Thursday, June 7, 2012

It's Strawberry Time....

Growing Strawberries

Strawberries are an easy to grow fruit crop that will reward the home gardener with ample harvests for many years. With favorable conditions, each strawberry plant should produce one quart of strawberries. There are basically 3 types of strawberry plants to choose from: June bearing, Everbearing and Day Neutral. June Bearing strawberries produce a single, large crop per year during a 2 - 3 week period in the spring. June bearers are the traditionally grown plants, producing a single flush of flowers and many runners. They are classified into early, mid-season and late varieties. The largest fruits are generally from June bearing varieties. Everbearing strawberries produce two to three harvests of fruit intermittently during the spring, summer and fall. Everbearing plants do not send out many runners. Day Neutral strawberries will produce fruit throughout the growing season. These strawberries also produce few runners. Everbearing and day neutral strawberries are great when space is limited, but the fruits are usually somewhat smaller than June bearers.

My Gardner Guy's Strawberries....


Red, ripe, and luscious, this popular fruit has lots of vitamin C and health-boosting antioxidants.
Which ever way you choose to add them to your diet, grow them or buy them, strawberries are a must for this time of the year!!!

How to Choose Strawberries: Go for plump, firm, fragrant berries that are shiny and bright red. Avoid any that are bruised or withered or have a dry or brownish cap. The smaller varieties are generally more flavorful. Inspect plastic containers and cartons for stickiness or stains, signs that the fruit inside is damaged or past its prime.                                   

How to Prepare Strawberries: Wash the berries and trim the caps just before using.

How to Freeze Strawberries
Strawberries are sensitive to both heat and cold and are very delicate, so it is wise to ‘put them up’ as quickly as possible.

Here are suggestions for a few different methods for freezing strawberries. I use all of them, as they each have their benefits.


Whole Strawberries


Bags of whole, frozen strawberries are handy to have around for adding to smoothies or baking. This method of freezing on a tray or sheet ensures the berries freeze individually, rather than in an inconvenient brick.
They can be frozen without adding sugar, at a higher risk of getting freezer burn, so it is best to use them up within six months if they are indeed sugar free. Otherwise, a light dusting of sugar before freezing will both help preserve their color and prevent freezer burn.

How to Freeze Whole Strawberries


  1. Wash and gently dry the strawberries. Don’t soak them long in water as this will result in a loss of flavor and nutrients!
  2. Hull the berries and remove any ones that are spoiled. (Save those ones for your coulis, below)
  3. Place the strawberries on a baking sheet, not touching one another, and freeze until solid.
  4. Transfer the strawberries to plastic resealable bags or airtight containers and store in the freezer for up to six months.


Strawberries in Simple Syrup

This tried and true ‘old school’ method calls for freezing the berries whole in a mildly sweet sugar-water. You can use jars or plastic containers to freeze them in.
Packed in liquid, the berries retain their color and shape when reconstituted, making them a standalone dessert. They can also be spooned over yogurt or ice cream, or heaped onto scones and topped with cream for a classic strawberry shortcake that is not lacking in flavor.
Tip 1: Make the simple syrup before you go berry picking or acquire your fruit. It keeps for several weeks in the fridge, and will be waiting, already chilled, for the moment your fresh strawberries arrive.
Tip 2: Add a subtle, natural flavoring to the simple syrup such as orange zest, green cardamom pods, or vanilla bean. Your jar of berries is now a seasonal dessert; thaw, open and eat with a spoon come January for a reminder of warmer days.

How to Freeze Strawberries in Simple Syrup


Make a simple syrup by combining 4 cups water to each 1 cup sugar. Dissolve the sugar in either cold or hot water; if hot water is used, be sure to chill the syrup before using.
Place whole or sliced berries in containers and cover with cold syrup; use about 1/2 to 1/3 cup of syrup for each pint container. Package and freeze.
To Thaw: Thaw in the refrigerator or on the counter. Never immerse frozen jars into hot water.



Strawberry Coulis

Strawberry coulis, or sauce, adds vibrant color and fresh flavor to many desserts, and is well-worth the effort and freezer space. Spoon it over pancakes or crepes, serve it over chocolate cake, or drizzle it over ice cream. No matter how you enjoy it, strawberry coulis offers a large reward for a minimal time investment.
While some recipes suggest cooking the berries or even adding cornstarch, all that is really needed for a tantalizing sauce is a few drops of citrus juice (to bring out the flavor of the berries) and perhaps a sprinkling of sugar if the berries are tart. This is then blended to a smooth consistency and that’s it!
Be sure to set aside some strawberry sauce for a refreshing strawberry-limeade concentrate below!

Recipe: Strawberry Coulis


  • 1 pound strawberries, washed and hulled, about two pints
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon or lime juice
  1. Combine strawberries, lemon juice and sugar in a blender or food processor.
  2. Pulse until berries are somewhat chopped then blend until smooth and the sauce looks glossy. Taste and adjust sugar if needed.
  3. If desired, pass puree through a fine sieve to remove seeds. (I usually skip this step.)
  4. Pour into two 1/2 pint jars, leaving 1/2 an inch of headspace at the top of the jar, and freeze.
Makes 2 cups.
Note: Sauce will also keep up to a week in the refrigerator.


Strawberry-Limeade Concentrate

Turn all your bruised and less-attractive berries into this snazzy summer cooler. By having this concentrate on hand, you can whip up fresh and beautiful drinks at a moment’s notice.

Recipe: Strawberry-Limeade Concentrate

  • 3/4 cup strawberry coulis (recipe above)
  • 3/4 cup sugar or whole cane sugar
  • 1 cup lime juice (approximately 8 limes)
Mix ingredients together and freeze in ice cube trays.
To serve: In a drinking glass, stir together 1 cup cold water and two frozen cubes of concentrate and stir to combine. Enjoy.
                             

Save some of those strawberries and mix you up a fantastic tasty berry shake!!!

 

Mixed-Berry Shake

Ingredients

  • 1 quart vanilla ice cream
  • 6 ounces unsweetened frozen berries (such as strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries)
  • 2 cups whole milk

Directions

  1. In a blender, combine half of the ice cream, berries, and milk. Purée until smooth, stopping occasionally to stir with a spoon. Pour into glasses. Repeat with the remaining ingredients Mixed-Berry Shake
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