Our strawberry plants took 3 years to make a decent crop. Growing strawberries is definitely a labour of love and an act of patience. I was hoping it would be worth it in the long run, but like anything in the garden, you never know how its going to turn out. This year seemed to be a jackpot, so I decided to forgo the annual strawberry picking trip and try our hand at home harvesting our load of freezer jam. Its one of our favorite fishing trip snacks as well as a bedtime snack (PB&J sandwiches) so we go through a lot of it!
In previous years, we have gone to two different pick your own places in our area. Both were 20 min drive away, so I felt good about not using any fossil fuels to get to our berries for a change. Fruition Berry Farm off of Hwy 15 and Paulridge Berry Farm north of Napanee on Palace rd are both great places. The kids have enjoyed both farms for picking. The one thing I'll say is that Paulridge had a lovely shaded area for the kids to play in...which was a welcome site after a couple of hours in the field under a burning hot sun. Paulridge is typically not open on Sundays...so that's when we opted for Fruition. The best part about Fruition is they have THE best teenagers working there. Helpful, polite and eager...which is a great thing when you have a crazy moment of thinking you can pick berries with a 2 yr old in a stroller...by yourself! (I clearly didn't think that one through) Both places run about $8.50 per big white basket. You can bring your own containers and they weigh them on site. We purchased the big white baskets years ago...for a whole $0.50 a basket. It added a bit to the price of our berries, but we've used them every year AND we use them in our garden too. A good investment indeed!
We picked our first batch and ate most of them, throwing some into pancakes to start. By the second and third pickings, we had enough to make jam.
Crushed berries (1 3/4 cups worth in a liquid measuring cup), 3 cups of white sugar (I cut down the recipe from 4 cups, as our berries were small and super sweet), 2 tbps lemon juice and one packet of Certo. Its the fabulous no cook recipe! Stir the sugar and berries and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir in the rest of the ingredients and let set for 10 min.
Fill plastic containers so that there is about 1 inch left before the lid. Let stand (covered) on a countertop for 24 hrs.
Freeze in the freezer!
That's it! That was all there is to it!!! We ended up with 6 plastic containers in the freezer, 4 strawberry and 2 strawberry rhubarb. Now the next sweet berry will be the raspberry. Blue berries follow shortly after that. We aren't in a good part of Ontario for peaches or cherries...but one can still hope.
I have several strawberry recipes that I want to test out this year, but I may have to resort to local picked berries. Our patch seems to have stopped producing for this year anyway.
I was so excited to plant strawberries 3 years ago, that I had no idea there were types of strawberries. I had no idea there was a variety called the ever-bearing strawberry. Now that I know, I will pass along this piece of advise. RESEARCH before you do anything...as our plants are now so established...it would be a shame to dig them all up now. However, the idea of having strawberries for longer than the month of June is almost to much to bear!
Now all that's left to do in our strawberry patch is to keep on top of the runners, which will continue to try and make new strawberry plants until the fall comes. Its quite a bit of work, but, like I said, its a labour of love.
Are you making any preserves with the sweetness of Ontario summer? Tell me about it!