m not a fan of sickly sweet jams that taste like pure sugar. I absolutely love that this recipe has no refined sugars at all. Its sweetened with honey and juice. It calls for white grape juice, but I used organic apple juice instead.
We are planning to do another round of picking once the organic farm we usually go to opens up in a couple of weeks. We’ll be set with organic strawberries for the whole year after that, and for a fraction of the cost of buying organic berries at the store. Soon after that it will be blueberry season around here and we’ll be at it again.