While I am a suburban girl at heart, taking full advantage of convenient shopping, restaurants and entertainment, there is a part of me that longs for a simpler way of life. I am drawn to the romantic notion of living on a farm, complete with red barn, white picket fence, docile animals, and plentiful gardens. However, I am not fond of the outdoors, nor manual labor, so that dream is rather short-lived.
Fortunately there are several U-Pick farms in the area that allow wanna-be gardeners such as myself the opportunity to visit and play pretend for an hour or two. This week was the start of strawberry season and my youngest and I took advantage of the nice weather and minimal weekday crowds to play in the fields.
We arrived at Gieringers Orchard around 8:45am in the hopes of being one of the first in line (we also wanted to beat the heat of the noonday Kansas sun). We could not have asked for better picking conditions: partly cloudy sky, cool breeze, and just a few families in line.
We were each assigned a row and told we could pick as many strawberries as we desired from both sides of the path. We were given a flag to place at our stopping point, so that the next visitors could pick up where we left off.
In the end, Mandy and I both picked exactly 7.59 pounds for a total of $20.40. A true bargain, if you ask me, because there was not a single berry in the bunch that was not at the peak of freshness. I have never tasted a fresh berry so sweet.
That evening I tried my hand at homemade strawberry shortcake, that was indeed delicious. I found a recipe on the Food Network that called for heavy cream rather than butter – and baked in an 8×8 pan rather than rolled out like biscuits. It was incredibly easy, and made a soft dough that soaked up the strawberry juices perfectly.
I macerated the strawberries using very little sugar (they were sweet enough on their own) and then added a splash of Strawberry Balsamic Vinegar. Absolutely perfect!
The next day I sliced and mashed a total of six cups of berries to make Freezer Jam. This is my kind of canning: no sterilization – no paraffin wax – little time in the kitchen. If you haven’t tried this foolproof recipe, you should. I plan to make homemade vanilla ice cream this weekend (using the leftover cream from the shortcake) and spooning a bit of jam on top for a cool Memorial Day dessert.
There are a few berries left to slice and serve in a fruit salad, but other than that, I have used every single one of the 7.5 pounds and look forward to returning to the orchard again this week to replenish my supplies. Perhaps a strawberry pie will be on the menu next weekend.
This has been the first time in a L-O-N-G time that I have written a post as part of Candace’s Weekend Cooking segment. I hope to participate more often, now that it is summer and I have more time to create and experiment.