right now

right now

May 3, 2009

New Homesteading Messes, uh, I mean Skills!

It is evening here, the kids are in bed, and I can finally enjoy a glass of wine and blog about our strawberry adventures now that the mess has been cleaned up!  Our strawberry adventure actually started yesterday on the way home from "the farm" when we passed a field and the kids wanted to know what all those people were doing with the white baskets.  So, even though we were scheduled to pick the very next morning with L (awesome friend of mine :)) and her boys (who are like brothers to mine!) I decided I wouldn't be the evil mom so I stopped the car and let them pick "just a few"...
Well, this was a huge hit with the kids, so they were very excited the next morning to hit the strawberry fields again.  We live in an area which is blessed with many strawberry and blueberry farms, so opening day is a big deal 'round here!  So early this morning they grabbed their baskets and were off.  Here's L herding the kids towards the good ones...

And here's all the boys showing off their goodies...even some farm fresh eggs were scored!
So then the work started...I had the boys hull the strawberries for me, quite a few even made it into the bowl!  This is a great job for kids.
Here's a good tip:  use a straw!  I had one of those thick straws that come with reusable drink bottles, push through the berry from bottom and out the crown, and out pops the core/hull. Took about a second per berry, so don't go spend a bunch of $$ on a fancy huller.
This was the first time I have ever done anything with berries other than pop them in my mouth, but I was prepared to do the traditional canned/cooked jam until I talked with the girl at the strawberry stand about frozen jam recipes...she likes them better!  Since she owns a strawberry farm, I took her advice and used a frozen jam recipe using regular pectin, and it turned out wonderfully.  It is a bright red, was super easy, and way less mess.  I ended up with 12 jars of strawberry jam, although due to an experiment I did, only 6 are usable.  After the first batch of 6 jars, I decided to leave the paved surface of the recipe and use more fruit and less sugar and the result was tasty, but the consistency of a melted smoothie!  I could hear the recipe laughing at me, "b*tch thinks she's gonna improve on me, does she?"  Ah, lessons learned...better get a little experience under my belt before I start winging things!

Now what?  I still have this much left...I learned it's really easy to go overboard picking berries...

I decided to freeze bunch whole and put them in freezer bags for later use...

Much to the dismay of the tenants who were evicted from the top shelf of the freezer!

And finally, dried fruit!  The remainder made for 5 trays of dehydrated fruit, which sailor/farmer husband will love for backpacking and on the ship.  You know, "to prevent scurvy...AARGHH!"  I also tried to make fruit leather, which as I type, is still in the convection oven drying but is looking awesome!  I will post pics of those when they are done.  You can do this in a regular oven but I figured I would use my countertop convection since it uses less electricity and I figured with the convection fan, would dry quicker.  This is already paying off since the recipe I used said it could be 6-8 hours in a regular oven and mine is almost done and it has only been 3 1/2 hours.

And, when it was all done, there was even time for a Garden Dog to get a checkup!  Not sure if he is aware that her heart isn't actually on her back or her butt...

I don't think we did too bad for novice berry processing, it was a long day but we had fun and I figured out that one does not, in fact, need BUSHELS of berries to make some jam!  So now I am off to refill my glass of pinot and enjoy a new episode of Brothers & Sisters, hoping that when I wake up tomorrow the house will no longer smell like pureed strawberries!   Out...


  1. Wow, you did hit the bonanza with the berries! Last year I made so much jam that I've still got a good many jars left. Yes, that many berries! So, this year, I'll stick with my smaller home harvest from my first year plants (to establish plants most flowers have to be pruned the first year). Pretty soon the mulberries will be ready. You gonna be collecting those too?

  2. You know, I have never even tried mulberries...maybe I will have to this year, not sure if I like them or not! My little strawberry bed is in its 2nd year and is only 4x6 so I didn't think it would give us any more than about 10 snacking berries per day, although the little green berries I can see are a little more plentiful than last year.

  3. What fun! We don't have many pick your own places here anymore. Like Christyacb I'm not going to have berries of my own this year since they just got planted. And now you have jam and strawberry syrup. I can think of lots of uses for that- ice cream, waffles, daiquiris...the possibilities are endless.
    Thanks for stopping by my place today.

  4. Hi! Thanks for having me on your sidebar. :) I just came over here for the first time. I'm working on a project which you may or may not be interested in contributing to. I'd like to email you about it but can't find your address. Can you drop me a line? Thanks! sissyben at gmail dot com