Friday, June 29, 2012

Last Day of Strawberries; First Day of Blueberries

Clara and I went to Jones Family Farms in Shelton, Connecticut for our annual strawberry picking adventure. They update the outgoing message on their phone every day with information about the crops, and I was surprised to hear the somewhat dire message that June 28 would be the last day of strawberry picking. This news was immediately followed by a more upbeat, but equally urgent warning that a limited supply of blueberries had ripened and could be picked on a first-come, first-serve basis. They would close the blueberry field as soon as supplies ran out. With that news, Clara and I made the hour drive to Shelton to see if we might be able to return with a supply of two of our favorite fruits.

Clara loved riding the "Berry Ferry," a blue truck that drove over many fields to take us to the blueberry area. The chatty driver shared with us the many techniques the farmers use to scare away birds. Wildlife, he told us, is responsible for eating about 30% of their crops. One of the more unusual techniques was releasing a sonic alarm every hour. He also reminded the group in a somewhat scolding voice that this number doesn't include all of the fruit eaten by human visitors!

Some of the blueberries were big, juicy and ripe, while others were still a pale white color. It was exciting to be there on the very first day of picking. Within just a few minutes, we had a full basket of blueberries. 

As the farmer on the message had warned, the strawberries were definitely on their way out. It took an hour just to gather a small amount of ripe strawberries. Many of them were overripe and decaying already, and we really had to forage to find just-right berries. Clara was especially proud to find a few tiny, itsy bitsy, baby strawberries.

Once home, we got to work making Strawberry Shortcake. After a couple of frantic calls to my mom to remind me how to make whipped cream, we finally figured it out. Clara had cooking class occasionally at school, so she is well versed in the language of cooking. As soon as I set down the berries on the counter, she asked, "OK, now what are our other ingredients?" She helped with every step of production, and she said she was most proud of pouring in the sugar for the whipped cream. 

Gently mix ½ cup sugar with 2 quarts of berries. Set aside bowl at room temperature, about 1 hour until very juicy. (I didn't add sugar to the berries yesterday because I felt they were sweet enough as is, but some berries might need a bit of sugar)
Prep Time: 5 minutes
*For best results, make sure beaters and bowl are ice cold
1 half-pint heavy cream
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1.     Reserve a small amount of heavy cream to use at the end. In a large bowl, whip most of the cream until stiff peaks are just about to form. About three minutes into whipping, add sugar.
2.     Beat for about two minutes more, and then add vanilla. If the whipped cream becomes overly stiff, add reserved cream to liquefy it a bit.
3.     Make sure not to over-beat, cream will then become lumpy and butter-like.
1 cup Pamela's Baking & Pancake Mix
1/4 cup shortening
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon milk
Yield: 5 - 6 biscuits
Preheat oven to 375°.

1. In a large mixing bowl pour in Pamela's Baking; Pancake Mix and cut in shortening with fork or pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
2. Pour milk into flour mixture while stirring with a fork. Do not let dough sit. Drop spoonfuls of dough onto a greased cookie sheet.
3. Bake 12 minutes, or until brown on top.
Ellyn’s note: The biscuits were not done after 12 minutes. I ended up baking them for closer to 30 minutes, and raising the temperature to 400 degrees.
Two of our next three meals consisted of Strawberry (and Blueberry) Shortcake. There's nothing quite like sitting down to eat freshly picked berries covered by a dollop of whipped cream slowly melting over a warm biscuit. Yum! 


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