A strawberry picked and placed directly into one’s mouth at its moment of perfect ripeness is one of life’s most marvelous sensations, and one of the most elusive.
Most of the berries you harvest will be packed away and pulled out of the freezer and enjoyed in August, October and February.
But in this one June instant when you are sweating in the sun, or chilling in a mist that is verging on rain — happy to be bending over a berry row and selecting this perfect berry that must be eaten now — only at this exact time and place can you experience the magic of this transitory combination of sugars, acids and aromatic compounds that makes the perfect strawberry.
Just a few miles from my land, there is a family-owned truck farm called Bures Berry Patch, where they grow wonderful produce on a valley floor of rich silt four feet deep.
This year the weather conditions conspired to shorten their strawberry season.
As I was picking up my last bunch of their crisp, earthy asparagus, I learned that all of their carefully calculated efforts to spread strawberry harvest over many weeks had been foiled. The combo of warmth and rain was ripening the entire valley of lush red berries all at once.
How many of their lusious berries would reach perfection and spoil before they cold be picked and enjoyed?
I thought of my waxy cardboard picking trays as life boats, and I made it my mission to help save as many berries as possible.
The first day we picked Annapolis, which is a sweet and tasty, early-maturing fruit. Two days later, we were directed to the Honeoye section of the field. Honeoye is usually a more midseason berry. This year they ripened right on the heels of the Annapolis. They were a joy to pick – many of them the size, shape and color of an old-fashioned Christmas tree light. Happy Holidays!
Because we purchased a small chest freezer since the last strawberry season, (see my September post, FREEZER SHOPPING TIPS or Channeling my Crazed Squirrel https://digginginthedriftless.wordpress.com/2009/09/29/freezer-shopping-tips-or-channeling-my-crazed-squirrel/) I was able to try a preserving technique I have often read about.
This is the one where you place the berries on cookie sheets in the freezer to freeze quickly, and then bag them for storage. Formal instructions here. It’s a system I can now recommend.
After picking and freezing Friday, we thawed a bag and had it with millet flour/ground flax seed waffles Saturday morning to see how they fared. The answer was big, red balls of flavor. Of course, they were a little more mushy, but still very enjoyable.
After we filled the freezer with every pan we could hunt up in the house, we sliced the rest, mixed the rest of the harvest with a couple of tablespoons of sugar per quart and bagged them up and tossed them into the kitchen freezer compartment. Those berries will end up in smoothies and as sauces.
Many of our individually frozen beauties are now waiting till raspberry season. Then I plan to thaw them and make them into strawberry/raspberry jam. Now, there is a flavor match made in heaven.