National Strawberry Month

Every year, I look forward to strawberry season so I can stock my pantry and condiment supply with a variety of strawberry jams. Since its National Strawberry month, we wanted to share with you some of the things we like to do with our strawberries and also share a couple of quick tips.

Strawberry season is short here in Texas so I decided to head back out to my favorite spot to pick strawberries, which is at Good Earth Organic Farm.  The strawberries at Good Earth Organic Farm are plump, juicy, and sweet. This was my third year returning to pick some beautiful sun-ripened berries and I was not disappointed. After spending an afternoon picking those yummy red jewels, I am ready to get into the kitchen to make all types of things from jams and vinaigrette to refreshing smoothies.
Maybe you too have amassed a bunch of strawberries from one of those U-pick or roadside stands or picked up a supply from one of your local farmer's markets and now have more strawberries than you know what to do with.  Here's a few tips on making your strawberries last so you can enjoy them for more than a few days!

 

 

Quick Tips

Strawberries are extremely delicate so you should put them up as quickly as possible and if if you are making jams and preserving them, for the freshest quality, you should try to can them within a couple of days of picking or purchasing them.
If you don't can, freezing strawberries is the simplest way to preserve them quickly.  You can then enjoy them in smoothies, desserts or in baking. Please note, frozen strawberries should be used within 6 months.
Don't soak your strawberries in water.  They will loose their flavor and you will wash away some good nutrients.
It is optional to sprinkle a little sugar before freezing. I don't add any sugar to my berries.

How to Freeze Strawberries

Remove the tops of the strawberries after rinsing.
Freeze them whole.
Whole strawberries are great to have on hand for your favorite smoothie recipe or to add to your favorite strawberry dessert.
Rinse them gently, spread them evenly on a baking sheet so they can freeze without touching each other and place the baking tray in your freezer until they are frozen solid.
Place them in an airtight container or you can also use zip lock freezer bags (not storage bags).  Be sure to put a date on your container.
 
Hope you enjoy strawberry season as much as I do!!

Sealing Summer in a Jar

Every summer I really look forward to canning something from my garden, eating something fresh or canned from my mom and dad’s garden, or just grabbing some amazing organic produce from one of my favorite markets or farmers to can.  I grew up always having a jar of something available to pull out of the pantry during those cold winter months when it was no longer available and have carried that tradition forward for many years.

I recently canned a few of my favorite recipes including peach and orange conserve, strawberry jam, mango chutney, and of course my signature salsa.

Since I grow and cook with so many fresh herbs, which I also use when cooking for my clients, it just makes sense for me to have an interest in creating my own herb infused jams, jellies, chutneys and condiments that I can pair with some of the great dishes I prepare. So now I am experimenting with some really good herb infused jams, jellies, chutneys and even some dessert drizzles that you can use on those “gotta treat yourself  kind of things," like on pound cake, ice cream, Belgian waffles, or French toast!

I also made some Cucumber Mint Jelly and the combination of the fresh cucumber juice and the mint is amazing.  I used pickling cucumbers from my garden and extracted the juice using my juicer.

So what to do with Cucumber-Mint Jelly?  How about a glaze on grilled lamb chops.  I had to try this and it was delicious.  Check out the picture.  I know it’s also going to be good on Salmon.  You can also mix it with cream cheese and cut up some fresh vegetables to dip in with.

This is a very exciting time for me. I’ve been canning and preserving for over 25 years and am having a blast watching a new generation begin to embrace this wonderful “lost art of canning” that has been such a big part of my life as long as I can remember. As a Personal Chef, I am also enjoying pairing so many of my condiments with meals that I prepare for my clients. I have so much more to share, so stay tuned…

Cucumber-Mint Jelly Recipe

Want to learn more? Host a Fresh From the Gardens Canning Party in your own home with 10 or more of your friends or family. And check out my short “Five Reasons” video on why you should learn Canning.

Book your holiday canning party now! October 17 through November 14.

 

Do you think home canning is a lost art? I think not!

Three days and counting before my first Home Canning series begins at the Dallas Farmer’s Market and I am so excited!    I can’t wait to meet the new breed of contemporary home canners who are taking an interest in learning home canning and what was once considered to be a “Lost Art”.  I’ve spoken with corporate executives, gardeners, gourmet chefs, retirees and families who are just concerned about food safety and nutrition.

Urban canners love the fact that you don’t have to live in the country or devote every waking hour to a garden in order to enjoy the canning process.  In fact, city-dwelling canners find that searching for excellent produce and new recipes leads them to wonderful out-of-the-way markets and restaurants.  Many new home canners don’t garden at all, but love shopping for fresh organic produce and enjoy making their recipes in their high rise apartments.

Whether your reason for learning home canning is because of your concern with ingredients and nutrition, or because you find it something that is relaxing to do, now is the time to get on board.