Pennies…er, Strawberries from Heaven

(c) Lori East
Hidden jewels

There hasn’t been a lot of quilting going on here these past few days. Many of you know that my family keeps a pretty big garden. Every spring we get so excited about all the possibilities of growing things, then come the blooms, and we’re still pretty happy when all those plants start to produce. And then…I start to get a little tired of it all. But not for long!

 

 

Ethel
Meet Ethel, my garden helper. She loves being in the garden with me, but does have a way of wanting all of my attention.

Right now it’s time for strawberries. Do you like strawberries? I love berries of all kinds, including strawberries. I love strawberry jam. I love strawberry shortcake. And I love dried strawberries…almost as much as jam. Yes, come winter, I will really love being able to open a jar of something and taste the sunshine in those berries. Knowing that is what keeps me moving along. We started growing strawberries in 2006 and have had to redo the beds a couple of times, but once they’re set and growing, they are like getting free food, unless you count all the work. Yes, there’s work.

 

 

Right now it’s time for strawberries. Do you like strawberries? I love berries of all kinds, including strawberries. I love strawberry jam. I love strawberry shortcake. And I love dried strawberries…almost as much as jam. Yes, come winter, I will really love being able to open a jar of something and taste the sunshine in those berries. Knowing that is what keeps me moving along. We started growing strawberries in 2006 and have had to redo the beds a couple of times, but once they’re set and growing, they are like getting free food, unless you count all the work. Yes, there’s work.

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Jam!

So far I’ve made four batches of jam. Four batches is not nearly as much as it sounds. All told, that’s only 16 jars, from little 4 oz. ones to pint-sized freezer containers. The little 4 oz. jars really don’t last much more than a day or two, but they’re awfully cute. I make most of the bread we eat around here, and you’ll have to trust me when I say you haven’t lived until you’ve eaten homemade strawberry jam on a still-warm slice of fresh bread. Even a pint of freezer jam doesn’t last long (it is decadent on ice cream).

 

 

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Off to the dehydrator!

I’ve also dried four trays full. Drying them shrinks them way down, since strawberries are 92% water. But oh my goodness, are they ever delicious! I use them in granola the most, but they are also delicious in oatmeal, or even plain old cold cereal.

To dry them, I just slice them and put them on the dehydrator trays, skin side down (helps keep them from sticking to the trays). When I first started dehydrating things, I read that strawberries should be cut into 1/4″ slices. Heh. Tell that to a quilter. I can eyeball a quarter inch. Thankfully,  precision doesn’t matter, at least not with strawberries.

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Out of the dryer. Four trays full yields less than a quart.

Yesterday I put the first trays in at about noon and pulled the last ones out about 10:00, so probably nine hours on average will dry them sufficiently. I have what I did yesterday in a jar this morning, waiting to see if there’s any moisture left in them (it would show up as condensation inside the jar), before I vacuum-pack them later. I use tons of dried berries, mostly in granola as I said, but they are just fun little bursts of flavor in quick breads too. The truth is, once I open a jar I have a hard time not eating up whatever I don’t use in a recipe. (This is true of dried cherry tomatoes too, but that’s a story for another day.)

 

 

I freeze a few too, sometimes whole but more often pureed (yes, leaves and all — they’re good for you!). Once in a while I’ll throw a mint leaf into the puree…it adds a fun twist. These turn into smoothies. A little plain yogurt, some ice cubes, and strawberries, makes a delicious and still healthy treat.

Strawberries are amazingly good for you. Did you know that they have more vitamin C than oranges? An average-sized strawberry contains 7.1 mg of vitamin C, and the recommended daily allowance is 75 mg for adults. So eating ten strawberries covers your daily requirement. Who eats just ten of them? If you’re low-carbing, each one has .7 g carbs, so ten of them only gives you 7 g.

Victorinox peeler
Victorinox peeler. That sharp, pointy tip slides right under the leaves to get the core out.

This morning I am looking at almost three more gallons of berries that need cleaning and processing in some way, and I haven’t yet picked for today. No, it’s not hard work, but it does take time. We don’t use any pesticides, so a quick rinse is all they need (besides, strawberries soak up water like a sponge, so the less they’re in contact with water, the better). They need to be hulled. Not a big deal. I have this great double-edged peeler with a sharp tip that makes that job go pretty fast. (I bought this one in England years ago, but it is available on Amazon.) But still. Three more gallons.

 

See them in there?
See them in there?

 

We grow several different kinds of berries, but the only names I can ever remember are Sparkle Supreme and Ozark Beauty. The Ozark Beauties are big berries, quick to work, but not nearly as sweet as the smaller Sparkle Supremes. So guess which go into the dehydrator? Yep, the big OBs.

 

 

I’m hoping to make some strawberry bread later today. I found a recipe on My Baking Addiction that I haven’t tried but looks delicious! Take a look and see what you think. (While you’re at it, check out that website…there are some really wonderful recipes there!) I can’t imagine that it wouldn’t be delicious and dense, with both cream cheese AND buttermilk. I’m thinking I might toss in a few walnuts too.

Fresh Strawberry Cream Cheese Bread
YIELD: 1 loaf

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups strawberries, rinsed, dried and chopped

DIRECTIONS:

1. Grease and flour a 9×5 inch loaf pan.
2. With electric mixer cream butter, sugar and cream cheese until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Mix in vanilla.
3. In separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Blend flour mixture with butter mixture just until blended. Add buttermilk and only stir until just combined; do not over mix.
4. Carefully fold in strawberries. Dough mixture will be thick.
5. Bake in a 350°F oven for 50 to 60 minutes.

There might also be a strawberry-rhubarb pie in the works…and of course, strawberry shortcake. Maybe more than a bowl full of “naked” berries too.

Since I don’t want to think about the diet (ahem) I promised myself I’d start, I’ll show you a quilt pattern called The Strawberry, published in November 1931 by Ruby Short McKim.

The Strawberry Quilt, by Ruby Short McKim, photo courtesy The Denver Post
The Strawberry Quilt, by Ruby Short McKim, photo courtesy The Denver Post

 
Isn’t it lovely? Wouldn’t you like to make one? I think before you do, you might want to brush up on accurate 1/4″ allowances. I know the perfect place for you to practice.

  • wow – you love strawberries you can tell! I had not thought to dry them – this will be something for me to try while they are on sale right now – I do not have a strawberry patch near me to pick fresh. thanks for dropping by and I will put you on my reader to keep up with you – if I can – you have a lot of energy I can feel it through your writing!