Strawberry season is starting to wind down in my part of Virginia, but I took full advantage of it this year. Or as full advantage as a person with a small freezer can take.
Since I started canning a lot of food a couple of years ago, a trek to the strawberry patch to pick a TON of berries for jam and other canned goods has become an annual event for me. When I lived in Williamsburg, I could usually drag someone along with me to pick berries, but since I’m in a new town this year, I ventured out on my own (for some reason, my husband had no interest in tagging along).
I did a little web research and decided that an orchard/pick-your-own farm about 20 miles outside of Charlottesville was the best place for me to pick strawberries. So I took a Friday afternoon off, slathered on the sunblock (even though it was cloudy) and drove out to Chiles Peach Orchard in Crozet.
The orchard is actually nestled in the hills (I don’t think they count as mountains) of Crozet. And the strawberry patch seemed to go on for miles. Even though there were a fair number of people picking berries when I arrived, I was never tremendously close to any of them as there were so many rows of strawberry plants. This is how I prefer to pick strawberries
The morning before I picked berries, I was fretting about how I was going to pick lots of strawberries by myself. I figured that I would have to pick a flat, go back to the farm stand, possibly pay and put the flat in the car – and then start the whole process over again. Then I arrived at the orchard and found a fleet of wagons available for use in the fields. I didn’t have to haul berries back and forth after all!
And since I had a wagon, I filled it with berries. I actually picked enough strawberries that I had to take 2 of the sides off of the wagon to get them back to the car.
I picked and paid for 32 pounds of strawberries and I’m guessing I probably ate another 3 pounds of them while I was in the strawberry patch. It’s impossible for me to resist a strawberry buffet.
You’re probably wondering what I did with 32 pounds of strawberries? Several pounds of them went straight into the fridge for us to eat all week. This year we ate them plain or with sugar or with vanilla pudding. And sometimes I ate them with Cool Whip. And sometimes my husband ate them with ice cream and chocolate sauce. We even soaked some of them in sugar and amaretto and used those as a topping for cheesecake.
You could also make strawberry shortcake. Last year I made ginger strawberry shortcakes. You can find the recipe in a guest blog post I wrote for Indie Fixx. One of my other favorite strawberry recipes is from an old Gourmet magazine. It’s a strawberry mascarpone tart. It’s amazing. And not that hard to make.
I should also mention that these strawberries were delicious enough (and cheap enough) that I went back for a few more pounds last weekend. The last of those are about to be gone…so I might have to drive out to the orchard again this weekend for one last round. Or maybe I’ll just pick cherries since those are ripe now too!
As for the other 30 or so pounds of strawberries, they’re in my freezer. They’ve all been washed, sliced and frozen. In my very full freezer, there are 75 cups of strawberries neatly measured into quart bags. Soon I will start using 4 or 8 cups at a time to make various jams and canned goods. Last year I made a variety of strawberry treats including: plain strawberry jam, vanilla strawberry jam, strawberry margarita jam (yes, there’s tequila in it), strawberry lemonade concentrate, strawberry sauce, strawberry lime sauce, strawberry rhubarb jam and strawberry balsamic black pepper jam (this is so much better than it sounds).
In addition to strawberry canned goods, I might make a couple of batches of strawberry ice cream or strawberry sorbet this year. But that won’t happen until I make some jam and clear a little freezer space for the ice cream maker bowl.