How I spent this past Saturday.I have to say that I am pretty much a creature of habit and a confirmed couch potato. I like spending my time knitting and watch an unhealthy amount of TV while doing it. So after a week of non stop rain, this past weekend I had to get up out of my favorite chair and do something outside. Of course it was food related!We have a section in our local newspaper that published all the U-Pick It places in our area every summer. Right now is prime time berry season. I was too lazy to pick strawberries so we missed that one. After hurricane Isabelle came and I lost all the berries that I had been on my hands and knees picking for hour after hour in the sun, I just couldn't bring myself to pick a ton of berries. It's been a few years since that happened so I guess I am getting over the trauma of losing $350 worth of food. It still haunts me seeing all those ice chests lined up in my kitchen with all our food packed in them with bags of ice. We tried so hard to save our food but it was just too much running out to get bags of ice that everyone else was looking for too. It just wore us out. I guess that old saying that time heals all wounds is just about right because on Saturday we went to pick berries.DH saw in the Sunday paper from the week before that the farms were open and they were ready for business. So we decided that if it wasn't raining yet again, we would go and pick. We are not professional pickers like some of the folks we saw in the bushes. They come with little cute buckets with their names written on them in big fat letters like they might not know their own names after standing in the bushes for hours picking berries. So armed with three plastic shopping bags off we went.
When we got there they waved us on because you can't get a weight on a wimpy plastic bags. Usually they weigh your container, put a piece of masking tape with the weight of the container and send you on your way. You walk into blueberry heaven underneath bird netting and you are off and going.
When you look up you see the holes that I can only imagine that hungry birds have pecked to try and get to those lovely berries. Here is where we went to pick our berries. I want to give them
credit for being a friendly place to pick and do business.Down each row you can hear private conversations of stranger to stranger talking about the last time they went to pick berries with a loved one who had passed away since last summer. There were whole families of three generations toting those named buckets up and down the aisles calling out Marco Polo to each other when one wanders off too far. These people have done this before. They came with a little plastic wagon to put all the buckets in. Very smart. Way too prepared for the likes of us. They had water bottles. What were we thinking?? No water, just three plastic shopping bags. I tried my best to take pictures but something weird happens to you when you go to pick. You get carried away. You get picky. Then you can't stop. I only wanted to pick a few blueberries to have with my yogurt. I kept telling myself that I would stop after I finished the next bush. Then I would look up see these and have to have them.Your mind starts to drift off to cookbooks that you know will have good blueberry recipes. Can you make a blueberry pound cake? How about your own blueberry vinegar? How long will these last? Will I need to come again before the season is over in August. Yes, I think so.When we finally left 90 minutes later and with 6.6 pounds of blueberries in those embarrassing plastic shopping bags, all I could think about is a nice cold glass of water. Maybe those families with the names on their cute little buckets with their bottled water knew that they were doing. Lesson learned!
I had to take a picture of the berries that were yet to ripen. They are a nice shade of mauve. They are so pretty. You really have to see them in person to see the beauty. While I was taking this picture, I was wondering who the first person was that discovered that the berries were sour when mauve and wonderful when blue. Like I said, it was hot and I had no water...
The worst part (if it's really all that bad) is getting home with your little berries and having to decide what to do with them. I teach a food sanitation class in the culinary school here and we tell our students not to wash off the produce because the residue of water causes decay quicker. I never follow directions so here is what I did.
I took one bag and washed off the berries in the colander and let them drain for about 30 minutes, then I lined a sheet pan with paper towels and rolled the berries around on the paper towel to dry them off a bit more. I was very gentle with them because I didn't want blue hands.It didn't take that long to do 6 pounds plus using this method. Then I had to decide how much to put in each freezer bag. I didn't want them to freeze in clumps so I decided to measure out two cups of berries. After looking at them flat on the counter I decided one more cup would be okay. So I have 6 bag containing three cups each.
I put the berries in the freezer but left some in a bowl for use to each fresh. I think we are going back in early August and pick again. I pray no hurricane will kill our efforts! Now off to look blueberry recipes. I am so excited!
PS. If live in an area where you can pick your own produce of any kind, take the time to make a family memory with your children or spend time with a friend. It's a great way to teach your children to appreciate the hard work that goes into our food and it creates a loving memory from childhood. Support your local farmers so they can keep providing us with this wonderful food and the experiences.
Labels: blueberries, produce