The past few weeks we have been all about strawberries as these delicious berries have been in season. The taste of a fresh, ripe strawberry is kind of heavenly if you ask me. With strawberry season ending, it leads right into blueberries and raspberries! We’re kind of obsessed with the fresh fruit season in our house 🙂 Not only do we love to eat them, picking them ourselves has become a summertime ritual.
We are fortunate enough to live right by some awesome fruit farms that let you Pick Your Own but even if you don’t, you probably notice the store bought ones are tasting better than usual (and cheaper too!). We go through A LOT of berries in our house so we try to take advantage this time of year and stock up as best we can. We never make it until next season, but we usually make it quite a few months. Here’s a peak at what we do with all these berries…
Breakfast smoothies are something of a ritual for my husband and daughter so needless to say, this is where most of our berries go. They love dumping huge handfuls of frozen berries in each morning. You can easily freeze fresh berries to use later in smoothies, pancakes, muffins, etc. The only thing I don’t recommend would be defrosting them to eat plain. Once defrosted, they can seem a bit mushy.
To freeze the berries, you want to start by flash freezing them. Make sure you wash the berries and then take off any remaining stems. You don’t want to worry about getting the stems off later if they are frozen on! Once they are prepped, spread them out on a large baking sheet (I cover it with parchment paper) and put them in the freezer for at least an hour. I usually forget they are in there and just take them out whenever I remember. The goal is to have them almost completely frozen to prevent them from freezing together into one giant blob.
Once you take them out of the freezer, simply dump the frozen berries into a large airtight container. I use gallon sized Ziplock bags. Then return them to the freezer.
My favorite thing about this season is homemade jam. PB&J is the ultimate comfort food for me, I’ve been known to eat it for any meal of the day. Once I started using homemade jam, I also realized just how much sugar was loaded into the store varieties. I try to make at least a few batches of jam per season. Since J was just starting to eat berries as he seems to out grow most of his allergies (yay!) we didn’t get to pick as many strawberries as usual but I did get one batch made.
I’ve tried a few different recipes over the years, but have settled on a really basic, sugar-free one from Ball. If you are making multiple batches, making a batch with sugar added can be great to have with desserts. When I first started making jam, I used way too much sugar in the first batch. It was pretty much strawberry syrup, not quite what I intended. But my brother still asks if I plan to “screw up” a batch again he loved it so much. 🙂
The recipe I use will make approximately 10-12 half pint jars. You will need:
- 10 cups of prepped fruit
- 1 2/3 cups water
- 15 tsp Lemon juice (for blueberry, peach and cherries only)
- 7 1/2 Tbsp Low or No-Sugar Needed Pectin
- 10-12 Half pint Mason jars
To make the jam:
Combine fruit, water and lemon juice (if needed) in a large saucepan. Gradually stir in pectin and bring mixture to a full boil over high heat. Once it is a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down, continuously stir for 2 minutes.
Remove from heat and skim any foam off the top.
To enjoy now (and up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator), spoon the jam into hat jars. Cool to room temperature before refrigerating.
To preserve (up to 1 year), use the waterbath canner to seal the jars. I’m still learning the best canning techniques myself so if you have any trouble with this step, a quick online search will lead you to a multitude of experts on the subject!
If I have any berries left after jam, freezing and just plain eating, I love to bake up a few loaves of bread. I usually try to make at least two loaves at a time, one for now and one for freezing. It makes a great addition to breakfast or as a snack (especially with a cup of coffee).
When it comes to recipes, I don’t have a specific one. There are so many delicious recipes out there, I can try a new one each time! Pinterest is a blessing (and sometimes a curse) when looking for a new recipe. This Blueberry Zucchini Bread is the next one up on my radar.
What are your favorite ways to enjoy berries this time of year?