Every year, my mom would brave the fields with 4 kids, and set out to the pick-your-own strawberry patch. We were always in awe of how quickly she could fill her baskets, and how perpetually empty ours were. Although, I know why ours were never filled.
We’d bring them home and clean them, eat our share of berries fresh, or sliced and covered with milk. Then, when the sight of another strawberry sickened us, mom would make jam.
It feels great to continue the tradition with my own family. Our three year old was the most ambitious, snatching the biggest basket to fill. Regardless of whether or not he actually filled it (he didn’t), whatever strawberries ended up in it were definitely his.
We like the idea of a pick your own farm. When you are doing your own preserving it becomes a fun task and isn’t overwhelming. It’s cheaper when you pick your own and picking isn’t that hard. Thirty minutes of picking can give you more berries than you need to preserve.
We pick our berries at Lindley’s Farm in Ancaster. They don’t use any chemical sprays on their fruit or vegetables, so we’re a lot more comfortable letting the kids eat a few in the field. In fact, our son was happily informed upon arrival that the only rule was to try one.
We, quite quickly, picked 15 quarts of berries, took them home and immediately ate our fair share. Then I moved on to the jam making. I followed a recipe found in Canning & Preserving with Ashley English. It is a very simple and delicious recipe.
The 15 quarts of strawberries quickly disappeared as I made a huge strawberry rhubarb crisp and a batch of strawberry-rhubarb muffins. We more than paid for the berries in the jam alone and we won’t have to buy any for a year. And the best part is that we know exactly the source and ingredients of our jam.
If you haven’t been berry picking you still have time. Find a pick-your-own farm near you and get picking, you certainly won’t regret it. Whether it is for freezing and preserving to last you through the year, or for simply eating local fresh produce while it is in season, it’s great experience.