Hello! I’m a week late this week with my post and I apologize! The holiday weekend messed me up. Lol! Not that we had a lot going on, but we did manage to stay busy with home projects. My husband’s work schedule changed and now he has Mondays off. Which means one extra day to work on things around the house that we’ve been putting off. Example: refinishing our kitchen cabinets. When we moved in, I fell in love with the cabinets. They weren’t box store generic ones; they were sturdy, and the insides were in excellent condition. The doors, on the other hand, were not so great. They had not been kept clean or cared for. So my goal for the entire 4 years we have been in this house has been to strip the finish and repaint them. I had a vision of what I wanted, and this week (at long last) I got a taste. We tested one cabinet, and the results were great! When we are done I will post before and after pics.
But that’s not what this post is supposed to be about. It’s supposed to be about strawberries! And rightly so, since strawberry season has kicked into high gear in our part of Maryland.
One of the things I love about living here is the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables in the many orchards in this area. We have several ‘pick-your-own’ places as well. Don’t have space to grow your own? That’s ok if you have an or hard around!So you pick exactly the fruits you want, and you often get them cheaper than what’s at the store. And of course, the quality is awesome because you are picking stuff at its ripest and most flavorful.
Therefore, every year, we descend upon one of our two favorite orchards and reap their bounty of strawberries, cherries, blueberries, raspberries, and peaches. We always pick plenty for fresh eating, and then we pick more to put away, either with canning, drying, or freezing.
Every year so far, strawberry jam has been on the list of things to do with the berries. And it is again this year, thanks to my daughter. She really does love her strawberry jam! But this time around, I really wanted to branch out and experiment. Nothing too crazy. I just wanted to find some good recipes that were pretty foolproof that my family and I would enjoy.
So here they are: seven uses for fresh strawberries that don’t include jam.
1) “Booch” flavoring. I recently started making my own continuous brew kombucha. I bottle it with fruit because I like the fizz. I have been off soda at least since this past January but I still sometimes want some fizzy drink! Bottled kombucha really scratches that itch. This strawberry season, I decided to add cut berries to my bottles of brew. Most sources I have read about bottling booch say add one to two tablespoons of fruit to each bottle. But in the words of Frasier Crane, “If less is more, just think how much more ‘more’ will be.” So I laughed in the face of the 1-2 tablespoon rule and added 4.
2) Homemade strawberry soda, made with ginger bug. Oh yeah baby, you heard me. Homemade strawberry soda. Super simple, super healthy, super delish! I first read about fermented soda on Pinterest. I have read about using water kefir to ferment juice, but I read about ginger bug first and I loved it and stuck with that method.
Ginger bug is basically 3 ingredients put together to ferment: organic ginger, white sugar, and filtered water (no chlorine). It’s super easy to put together and takes up just a little space in your fridge. 2 Tbsp grated or chopped ginger, with skin on, go into a glass jar, along with a Tbsp of sugar and 2 to 3 Tbsp water. Stir. Cover with a cloth and set on counter in a warm spot. Next day, feed mixture again with same amounts. Mixture will begin to bubble after 2 or 3 days, and that’s how you know the good yeast and bacteria are waking up, eating, and reproducing. When your jar is full (it takes at least 5 days), you can throw it in the fridge till you need it.
When you use some of the ginger bug liquid, make sure to feed the remainder again and stir before returning to the fridge. Also, allow the bug to come to room temp before adding it to whatever you’re trying to ferment.
So how do you make the strawberry soda? I found a great recipe that was super easy from the blog, “I Cook and Paint”. Here’s the link: http://icookandpaint.com/2016/07/12/strawberry-soda-using-a-ginger-bug/. You’re welcome! Lol!
3) Fruit leathers. In one of my first blog posts, I mentioned how much I love dehydrating to preserve foods. I even posted pics of some of my homemade fruit leathers. Strawberry ones are among our favorites. Although, full disclosure, it’s hard to pick just one favorite. Anyhow, making your own is super simple with a dehydrator. You need a fruit leather tray (or trayS) to place inside your drying trays so the fruit purée doesn’t drip and glop to the bottom of your dehydrator. But once you have your equipment, simply add strawberries to your blender with some applesauce, apple juice, and almost whatever other fruit you like and blend till your concoction is a smooth pourable consistency. Pour into your trays, and dry under the fruit setting on your dehydrator. By the way, the applesauce or banana helps make the mixture more solid and smooth. If you just use strawberries, the results would be thin and grainy. Nice thing about applesauce: it compliments the flavor of the berries. You taste strawberry when you eat it, not apple. In the pictures below, you can see I used a mixture of 2 cups strawberries,a banana, and 2 cups pears that a dear friend canned and gifted. They made a beautiful bright pink puree, don’t ya think? The last picture is the finished product. The kids could eat these things all day long. P.S. Don’t be like me and forget to lightly grease the tray before you pour the purée!
4) Mouth-watering salads. Ok this has to be one of my favorites. Since the salad greens in our garden have been growing crazy well just as we came into strawberry season, I decided to take advantage. I picked a good amount of spinach first thing in the morning. Since I don’t use any pesticides in my garden, all the leaves needed were a gentle rinse to remove dirt. I chopped them up, placed them in a bowl, and then layered a generous amount of sliced strawberries, a Tablespoon of chopped walnuts, 2 Tablespoons of feta cheese, and just enough poppyseed dressing to bring it all together. I never thought I could love a salad as much as I loved that one. It has an almost “cheesecakey ” flavor to it because of the feta and sweet dressing. I made one for my husband with grilled chicken. He is more traditional in his salad tastes, but he really liked this one!
5) Dried slices for granola. Again with the dehydrator. When you slice the berries and dry them, their flavor ends up being more concentrated. So in a small bite, you get this big punch of fresh strawberry flavor. I put them in a bag and store in the freezer. Then, in the middle of Winter, when we are going crazy wishing for Spring and warm weather, I can pop some into my husband’s granola and voila! Transported! They pair well with dried banana chips or dried peach chips or dried blueberries, or…. cardboard. They are THAT GOOD.
6) Pancake syrup. This has to be one of my family’s favorites. We have pancakes about once a week. Sometimes, we have them for dinner. So I decided to mix things up a bit by trying to make fruit syrups. The first time I made a strawberry one, it was more of a strawberry purée. But nobody complained. Instead, the gobbled it up and asked for more! But I wanted a more “cannable” recipe. So I searched Pinterest, aka “my Google”, and found one I liked. I still tweaked it because that’s just me. I can’t leave well enough alone. I didn’t strain everything out like the recipe called for; I just strained out the biggest pulpy parts. But the seeds were left in my syrup. Then I canned it so we can enjoy it all year long! Here’s the link to this recipe: https://creativehomemaking.com/recipes/canning/strawberry-syrup/. It’s super simple and crazy good!
7) Water flavoring. I know this one might sound weird, but hear me out. Every strawberry recipe I’ve seen out there has these words, “Wash berries. Cut off stem and hull.” Sounds like a lot of waste to me. Strawberries are already small enough, why throw away half of them when you hull them and cut the tops off? A way to save at least some of goodness from hitting the trash is to add some of those hulls and tops to a glass of ice water. It’s a nice change from the regular glass of water. And you feel less wasteful in the process. Plus, when you are done with them, throw them in the compost. It’s not really wasting when you are using them to make new healthy dirt, right?
I know there’s a myriad of things you can do with fresh berries. Smoothies, muffins, pancakes, cheesecakes, and just plain eating them, well, plain. The list goes on. But these were some of my favorites I wanted to pass on to you. I hope you enjoy them as much as my family and I do.
I really want to stress, too, that even though I didn’t grow these berries myself, it’s still part of the homesteading way of life. Homesteading is all about using what the Earth gives us in a responsible way. Not wasting. Appreciating the good things that each season brings us in its turn. Not rushing the natural cycles, but instead appreciating the fact that patiently waiting for it makes the bounty that much sweeter. Plus, when you pick locally, you are supporting local business and your community farmers. And that’s important! So thanks for taking this step with me this week. Enjoy your berries!
P.S. I WILL be more punctual from here on out with my posts. See you next Sunday!