I usually stick to my topic on this blog, but today I am going to indulge in a bit of personal story as well. I took my children strawberry picking last Friday morning. We were "scheduled" to leave at 7:16... only we had a protein shake splatter on the kitchen floor... and then we had a person-in-charge (would that be me!?!) realize she had forgotten to dig up containers in which to bring the strawberries home... and then, when all were buckled into the van, we discovered that the three children not in diapers were so eager to get the day started none of them had used the bathroom...
We left late. But we were still in good spirits. It was a beautifully overcast spring morning. The children selected Vivaldi's Concerto for Two Trumpets in C Major for the car ride... perfect selection for heightening morale and camaraderie. They felt ready to conquer the world... or at least a few rows of strawberry plants. Here are my littles with the bounty:
Yes, that's right. My kids picked nine gallons of strawberries in less than one hour. I can't really say that Tickle helped to pick the berries, but at least she stayed close by and didn't prevent us from picking! Witzy was primarily my bucket carrier. Now, these kids may just look like normal children to you, but they are superstars to me :-) I am so proud of their cheerful efforts last Friday. I thought about rewarding them with Chick-fil-a or Ice-Cream... but then I thought how perfect ripe strawberries are. They were very pleased to be rewarded with the fruit of their labors, a much better choice!
Here they are again. This picture shows a bit more of the farm with the strawberry rows stretching back into the horizon.
So when I returned home, I really had my work cut out for me! Nine gallons... and the sooner fresh-picked strawberries are frozen, the more nutrient content will be retained. We didn't freeze all nine. It was more like 7 1/2 since we ate MANY and gave a way some too.
I divided what I had to freeze into three batches. The above picture is my setup... I washed and cut the stems off of them and then set them in a single later to dry. (There is a third towel with strawberries to the left of the picture.)
Once I finished 1/3 of the berries, I let those dry completely, poured them into bags and sealed them for freezing. In this manner, I divided the work into three sessions AND the strawberries had a chance to dry completely which is very important. Freezing wet strawberries will cause them to stick together in one frozen clump and they are more likely to get freezer burn.
At this point, I had finished 2/3 of the berries. I included my beautifully stained tea towels in this photo only because last year I was scared that I had ruined them and was pleasantly surprised at how easy the stains came out. This year I am not fazed, I will soak them in Nature Bright again... along with all the children's beautifully stained clothing... and they will be as good as new!
After washing strawberries during "rest time," in the late afternoon before our take-out supper, and again after cleaning up from supper, I was very glad to be finished! I let the last batch dry until bedtime and then bagged them up for the freezer. One problem... this year, because I was taking pictures, I did not put the bags directly into the freezer once filled. I kept them all out for this picture. Silly of me... because condensation accumulated in the bags... the very moisture content I was trying to prevent! You can see the condensation in some of these bags. I let them air out again as much as I could, but it would have been best to put them directly in the freezer. I'll know for next year... and so will you!
One other note on freezing strawberries: I find it just as easy to twist the stems off the berries while rinsing them if the strawberries are very ripe. If they are not red all the way through, twisting the caps off leaves a bit of the stem attached. I cut part of our nine gallons and twisted the other part. I don't know if I will notice any difference between the two when I use them over the next year... in smoothies, mostly.