July 24, 2011

Local Strawberries, All Year

Eating locally necessarily entails eating seasonally, as well - for the most part.  In fact, one of the joys of being a locavore is learning what ripens when in your area, anticipating that time, and making the most of it while it lasts.  Asparagus arrives in the market in spring, and for six weeks we put it in crepes, soups, salads, and grill mixes.  Tomatoes show up in the spring here too, but don't pop with flavor until late June or July (right into September, some years). For months, we go tomato-wild, indulging in caprese, tomato sandwiches, and a multitude of pairings.

organic strawberries fresh from the freezer
For many types of produce, just having them fresh in season satisfies me.  But there are a few items, like strawberries, that I want to use all year long. In season, I put them into many dishes; but in the winter, only into my stand-by breakfast and healthy snack, the fruit smoothie.  For years I bought bagged frozen berries from the grocery, feeling sheepish. Then I realized what a bargain a half-flat of organic strawberries at the season's peak really is; and I started freezing my own.  With a little forethought, it's easy to put up an ample supply for the winter.

1. Don't cut or wash them until you are ready to freeze them.  If you need to store them first, put them while they are cool and dry into an air-tight container in the refrigerator.
2. When ready, de-leaf and cut them up in batches, then wash but do not dry.
3. Lay them on a tray, not quite touching, and place that in the freezer.
4. Wait a half hour or so, then transfer them to a bag.  The little layer of frost on each one keeps them from clumping up too much in the bag.
5. Put the bag in the freezer right away, to avoid thawing and clumping on re-freezing.

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