My 21 month old, on the other hand, was miserable.
It was a typical late Spring day in Virginia. 93 degrees, blistering hot and humid. To make matters worse, I had dressed her in long jean shorts to protect her from the bugs. And I had forgotten my Ergo carrier in the car. So carrying her on my back was not an option. I picked berries quickly, while making sure she had enough water to drink and pour over herself to cool off.
When we returned to the farm on Saturday morning for their annual “Strawberry Festival,” I chose to hit the fields solo and let my husband entertain the kids. Within one hour, I had filled two enormous bins full of berries. And they were the biggest, reddest, juiciest and sweetest strawberries I had ever seen.
What does one do with 50 pounds of strawberries, you ask?
You make everything you can think of with strawberries, like jam, popsicles, smoothies, chocolate covered strawberries, and you freeze the leftover berries. With temperatures at 100 degrees or higher the past couple of days, homemade strawberry banana popsicles have been the biggest hit in our house.
As far as jam goes, before last weekend I had never made it before. Growing up, my mom made our jams from scratch. But many of those memories I have of her jam making sessions involved working over a flaming hot stove, at all hours of the evenings, sterilizing bottles and caps and worrying about whether the jam would “set” correctly.
Hmmm, I don’t know about you, but standing over a hot stove on a 90+ degree day is not my idea of fun.
When I heard about “freezer” jam, and how there was absolutely no sterilization of glass bottles involved, I was sold – hook, line and sinker. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love love love my mom’s jam and might give her recipe a whirl one day. But for now, simpler = better and doable.
My jam came out a little on the runny side. However, I didn’t realize that you have to buy specific pectin for freezer jam, called “instant pectin.” Even though my jam doesn’t have the consistency of most thicker jams, it is absolutely perfect for spreading on pancakes, toast or biscuits in the morning, or drizzling over some vanilla ice cream. If you prefer firmer jelly, make sure to buy the instant pectin, and stick to the exact measurements below (I used more strawberries). You can also strain the strawberries before adding them to the jam (several online reviews I read mentioned that straining works well too).
Strawberry Freezer Jam
6 small freezer safe glass jars (I bought “Ball Freezer Safe” jars from my local grocer)
1 2/3 c strawberries
2/3 c sugar
2 T “instant pectin” made specifically for no-cook freezer jam (should be next to the jars in the store)
Combine sugar and pectin in a large bowl. Add crushed strawberries and stir for 3 minutes.
Mix strawberry mixture with fruit pectin mixture and ladle into freezer jars. Leave approximately 1/2 inch at the top of the jar so that the jam can expand when freezing. Apply caps and let jam stand for 30 minutes.
Serve immediately, refrigerate for up to 3 weeks or freeze for up to 1 year.
You can add any fruit* that you’d like to make popsicles, but the biggest hit in our house is strawberry banana. Add 5-6 large strawberries, 1 banana and 1 T sugar (no need to add any water or ice!). Puree the fruit and pour into popsicle molds (sold at Target, and most local grocers). Freeze for a minimum of 3 hours.
*Since my kids are young and attracted to foods with colors, I have recently bought limeade (green), raspberry lemonade (pink) and regular lemonade (yellow), to mix it up a bit. In this case, I will chop up the fruit and add it directly to the lemonade and pour into the popsicles (i.e. whole raspberries, blueberries or chopped strawberries) so that they can choose whether they’d rather have green, pink or yellow popsicles.
Freezing strawberries right after they’ve been picked preserves all of the wonderful nutrients in the berries, for later consumption. You can use them in fruit smoothies, or let them thaw out and make jams, breads, popsicles, pies, or any other recipe that requires strawberries.
Simply wash and de-stem the berries, and let them air dry. Place them on a baking sheet. Avoid letting the berries touch. Place the entire baking sheet into the freezer for a couple of hours, until the berries are frozen solid. Transfer them to a freezer ziploc bac, or a freezer safe container.
Have you ever made homemade jam or popsicles? What has worked/hasn’t worked for you?
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