Monday, June 29, 2009


Hmm... maybe I'll throw some pics up later.

If there's one thing that makes me envious of Californians and Floridians, it's their much longer growing seasons. Ontario has the benefit of the Pelee region, which has the same latitude as northern California, but that's hardly citrus weather.

No, we have to make the most of the periods of fresh non-greenhouse produce. Especially when it comes to summer foods like berries.

It's strawberry season at the moment. It came about a week later than usual due to lots of rain and not so much heat. Last weekend was when most berry farms opened their fields to the masses, but I opted to wait until this past weekend to go, as all indications were that was when they'd be peaking.

The effect of limited windows is that people tend to descend on these locales like vultures on carrion. My foodie best friend and I headed up mid-day to an organic farm about 30 minutes outside the city. Some small rolling hills, and farms surrounded by encroaching housing developments were our views on the way. The small field was dotted with children and their parents picking through the far reaches of the patch.

A warning was issued by the girl tending the till - yes, there are berries for picking, but they're harder to find because it's late in the season (yes, the opened a week before) and yesterday was very popular.

Undaunted, we ventured to the nearest row. This is traditionally a bad move when pickign berries as all the lazy people have already picked them clean. You generally walk as far as in as you can to find the best berries.

Except that we spotted some pretty good-looking samples at our feet. As the rest of the crowd worked their way down the rows towards their vanishing point, we stayed near the start. Eight litres were picked without too much exertion, in under an hour. None were particuarly large, but all were a beautiful red.

$28 later, we were on our way. A quick stop at another farm to buy a flat of their berries (worried that perhaps we'd be short for our needs), and it was back to the kitchen for us.

4L of cleaned and hulled berries, 12 cups of sugar, and one lemon's worth of juice were combined, boiled, and reduced (220F BTW, fuck all this checking for gel stage) for some kick-ass strawberry jam. It had turned the red of raspberry jam, which was a first for me. The taste is fantastic though. Which is nice, because the berries were tarter than expected.

This left a still significant amount of berries behind. Around 2-3L of our picked ones, and 3 more litres that we had bought.

Easy enough answers, that I got to the next day. Vodka, sorbet, and freezing.

Clean, hull, and slice berries. Fill a jar halfway with them. Fill the whole jar with vodka. Close the lid, stick it in the fridge, and wait a week. That explains the two jars of red vodka with straberries floating around in my fridge.

1kg of cleaned and hulled berries, 100g of sugar, juice of one lemon. Purée, combine, and dump in an ice cream maker. Sorbet.

Take the best berries after hulling (ie.- no other bad parts that had to be cut), lay them out on a baking sheet and refrigerate for an hour. Then transfer the sheet to the freezer for 6 or more hours. Remove and transfer berries to a ziploc bag or plastic container and leave in the freezer.

Take the less ideal berries, slice 'em in half, cover in sugar and mix until the sugar has been absorbed and the berries are all shiny in sweet syrupy juice. Dump 'em in a container and freeze.

Raspberry season starts in two weeks.

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