In this post, I will share with you where to buy quality strawberries and why it’s important. Also, learn how to store strawberries for optimum freshness and why more isn’t always better. At the end of the post I’ve included a recipe for Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream that we all thoroughly enjoyed.
In late spring – early summer the wonderfully juicy strawberries begin to ripen across our north east region. It signals the beginning of the summer fruit season.
STRAWBERRIES WHEN QUALITY MATTERS
Usually I am all about the picking, having the more is better philosophy. My mind has always been on the quantity for if I came away with a lot of berries I could make enough jelly to last the whole winter even if I gave some away as gifts too. And I could freeze even more strawberries for ice cream, shakes and pancakes.
Wouldn’t it be nice to taste the sweet strawberries during those long cold winter months?
Berries in general and strawberries in particular pack a good nutritional punch even for those who restrict most fruits due to their high sugar content. The strawberry, in addition to its wonderful flavor and low sugar also offers vitamin A, vitamin C and fiber making this a great nutrient dense choice.
Where to buy quality strawberries
Strawberries are one of the most heavily sprayed crops and appear at the top of the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen List. Find out which foods made the list by clicking on the Dirty Dozen List.
Pesticides cannot be thoroughly washed from the food. To avoid ingesting these toxic chemicals always buy organic especially when the food is listed on the dirty dozen list.
Organic strawberries can usually be purchased from your local grocery store. Read labels since the organic label doesn’t always jump out at you.
Check for organic pick-your-own farms in your area. There is one organic strawberry farm 2 hours from my home and is well worth the drive.
Check farmers markets in your area but if local farms do not advertise organic then you will probably not find organic strawberries at the farmers market.
The frozen section of the grocery store often has organic strawberries. I purchase a large bag of organic strawberries from BJ’s wholesale food club. Sam’s club or Costco may have similar.
How to store strawberries
For optimum freshness, strawberries are best stored in the refrigerator if you plan on using them within a couple of days and the berries were not overly ripe when you purchased or picked them. An overly ripe berry is very deep red in color.
For longer term storage they can be frozen. Follow these simple steps to flash freeze.
•Remove any debris from strawberries and place in a colander. Rinse with cool water. Lightly dab excess water from the berries with paper towels.
•Line counter or work surface with paper towels or dish towel you don’t mind getting stained. Spread berries out in a single layer to dry further. To speed process along again gently dab berries with paper towels.
•Remove the green stem.
•Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Any pan that is freezer safe will work as long as it has an edge so berries will not roll off.
•Lay strawberries in a single layer on the parchment paper.
•Freeze for a couple of hours. They do not need to be froze solid at this stage. You just don’t want them sticking together when you put them into your bags.
Put into Ziploc freezer bags, gently pressing down to remove as much air as you can before sealing the bag. Bag sealing equipment might be something you could use if you plan on putting up a large quantity.
This method makes it really easy for you to remove just the quantity of frozen berries you need without thawing out the whole package.
You may want to consider prepackaging the exact amount your recipe calls for. This not only saves time when you want to make the recipe but also insures that the berries will be reserved.
I have premeasured strawberries tucked aside in the freezer for strawberry ice cream and strawberry jam/jelly. The rest we especially enjoy eating over pancakes during the cold winter months.
Frozen strawberries typically keep well for 6-8 months.
For longer term storage, I would recommend dehydrating them where the shelf life can be extended to 2 years or more.
IS MORE NECESSARILY BETTER?
This trip had a lesson embedded in it that hit me in a profound way. I’m hoping it can do the same for you.
Two of our grandchildren, ages 2 and 4, accompanied us to pick strawberries. We showed them how to successfully pick the strawberry from the plant and they were so excited when they mastered the technique.
But then they just had to taste them too. I couldn’t blame them; the berries were exceptionally sweet this year. And as you can imagine not many berries were getting into the box.
I soon realized it wasn’t all about the quantity of seeing how much we could bring home. Instead it was the experience of enjoying each other’s company and teaching the children some valuable lessons on growing food, harvesting food and the comradery of family.
This quality life experience was far greater than how many strawberries ultimately came home.
Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream
I have modified this strawberry ice cream recipe taken from the Cuisinart Manual, by reducing the lemon juice and overall sugar content. This worked well because the strawberries we were using were extra sweet. The ice cream tasted heavenly and the grandkids never missed the sugar.
Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream
A wonderful and creamy indulgence using fresh strawberries.
- 3 c fresh ripe strawberries, stemmed & sliced
- 2 T lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- 3/4 c sugar, divided
- 1 1/2 c whole milk
- 2 3/4 c heavy cream NOT ultra pasturized
- 1 1/2 t pure vanilla extract
Make sure ice cream freezer bowl has remained in the freezer for at least 24 hours prior to making this recipe.
In a bowl, combine the strawberries with the lemon juice and 1/4c sugar. Stir gently and allow the strawberries to macerate in the juices for 2 hours.
Strain the berries, reserving juices. Mash or puree half the berries.
In a medium mixing bowl, use a hand mixer on low speed to combine the milk and remaining granulated sugar until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 to 2 minutes.
Stir in the heavy cream, reserved strawberry juice, mashed strawberries, and vanilla.
Turn the 2 quart ice cream maker on; pour the mixture into freezer bowl, and let mix until thickened, about 20-25 minutes.
Five minutes before mixing is completed, add the reserved sliced strawberries and let mix in completely.
The ice cream will have a soft, creamy texture. If a firmer consistency is desired, transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and place in freezer for about 2 hours. Remove from freezer about 15 minutes before serving.
Makes 2 quarts