Strawberry Season

strawberries-frozenStrawberries are the first fruit that you need to catch if you are going to preserve any sort of quantity of. They come ripe in about the middle of June but are VERY weather depending. If you miss them you are likely out of luck unless you live somewhere that grows the ever bearing variety that produce smaller quantities all summer long. We LOVE strawberries and you can bet that I never miss strawberry season. We almost always head out to a u-pick to save ourselves $1 or more per lb because we buy at least 30lbs of strawberries every year.

Almost all of those strawberries get frozen to use in smoothies and jam if you can believe it. Nearly every smoothie we make around here has strawberries in it. To ensure that they last until next year I split them up into 10-11 ziplock bags and label them with the month we are going to use them in. Once the strawberries for that month are gone, they are gone. This seems to work really well for us and sometimes we even find that in April or May we have a bunch of November or October strawberries to use up!

Strawberries get frozen on trays first and then put into bags afterwards. This prevents clumping and a giant block of strawberries in the freezer. I even actually lay the ziplock bags flat in the freezer as well to maximize storage space. It can get pretty crowded in there come October!

If smoothies aren’t your thing and you have a dehydrator strawberries are just about the tastiest dehydrated fruit going. Make sure you hide that jar from the kids though or they will burn through your precious store in no time flat! I know, it’s happened to us more than once.

Cherry Season

dehydrated cherriesCherries show up in the middle to end of June where I live, chances are they do where you live too. If you miss them they are gone and there isn’t a whole lot you can do about it. If you are a grocery store shopper you get a little hint that the local fruit is on it’s way soon when the California seasonal varieties show up in the produce section, cherries are no exception.

I grew up with cherries. I have a cherry tree in my yard now and can’t really imagine life without them.

We eat cherries for about a week while they are in season but other than that the only cherries we enjoy are of the dehydrated variety. They are kind of like raisins but slightly bigger and great in kids lunches. Each year I dehydrate about 20 racks of cherries, I’m not sure what that is in lbs but I would guess 10-20lbs of cherries.

Processing cherries is one best done with three bowls, a comfortable seat and something entertaining on a screen. If you are opposed to your fingers being stained for a few days then I suggest wearing gloves. I use a paring knife and slice all the way around the cherry from top to bottom. The pit is loose at the bottom and fixed at the top so I then lift it with my knife to pull it out in one movement. This seems to be the most efficient way to pit cherries by hand and believe me I have pitted A LOT of cherries.

When I put them on the tray I put them cut side up. This stops them from sticking to the tray and makes unloading MUCH easier. They get stored in large mason jars and used in oatmeal, yogurt and as a finger snack for the remainder of the year.

If we have an excess of cherries I have been known to pit and freeze them until apricots come into season to make fruit leather.

What’s at Market in June?

green peasJune sees the return of many of my vegetable favorites baby carrots, beets & potatoes first come out of the ground this month. Green onions can be found in abundance with radishes along side them. If you have had a warm enough spring peas make their first appearance at markets sometime this month and are a fleeting treat that is well worth the cost. We have never bothered freezing peas but do enjoy them when they are in season. Lettuce increases in variety and in size and the cabbage lover will probably find a small fresh head in someone’s stand.

Strawberries are the highlight of this months fruit basket with those delicious tender fruits appearing just as the last of the asparagus fades away.

I always find June a tricky month for cooking as it’s not quite warm enough for summer salads but no longer cool enough for winter soups and heavy dishes. Grilled vegetables becomes a quick favorite with the fresh baby vegetables bringing a new taste to the tired roasted root vegetable casserole of winter. We opt for lighter quicker cooking cuts of meat than the roasts from a few months prior the first batches of spring chickens are often found at market this month.