|Berry season is in full swing, but don’t blink or you’ll miss it. Just think, nine long months until we reach the next berry rush, so I highly recommend getting your fill while you have the chance. Better yet, stock up! You’ll be enjoying summer fresh produce all winter long.|
You could make jam to store your berries; in fact, that’s a very good way to preserve the harvest. But if boiling, sterilizing and waiting for those lids to “ding” isn’t your thing, then let me suggest a few other ways to prolong the season’s bounty.
First things first. You come home with (or you get delivered to your door) a delightful load of fresh fruit. In order to ensure that your produce will stick around for more than a couple of days, the best way to store these fragile gems is to carefully transfer them to a shallow Tupperware container that is lined with paper towels. Cover the top of the berries with more paper towels, then place in the fridge until ready to consume or preserve. It is very important to note that you should only wash your berries before you are ready to use them.
If freezing is the final destination for your fruit, simply place on a baking sheet in a single, even layer. Slide into the freezer and freeze until the berries are solid little berry popsicles (which, by the way, also makes a great healthy snack). Once completely frozen, place in Ziploc bags and label the bags with the date. Freeze and dream of fresh blueberries in your pancakes all year long.
Homemade fruit leather makes a healthful snack and contains much less sugar than the store-bought varieties. Dozens of recipes exist online for specific measurements but the general idea is to puree whatever fruit you are planning to turn into leather. Cook in a sauce pan with a bit of water, lemon juice, sugar (to taste) and cinnamon, if you wish. Simmer until slightly thick, strain with a fine mesh strainer to remove any seeds then place on a baking sheet lined with microwave safe plastic wrap.
The layer of fruit should not exceed 1/4 inch in thickness. Place in an oven set to 140°F and let dry for 8-12 hours or until the fruit leather is no longer sticky. Store in an airtight container.
Finally, may I also suggest fruit purees. Simply blend your fruit in a food processor or blender with a touch of sugar (optional), freeze in ice cube trays then store in an airtight container. Thaw individual cubes for a fresh fruit sauce, an addition to yogurt or granola, or add to a blender, still frozen, to whiz up a healthy smoothie with banana, orange juice and yogurt.
by Ashley Rodriquez
Chef, food blogger, and full-time mom. Read more of her writings at www.notwithoutsalt.com